Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Great Education Debate - Part 1- What Do Schools Do?

Wow huh? Pretty interesting perspective. Of course it makes sense. Now before you feel an overwhelming sense of doom dear Canadian parents there has been some good news (although being Canadian we tend not to gloat about it so you might not have realized it was good news. )’s-education-system/

So I have a question (or a few I suppose ); what does the school system do exactly? Why do we have schools? How have they evolved? Are they still relevant for our society?

Lets start with the easiest one- why do we have schools and how have they evolved? The public school system as we might know it

(sung in the style of Dora the Explorer) Where do we go when we don't know the answer? Wikipedia....Wikipedia....WIKIPEDIA!!

History and development of schools
Plato's academy, mosaic from Pompeii.

The concept of grouping students together in a centralized location for learning has existed since Classical antiquity. Formal schools have existed at least since ancient Greece (see Academy), ancient Rome (see Education in Ancient Rome) ancient India (see Gurukul), and ancient China (see History of education in China). The Byzantine Empire had an established schooling system beginning at the primary level. According to Traditions and Encounters, the founding of the primary education system began in 425 A.D. and "... military personnel usually had at least a primary education ...". The sometimes efficient and often large government of the Empire meant that educated citizens were a must. Although Byzantium lost much of the grandeur of Roman culture and extravagance in the process of surviving, the Empire emphasized efficiency in its war manuals. The Byzantine education system continued until the empire's collapse in 1453 AD.[1]

Islam was another culture that developed a school system in the modern sense of the word. Emphasis was put on knowledge, which required a systematic way of teaching and spreading knowledge, and purpose-built structures. At first, mosques combined both religious performance and learning activities, but by the ninth century, the Madrassa was introduced, a proper school that was built independently from the mosque. They were also the first to make theMadrassa system a public domain under the control of the Caliph. The Nizamiyya madrasa is considered by consensus of scholars to be the earliest surviving school, built towards 1066 CE by Emir Nizam Al-Mulk.[citation needed]

Under the Ottomans, the towns of Bursa and Edirne became the main centers of learning. The Ottoman system of Kulliye, a building complex containing a mosque, a hospital, madrassa, and public kitchen and dining areas, revolutionized the education system, making learning accessible to a wider public through its free meals, health care and sometimes free accommodation.

One-room school in 1935, Alabama

The nineteenth century historian, Scott holds that a remarkable correspondence exists between the procedure established by those institutions and the methods of the present day. They had their collegiate courses, their prizes for proficiency in scholarship, their oratorical and poetical contests, their commencements and their degrees. In the department of medicine, a severe and prolonged examination, conducted by the most eminent physicians of the capital, was exacted of all candidates desirous of practicing their profession, and such as were unable to stand the test were formally pronounced incompetent.[citation needed]

In Europe during the Middle Ages and much of the Early Modern period, the main purpose of schools (as opposed to universities) was to teach the Latin language. This led to the term grammar school, which in the United States informally refers to a primary school, but in the United Kingdom means a school that selects entrants based on ability or aptitude. Following this, the school curriculum has gradually broadened to include literacy in the vernacular language as well as technical, artistic, scientific and practical subjects.

Mental Calculations. In the school of S.Rachinsky by Nikolay Bogdanov-Belsky. Russia,1895.

Many of the earlier public schools in the United States were one-room schools where a single teacher taught seven grades of boys and girls in the same classroom. Beginning in the 1920s, one-room schools were consolidated into multiple classroom facilities with transportation increasingly provided by kid hacks and school buses.

Millions of people can't be wrong - or can they? I would like to rest comfortably in the knowledge that where an organized school system was not- there was one created since it was the most practical solution of education our children. I have a difficult time conceiving how it could not be the best possible solution today as well- until of course I take a close look at the school system!!

What does our school system do? In Canada the school system is a provincial mandate meaning that the execution of education varies from province to province although we spend about 7% of the GDP on education. What do we get for our $$?

You may have heard that we as Canadians are among the best educated in the world, however the University of BC released a report with disturbing findings. This article addresses skims over this.

"Canadians are more educated than ever, but a report suggests children are no better prepared developmentally, socially or emotionally now than they were 14 years ago.

Social and emotional competencies scores -- based on categories such as bullying and self-esteem -- among 12-and 13-year-olds declined from 1996 to 2006."

Read more:"

I'm finding this disturbing. I would like to confidently send my children off to school without worrying that the school system is eroding their family values , stifling creativity and educating them only on the specific questions that will be tested in order to acquire more funding. In American there are a growing number of people who are spending more time in school. However the question becomes does more time in school = better education?

This article seems to think so!

So even with the ambush of negative publicity technically it appears that in North American school is making our children more "educated" and the time they spend in the pursuit of this education correlates with the results on the standardized testing.

But what about if you don't have faith in what the standardized testing looks at? What if you see the rate of test directed teaching increasing and worry that instead of tests being an objective sampling of the children's education they are just being used by teachers at the expense of our children's True education? How do you as a parent encourage more learning? Is that the answer? I think that is a good first step- to be involved and an active participant in educating them. Afterall, there is no such thing as a free lunch- and our governments are spending money educating our children to serve their self interests and if you as a parent believe that there is - or could be- other aspects to education that might benefit your child I think you have a responsibility to teach these to them.

This is just the tip of the iceburg but i'll end here because it segways well into the next topic I'd like to look at - what do I want my child to know as an adult/by the time they leave home?

No comments:

Post a Comment