When I think back to my High School days, perhaps even back to Middle School and earlier, I have a few fond memories. I also have memories of many hours slaving over books, preparing for and taking tests and countless hours staring at whatever a teacher had written up for all to see and wondering what on earth it all has to do with me.
Now, in the real world, I have a far better idea. In the real world I have discovered that much of what we are taught in school is useless in our working lives, we will never, ever need it. Does that mean it was wrong for us to learn?
The education we receive in school and, later, in college, is a preparation for what is to come. It is not a set guideline for how we should run our lives and it certainly isn’t a hard and fast set of rules for the working environment. It is a basic beginning, a foundation on which we should build. The social education we receive, however, is far more: how we react with other people in any form of situation. The social education, to a large extent, isn’t taught but it is judged. It is something we learn by doing rather than by looking at a board and listening to lectures.
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I was amazed to hear recently that even the most basic forms of education don’t seem to be working. Perhaps amazed is too strong a word, since I’ve been through the system myself and I’ve seen what happens, what is taught and what people manage to retain. Perhaps shocked is better.
I heard recently that an international firm had turned down every single application for a position because not a single person applying was capable of writing an application letter without spelling mistakes. It is a company where communication is of the highest priority, where correct communication can make a difference to a contract, to a future business deal. And the people who were applying were all teenagers, straight out of school and with the highest High School diplomas.
It may be that much of what we are taught doesn’t have any bearing on what we do in life, but the basics – reading, writing, math – are going to be there forever. There is no worthwhile job out there where these three are not required.
So is the school system – and I don’t just mean that in the States – failing us?
When I see a class with more than twenty-five students to one teacher, yes, I would say it is. When I see cutbacks in the education budget, or the forcing of unnecessary subjects on students, yes, it is. When I see students coming out of school with their diplomas who cannot read a daily newspaper, have or will never hold a book in their hands, cannot work out the change they should be getting from shopping then, yes, it is.
We are told that the number of children being born – in Western countries – is falling. There are fewer coming into the schools, fewer needing an education, fewer entering the marketplace to work. But, rather than concentrate all efforts on these few and make their education much better, budgets are being cut. Classroom attendance levels are being held up by cutting the number of classes. Fewer children in the classroom means fewer teachers.
Wouldn’t it be so much better if, with the demographic changes we are experiencing, the number of teachers were held constant, and the number of students in the classroom reduced? A higher ratio of teachers to students can only improve education levels, allowing the teacher more time for each individual and their needs.
I can understand how some authorities feel that they need to save money, too many cities are heading to the bankruptcy courts, but by cutting back on the very thing which, in the future, brings money into the empty treasury?
- Viktoria Michaelis.