We often hear less than encouraging news about education, like 57% of freshmen aren't ready for college in the US, or 50% of employers in the UK say that university graduates 'aren't up to the job'. There usually follows some hand-wringing, promises to address the issues and, inevitably, a massive finger-pointing party.
The employers blame the universities, the universities blame the high schools, the high schools blame the junior high schools (or primary schools) and so on in a circle of blame.
It seems to point to a failure at all levels of education, so what can be done?
Well, first of all, the headlines are often on the glass half empty side of things. If we flip things around, more than half of college freshmen are prepared (and one could argue it's the college's job to help the ones who aren't), and half of university graduates can get straight to work (while the others may need a bit of help - which employers should give).
Even taking a very positive approach like that, here's a lot we could, and should, be doing to improve education at all levels.
To do so, it requires a holistic approach with input from all relevant sources: educators, administrators, parents, students and employers.
Let's have a quick look at a couple of the issues mentioned in the articles I linked to above:
- In the second article, employers claim that universities aren't equipping students with 'life skills'.
If we continue to view schools as little machines that simply churn out test results instead of motivated, engaged students, and colleges and universities that focus on pure academia rather than the practical application of what is being learned, the problems won't go away.
Yes, high school is different than university, but the goal should be the same: to receive a good education. It should be the same throughout education, whatever the level.
We need to look beyond league tables, SAT scores and all the rest, and focus on what all these statistics refer to: students. That means real people who care more about their educations and lives than a few numbers on a paper or making teachers feel good about themselves by stroking their egos or blaming somebody else.
I'm not arrogant enough to claim I've got the answers, but I have seen positive results when people collaborate, each bringing their own skills and experience to address the central issue of improving education.
For this to happen, everybody should be on a level playing field, so a primary school teacher should be afforded the same amount of respect as a university professor.
As mentioned, each has unique skills, experience, and a unique perspective on the issues, so all points of view should be listened to and considered. There's no room for egos in education.
There is, of course, room in this mix for parents and students, after all they're the ones affected by successes and failures in education.
Education is too important to sit back and hope it sorts itself out.
If things are going wrong, we need to look at the reasons why, and then we need to be prepared to put our egos aside and see what we can do about them.