Despite being the richest country in the world, the United States education system again and again provides sub-par results when looked at from an international perspective. Students are not being prepared for a life after school. The effects of these failings become evident on both the individual and the national levels. So, what exactly is wrong with public schooling?
- Too much emphasis on standardized testing. The core of the modern public school system, everything from funding to ratings, relies on the system of standardized testing. Tests of that nature have to be simplified to ensure consistency, so it’s boiled down to facts that can be memorized, which is not necessarily an indicator of understanding. This leads to students with a good memory or test-taking skills excelling, while students who don't (even if they have a working understanding of the content) being left behind.
- Too much emphasis on math and science. While vital subjects, they should not be the only respected fields. This emphasis seems to tie in to the prior point: these fields are emphasized in part because they can be graded more easily than other subjects. As well, because the impact of advanced knowledge in these fields is more easily verified. Nevertheless, a balanced approach is best. Other subjects improve the competitiveness and economy of a country, even if they are less easily quantifiable.
- Teachers aren't paid enough. Arguably, teaching is the most influential profession for a country’s growth. And if you want to attract the most talented individuals, you need to offer incentive. At the moment, the average high school teacher in the United States earns about 28% less than the average college-educated worker in the United States. This is a much wider gap than other rich countries, where teachers still often earn less, but only by about 10% or so.
- On top of monetary compensation, societal respect for teachers needs to be much higher. While many Americans generally act as if they hold teachers in high regard under hypothetical circumstances, the reality of the situation is not so. When in recent times teachers' unions have organized and fought for better pay and work conditions, they have been ridiculed and demonized. If we want the best for our children, we must ensure that we listen to the needs of their educators.
- There’s a hierarchy that needs to be shaken up. Have you ever noticed that the best, most experienced teachers tend to be given the honors courses? If you excel at school at an early age, you will be given the best education that your area offers. However, if you initially struggle, then it is tremendously difficult to catch up, given that your teachers are just not as skilled as those that teach higher-level courses. We must work on providing an equal educational opportunity for all.
The benefits of well-educated students are numerous; they range from creating a better understanding of the world to causing a surge in our economy. However, our educational system won't progress on its own. If we want to better our country, we must consciously and actively work on making educational improvement a priority.