Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Week Fifty-One: Education Experts

Eh? Yeah, I know, wonky topic, huh. Everyone seems to think that the more money you through at the problem of education the better the results will be. I don't think that's the case. While a certain amount of money per child makes sense, what makes more sense is using that money wisely.

The biggest thing in school when I was a child was meeting everybody's learning styles. It was an interesting attempt. The teacher had to speak, and write, and do something that would involve manipulating something or another in order to 'engage all the learning styles in the room.' It meant that no one learning style actually got anything out of anything. Most of my teacher's had a bachelor's degree, with one or two having a master's, once I was in high school, but that was it. They were expected to revamp their teaching style with every bit of new research that hit the market.

In short, the teachers were expected to meet a chaotic mish-mash of demands while somehow teaching thirty very different little kids a set standard. To make it easier on all, the standards were lower. [1]


How dare I insinuate that the teaching standards of American Public Schools are lower in this time where we must lead the- Hold your horses cowboy. It's called empirical evidence, and came in the form of a discarded book from the public library.

This was a math text book for the eighth grade from the mid-1900s. I have no clue where it is, but I remember that little book. It was fairly standard sized...for a paperback fantasy novel.

No seriously, it wasn't a big huge hulking text book a foot long by half a foot wide. It was something that could easily be held, didn't way too much, and contained trigonometry. In eighth grade.


So yes, there is empirical evidence that rather than raising our standards, we've been constantly lowering them to pass more and more people. Look. We're no longer passing high school, we're passing middle school with a different name.

So the real question is how to fix that minor (great big hulking) issue while managing to maintain some sense of an education budget and keeping up with rising world standards.

Right, first, I want you to clear your mind of any preconceived notions of education, equality, and all that jazz, ok? Now I want you to think. If you can't find the answer to a question, who do you go to?

An expert.

What makes a person an expert?

They and really truly good at what they can do. They have mastered the subject.

So who is really truly good at education?

Well, I would have to tell you that for this, it's important to consult what sources we have. I'm going to use the Programme for International Student Assessment or PISA, hosted by the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development. These guys test fifteen year olds world wide every three years and analyze the results.

In other words, these are the experts to go to in order find what experts to go to. Sometimes, research is a convoluted beast. According to our experts [2], the top four nations in the world, over all, in education, are Shanghai-China, Korea, Finland, and Singapore.

Well, we can't really consult Shanghai, or Korea, or Singapore. Our relations politically with our Asian counterparts have been shaky for sometime, after all. Besides, their cultures focus intently on result, ranks, and the like. Education there is hyper important.

Finland though. Finland we're on decent terms with, and they aren't hyper focused on education. This is also not the only report they've come out so high up on. It's all the students as well, not just middle class and rich ones able to afford to go to a good district.

In fact, there are no school districts in Finland. Just schools. It isn't a county school board. The school board serves only that one municipality.

Shocking I know. Each town has it's own school system, own school board. And the teachers are the ones in charge there, not the bureaucrats. The teacher's are well able to do this as well, thanks to all having a master's degree by requirement, and all attending a three year graduate school for teaching by requirement. These people can and will run their own class room in the way the class room needs to be run.

Oh? Did I mention that the teacher's education is subsidized, free, and they even receive a small stipend to live simply off of while there. They also don't attend school until they are seven.[3]

To put this in perspective, these kids with eight years of education are out doing countries where students start school up the three years earlier. They also don't do a lot of homework, and for he first six years of education, they don't take tests at all. None, period. There's only a single mandatory test taken at age 16, not one ever year for every single grade. The teachers have broad standards to meet, not super specific ones.

So how do they manage all this?

Well, in Finland, being a teacher is up there with being a doctor or a lawyer. It's a highly competitive field was well, with only the top ten percent able to make it into the system. Imagine, only the best of the best after years of learning how are able to teach, and they only teach for four hours a day. Two hours each day are spent on professional development. In comparison, US schools go on for eight hours each day, and the teachers time spent on professional development varies from school system to school system. In my experience, teacher work days were those days, and they happened once a grading period.

So from what can be observed, the Finnish de-stressed the public education system for all involved, raised the standards for those who want to teach, and simply relaxed. They value education as a culture, and have de-stressed the system for the students.

Sort of a sit back, relax, and learn from the best philosophy. They spend a third less per child than the states does, and yet achieve much better results.

Meanwhile, US officials who have gone over are completely and totally flabbergasted as they do pretty much the opposite of what we do. By relaxing the atmosphere and increasing the quality of teachers, they've managed to become one of the best. Far better than we are at our PISA Rank of 15. They managed all of this in thirty years by the way. I'm all for it, aren't you?

One Final Byte: Perhaps its time for a few sweeping changes.

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