What’s Wrong with Education in America?
What’s Wrong with Education in America?
Young people in America are being “out-educated” by students in virtually every other developed nation on the planet. We know this to be factual, and we discuss it all the time, but nothing ever seems to change, other than standardized testing and “common core” goals for students at grades 5 and 8. While we profess our abiding concern for the sorry state of public education in America, we fail to make the substantive changes that we must if we intend to produce generations of young people who can have productive and rewarding careers and if we really want to be competitive globally. There are two major changes we must make, and we must make them quickly.
By the time students in other nations enter college, their general education is over. They are entering their major fields on that first day and spend four years developing the knowledge and skills in their chosen fields. Students who do not seek college degree programs enter vocational-training programs that prepare them for the skills to enter a modern and technologically-advanced workplace.
We need to model these very successful educational systems, with the following changes:
- General education ends upon high school graduation. Students then make choices – they either enter a four-year degree program, or select a vocation for which they can acquire the necessary training and education at the community college level. Four-year college programs should exist for individuals who are entering certain professions – engineering, teaching, psychology, medicine, law, etc., and many of these programs may well require graduate level education. But if we eliminate all of the general education requirements at two-year and four-year institutions, students will spend far less time achieving their educational goals.
- The entire community college system must be re-structured. Students should move right into their chosen fields on that first day – no more English, math, social studies ad science requirements unless they are a part of the Associate’s Degree specific program of studies. Money and time is unnecessarily wasted on these general educational requirements, many of which are of the same academic rigor as high school. These colleges should offer a full range of vocational-technical training in skilled trades, as well as programs that will allow graduates to immediately enter the work force – as computer technicians, programmers, network and security specialists, as medical technicians, para-legals, as hospitality managers, etc. The programs offered by community colleges ought to be in collaboration with local business and industrial needs, so that there is on-the-job training and internships as a regular curricular requirement. Only then will these students be fully prepared for what awaits them in the work force.
Financing public education through high school is largely a local and state matter. Unfortunately, there is still great disparity among local school districts because of the manner in which funding occurs. All districts must have equal funding per pupil if we are ever to hope to make education the great equalizer it is supposed to be.
In a majority of developed nations, and in numerous developing nations as well, public education is free, for as far as a student is capable of going. There is no student loan debt that impacts for years to come. There are still private universities, of course, but there are also subsidies for students attending such institutions. Nowhere but in America do people cling to the notion that education beyond high school is a privilege for those who can afford it or who can obtain scholarships and grants. The rest have to incur mountains of debt, at interest, that can take 30+ years to pay off. This situation guarantees that young adults with degrees start the “race” of life in different places, even when their degrees and skills are equal.
We need full public financing of public post-secondary institutions, so that all students who have the intellectual capability may attend and focus on their studies rather than the issues of financing their college years.
When we achieve both the necessary changes in curricular programs and the financing measures that other countries have, we will have a young population ready to compete.
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