When Will American Parents Get a Grip About Education? - Page 3
While those are the interesting, Freakonomics-style facts that dispell common myths about U.S. versus international education systems, the actual OECD suggestions to improve American education are:
- A commitment to higher educational standards and the belief that all students can meet these standards.
- Hiring high-quality teachers, which includes a societal change in the way teaching is valued as a profession, as well as giving teachers more input in their classroom practices. Ideally, the best students graduating from our nation's colleges should be the ones hired to teach our youth.
- Funds need to be allocated differently in the American school system, putting the most money and the best teachers in disadvantaged areas where there is the greatest student need.
Lofty goals, indeed, and some nearly impossible to achieve. Can we fundamentally change America's perception of teachers, to the point that a student at the top of his graduating class aspires to be a teacher? Could we really convince the high-powered parents in affluent districts that the most money and the best teachers are needed in low-income areas? And do we really want to give up spending on extracurricular activities to focus more on math?
Hard to say. But, the point is, nowhere in the 257 pages of the study did the OECD suggest that the solution is to have American preschoolers do more worksheets. Educational success is in no way based on how early formalized learning occurs, and we need look no further than educational bigwigs Japan and Finland for examples of the benefits of play-based early childhood education.
In Finland, formalized education doesn't begin until age 7, although all children are entitled to attend a government-subsidized childcare/kindergarten where parents pay tuition based on a sliding scale according to their income. Finnish early childhood education curriculum "stresses the importance of care, upbringing and education as an integrated whole for young children. Beyond this focus, no requirement about specific pedagogies is imposed." (STARTING STRONG II: EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND CARE, OECD 2006, p. 322)
Thus, in Finland, young children are educated in developmentally-appropriate ways, saving the formal schooling until they turn 7. Children are encouraged to learn how they learn, and there are lessons that focus on learning about nature and animals. Children socialize and eat a free meal, and work with hands-on manipulatives. It's hard to determine if a play-based early education system has any bearing on Finnish students' future academic success, but the fact remains that Finland is the only non-Asian OECD country that scored in the top 5 on the most recent PISA test.Continued on the next page