15 January 2007

Is Education Getting Students Prepared?

This week let’s talk about the dream of education – in honor of Dr King.

Sometimes I talk to my students about what education means to them. Their most common responses are (not in this order): 1) education gets me prepared, 2) I have to go – it’s the law, 3) and I don’t know.

I am going to make a bold presumption here .... most people think education is getting students prepared for the rest of life. If this is the case, then it naturally follows that we have to ask, what is secondary education preparing students for?

From a teacher point of view ... my answer is for students to go to higher education.

Realistically, I have to say students aren't being prepared for the future by current secondary education. Why? I see two distinct sets of students in my classes: those wanting to go to college and those with no plans to go to college.

Today, the gauge of learning is based on students scores of required achievement tests. With that focus, we are missing the boat of preparing students for the future. For example, if a student isn't going to college/university, why do they need to know about cells and genes? Would they be better off knowing about basic nutrition and taking care of the environment? I think so, but in my district we have to teach all students about genes and cells since that is what the achievement tests are based upon. Go figure, if a student has no interest in the subject being taught during class .... are they really going to work that hard to reach success? More likely, that student will be absent from class or possibly disrupting it when they are there.

Here is my first observation to explain why education is not fulfilling the dream of preparing students for the future.

1. High school has two sets of students A) those who are going to college and B) those who are not.

Those sets are determined by the students themselves. Yes, we can cut up that pie by race and socio-economic status. However, the fact remains – no matter how you dice it up – there are two sets of students. From what I have seen, I believe that a students' motivation determines where they are going.

So why do we teach the same curriculum to students who have different future requirements – based on the choices they have made. I think a better approach to having students be prepared is changing the curriculum so both get sets a basic core set of subjects, then the education road forks into two specific paths with specific subjects for each fork.

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