Modern Education System Pt. 1: The Problem
Original post on 4/26/15 (enliiighten.blogspot.com/)
In the last several years the U.S. faced economical lows which perturbed the socioeconomic sphere and exposed weaknesses in sectors of our governance, the education system is one sector that was exposed and will be the focus of this article. The article is divided into two parts; the first addressing the current atmosphere of the education system and problems it faces, the follow-up elaborating on a possible solution to the addressed problems. Although not comprehensive, I will highlight key aspects of the current system which will give points of comparison for my proposed alternative.
Saying our education system needs a reform is redundant. The discussion has been going on long before the economic downturn and it does not seem like there is a feasible solution in sight. Numerous debates and articles have been presented to address education reform in the past, yielding some results but nothing significant.
Most proposals have failed to yield significant results because there is a lack of understanding on the underlying problem. The education system is not a money, teacher, student, or infrastructure problem but rather an administrative problem. To be blunt, school is stale and uninteresting; most students I've spoken to cannot relate to the curriculum or understand the usefulness of their education and come to the conclusion that it is all pointless. Instead of listening to these voices and making changes accordingly, administrative bodies brush off their comments, labeling students lazy. The case is worsened by outdated and irrelevant standards that students have to measure up to. Most administrations play a numbers game in which their institution must meet set goals in order to meet standards set by their district or state such as; x number of passing students, x average SAT scores, x percentage attendance. While these are useful institutional goals, they fail to properly assess and measure qualities possessed by students. Placing students in a system they take no interest in and then assessing their capacity using outdated and irrelevant measures has produced unmotivated students, which in turn has led to the observed under-performance amongst students. Even amongst the students that meet or exceed the standards, they still emerge from the system unmotivated, underachieving, and unequipped for the real world. All these problems stem from the design and administration of our education system.
The system is driven by the need to meet standards, not only by the students but also the teachers. In practice, this has resulted in overworked teachers, neglected students and dwindling quality of education. Instead of addressing the way we approach the learning process, we instead get caught up in politics and fund allocations. These are discussions needed to sustain functioning institutions but the problem is the discussion ends at that. They only address the mechanisms of institutions and put students in the backseat, the reason for the existence of these institutions in the first place. In all the debates I have heard from politicians or articles I have come across, few ever mention anything relevant to the students learning process. In fact, in preparing this article, I searched for publications or polls on actual students opinions on the education system and the materials were scarce. My research was in no way extensive so that might explain my findings, but in this age it should not be that difficult to find material on a topic that has been ongoing for decades, then again I might be wrong. But based on what I have seen, the input from the people we are trying to educate is nonexistent. For example, if Nike was making a new sneaker, I would expect them to take into consideration the opinions of the public, whether from explicit feedback through polls or social media feed, or implicit feedback through sales trends. It will be absurd if the designers ignored public opinions and based their designs solely on the parameters the Nike CEO’s set. More than likely the CEO's don't even wear the shoes they're overseeing. Instead, the design is catered to specific audiences and the result is a successful sneaker amongst that audience, and if it isn't successful you can bet the production of that sneaker will cease. What does this have to do with our education system? Well, all I see is a system that operates to meet the standards of the state and the government, failing to take into consideration the voice of the students. As someone designing and administering education curriculum, shouldn't the interests and opinions of students be a priority in the administrative process? Should modifications not be made to address this issue? I believe so!
Current approaches have caused distaste for the education system amongst students, who call school irrelevant, inapplicable, and a waste of time and money. This is unacceptable! Learning is something that humans are inherently interested in and value and most students will attest to this when it comes to matters of their daily lives. But why the differing opinion when it comes to learning in the classroom? As I've mentioned, the input of students are nonexistent in the designing and administration of programs. Forcing standardized and outdated learning processes on students diminishes their enthusiasm for learning and their morale is debilitated when they are critiqued on qualities they don't care about and aren't good at rather than encouraging productive qualities they possess and nourishing those qualities. I don't believe you can use a standardized method to progress and encourage the learning process of students. They all come from broad backgrounds and have varied interests, and I believe that is something that needs to at least be considered. Even amongst the students that do graduate, the quality and outcomes of the majority of them reemphasizes their qualms with the education system and also proves the ineffectiveness of current methods in yielding highly qualified graduates.
Assessing the situation, the best solution to the problem will be to modify the way we design and administer curriculum for students as well as reevaluating our assessment tools. We need to alter our approach, taking into account the uniqueness of each student that steps into the classroom. If you're wondering how this could be feasible with the ratio of students to teachers, you need not worry. My proposed solution is Structural Creativism, a term that I will use to describe the process in which the uniqueness of students can be incorporated into their traditional schooling to enrich their learning experience. The proceeding article will delve into the idea of structural creativism and the role it could play in solving the problem.