Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Getting Schooled - the failings and revival of modern education

getting schooledI was once a lecturer at an American university - I was 25 years old when I started, just barely out of university myself. I was quite proud that I landed this opportunity at such a young age, but for the next 2 years of my life I found myself in state of bewilderment of state of education in America. Having travelled to other english speaking countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK - I realised that its not necessarily an American problem, the problem seems to be more universal. Instead of going into diatribe of my past experiences - here are some of the problems I saw as a lecturer:

  • For Profit Schemes - In my observation, the university that I worked was becoming semi privatised. While I don't think there is nothing wrong with university making a buck, turning out a factory model doesn't generate the bright minds. In the attempts to get the university more profitable - alot of accountability was lost.

  • Poor Admissions standards - I remember getting into the university of choice (undergraduate) and also my masters program but the skin of my teeth. There were admissions tests, standardised test and other criteria. These are often thrown to the wayside.

  • Lack of Support for Teachers - My own personal experience with this was flunking a student, later to have the student go to the dean and get his grades over turned to a passing one. In this case, the student was a financial asset to the university - failing them, meant that they would lose their government loan (which meant that the university would lose money). The student fell under the maxim 'The customer is always right'. Teachers could teach as they saw fit.

  • Watered Down Material - The stuff we taught had to be watered down to lowest common denominator in the course. As a teacher, one of greatest talents is balancing the difference of intellects that are in a class room. But the material that I taught, though in my mind not very challenging, had to be reduced even more to educate some of the kids that they let through admissions.


In short - I don't think I could ever go back to lecturing at its current state. My feelings are that universities are becoming diploma mills. The fact that everyone has diploma does not mean they are educated.

However, there is hope - but their is hope. Here are a few things that I find are a bright spot.

  • Internet Learning - granted, this is for self motivated people - but there is such a glut of information on the internet in forms of ebooks, mp3's, videos on nearly every topic imaginable - knowledge has never been more accessible to the public.

  • Non Traditional schools - Home schooling, Correspondence course even things like Steiner and Montessori schools are making a comeback. Though not for all people, there are enough alternatives out there to satisify

  • Allowing the system to break - In sense that is whats happening, as more problems arise, the current state of public education will break down. This is not a bad thing. Its best to let this happen instead of throwing money at something that is not relevant anymore - allow public education to re-evolve into something that actually works again.


I don't necessarily think that a breakdown in the education system is a bad thing, so long as we take steps to find solutions for our learning needs. I am nearly 33 now, and though I haven't been been in the educational field for 5 years, I am always excited about the prospect of teachings other from my past experiences. And that doesn't require a public school system ;)
Here are some interesting articles:

The dumbing down of the American Mind

Why I am not a Professor OR The Decline and Fall of the British University

How the public school system crushes souls

The demise of the university?

You have to trust that the child will learn

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