Thoughts About Summer Reading Part 7: We Need to Change our Education System

Imagine a world in which our students are educated in the same manner and using the same curriculum as all other countries.  Equality sounds great at first, right?  Now, what about those developing countries that were able to prepare their students in the same way as developed countries, but for a lot less money.  Now, those same students who are in the same global job market as our students are able to and willing to do the same jobs our students want for less money.  Our students become the losers in this soon to be global reality.  Unless, as Yong Zhao suggests in his book World Class Learners, the world changes the way in which students are educated.

Prior to starting chapter one, I had thought that a national education curriculum was a great idea.  It makes sense.  There’s no fluctuation in what some schools are teaching.  All students are mastering the same objectives at the same pace.  Plus, if students move from state to state, what they have learned will not be lost or repeated, but built upon.  I love it, or so I thought until I looked at it through the global glasses of reality.  Schools and teachers are now teaching to high-stakes tests based on these standards and national curriculum.  There is no longer time for creativity, play, or exploration because the standards need to be covered and mastered so that the students do well on the tests.  On top of that, many countries are now trying to tie their national curriculum to each other.  England has changed the national education standards to align with countries whose students fare well on standardized tests such as PISA, which is used to judge a countries ability to educate their students.  Soon, we will have a global educational curriculum.  Again, at first this sounds like a brilliant, unifying idea.  United as one to build a better global community.  But, if all students are trained on the same content and standards in the same way, how will the next Steve Jobs or William Kamkwamba come about?

The world needs more creative problem solvers and entrepreneurs.  A national education curriculum fosters the opposite of what our world needs.  The factory model of education no longer applies to our world yet we continue to push it in that direction.  We need to throw the standards out the window and create a culture of risk taking, failure, and creative problem solving.  Our students need to get dirty by playing and exploring the world around them.  William Kamkwamba didn’t harness the power of the wind for his small African village by studying a national curriculum in Africa.  He had a chance to play and explore the problems that exisited in his immediate community and created a unique solution.  If we globalize education and schools, future generations of students might not know how to change a spark plug or fix their vacuum when it stops working.  That sounds like one dusty and slow world in which I do not wish to live.


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