If there is anything I must be grateful to my parents, is their commitment that I get a good education, that I have enough knowledge, the capacity to analyse issues and the instinct to formulate opinions and answers based on the latter. However, what one fails to see as a student as a child, one sees in adulthood, especially when its one’s own children enter the system, is the type of education one gets.
I can now reflect upon my education. The values that were taught to me, I now partly agree and partly disagree, but at least through my education I was able to create a critical mind, to challenge the means that gave that to me.
Education systems are as varied as countries.
In the United Kingdom, currently the debate is on redoing the school system of evaluations, scrapping the GCSEs and A-levels for other systems, to fall in line with European Union terminology and curricula. Michael Gove, the Education minister is going back and forth on different proposals, mainly aiming at improving standards and reducing school drop-out numbers.
In Spain, since 1978 (arrival of democracy) there have been eight reforms of the education, who’s public agenda has been to improve the rates and reduce the school absenteeism but who have really focused on setting the political agenda of the given party in power. Becoming a headache for all education professionals, and a constant change of subjects and their content for students. Currently the education minister José Ignacio Wert is imposing a new reform with the largest proportion of dissent and disagreement ever produced in such a reform.
In the United States education criteria is set by the state. The State Board of Education, sometimes elected sometimes appointed sometimes somewhere in the middle, decides the curricula of that state. In California it is the governor that chooses its 10 members, Massachusetts as well except one member from the students, but in Texas the 15 members are put up for elections. So it is varied, but I ignore if any professionals are accepted on the board through internal elections. Programs like the “no-child-left-behind” in California try to solve the main problems in the system, immigrant children not attending school, school drop-out rates, etc..
In South Korea, they have an interesting system for those governments who want to cut on costs and avoid deviations from teachers or schoolmasters. They have simply removed them. And all students are glued to a TV/computer screen, where the foremost expert in a given subject gives his/her class from a central point to ALL the schools in the country. And the only staff that remains in schools are “animators” in case things get out of control or, lets says, a student faints in class. So if one person gives a subject, lets say history, to everyone, respecting the norms established by the state, you are sure that they will all learn the history you want them to learn. In this system dropping out is not allowed, failure is not allowed. No discussion, period.
In Africa, where education is available, free or paid, the level and seriousness of the education mostly depends on the capacity and goodwill of the teacher. And what to teach is determined by the few school books. Now don’t think that these are old books from the colonial times depicting the greats of the colonial nation and how we are all subjects of that nation; these are new books, relatively cheap, colorful and accessible. But who publishes this books and makes them available? More often than not these books don’t come from Africa itself, but are imported from Europe and the US by religious organisations that want to ensure good education to the poor children (according to them) but which have a hidden political statements based on euro-centric views on life, that don’t necessarily correspond to reality. Here kids leave school as soon as they can to help their parents, get a money-earning jobs, etc.. so drop-out rates are so large that the data is not even collected.
In Latin America, the only difference with Africa in education is perhaps that the books are edited in their country, but yet again most of the schools depend on the quality of the teachers. Of course, in recent times, more concrete and specific work has been done to assimilate more “modern” models, such as the South Korean one in Ecuador.
So what is my point with all this? Well, there are several:
– First and foremost educating our youth is a crucial part of our society and the projection of this society in the future.
– Who knows best how to teach? The well trained and resourced teachers, not politicians. So it should be up to them to decide how and to a certain level, what to teach. And to insure this, teaching should only be left to the best, with continuous training and not considered a low-end job.
– Where should the youth be taught? In an environment that promotes their development and critical mind, where they can interact, listen, feel listened to, and grow emotionally, involving the parents when necessary (teachers teach, parents educate).
With all this, which is a long-term investment in the system, education levels will rise and drop-out rates will fall.
In brief, let’s all go to Finland.