America: the education nation

The USA may be the home of the brave and the land of the free but its education system seems to be at crisis point.  Last week,  Rockefeller Centre was turned into a ‘Learning Plaza’ to draw attention to the challenges facing American (if not) all schools. 

‘Education Nation’ is a community response (parents, teachers, students, corporations) to growing concern that America’s schools are in decline and in need of dramatic change.  It’s certainly getting enough media attention (NBC happens to be a major sponsor) but will it be sustainable?

Even in NY where chancellor Joel Klein introduced his school reform agenda three years ago, criticism is deep and broad.

It appears that many people are not looking to governments to solve the problem – they’re caught up in the ‘naming and shaming’ improvement strategy.  As Michael Fullan says ‘the drive to make progress in our schools can’t be a fad – accountability relies on incentives more than on punishment.’

This isn’t surprising when you see the Tea Party agenda but what surprises me is the lack of discussion about the nature of learning and teaching and how to support teacher learning. The focus of the debate, if you can call it that, is always on those things that are extrinsic to the instructional core and therefore ‘fads’.

If anything, summits like ‘Education Nation’ provide valuable opportunities and outlets for broad discussion on the future of schooling. The danger is that emergent policies/solutions tend to be rooted in what has been, not on what schools can become to nurture America’s most valuable natural resource – its youth.

One thought on “America: the education nation

  1. I think a sinificant part of the worldwide problem is that many citizens as well as many educators believe that education begins with formalised schooling. The education versus childcare debate for the Early Childhood years (universally recognised as 0-8 years) continues. With neuroscience, we are now aware of critical periods of brain development, the impact of stress on the myelin sheath and why the early years are critical to the structural development of the brain and neural pathways. The Early Childhood years and looking at the child within their context are the sustainable pathway to building capacity.

    The difference between the Netherlands and ourselves is the strengths based approach of government policy in relation to the Early Childhood years (which encompass the school years) . The following link discusses how;
    “… 90% of 4 year olds have access to From 2.5 to 4 years,
    some 89% of children in this cohort are engaged in child care, playgroup or early learning
    services, a 9% increase since 2001. Playgroups are the most popular form of provision for
    2.5- to 4-year-olds in the Netherlands”. This takes into consideration a strengths based approach without pushing the curriculum down. Playgroups also offer parents opportunities to build community capacity and support Brofenbrenner’s socio ecological model for micro – macro effect (stronger individuals and families lead to stronger communities and nations). It also fits in beautifully with Hertzman and Siddiqi’s Team ECD (Early Childhood Development) model. Surprise, surprise all this equates to nurturing individuals within their context (families and communities) beginning in the early years – Isn’t it about time that Australia recognised this? Interestingly, the Netherlands also has a strong ESL component – looking at quality Early Childhood experiences as a pathway to learning capacity has worked for them…. this is the sustainable pathway to life long learning and capacity building (in my humble opinion).
    Lee :))

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