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Failing Public Education In America

The American public education system is failing on the international scale. This is no longer the opinion of just a few people; it is being proven time and time again over the years by many agencies reporting upon academic achievement of students worldwide. In this essay, I will support my claim that the education system currently in place is inadequate, and that there are many successful models that could be followed in order to reform our system, and achieve success internationally. Some of the most successful school systems in the world, such as those in South Korea or Finland, have vastly different practices from schools in the United States, in things such as length of school year and qualifications required for educators, and the success from these practices is much greater comparatively.
I enjoy learning and I succeeded in the public schooling system, but I can honestly attribute almost all of that success to personal motivation. Of course over the years I had a few phenomenal teachers, unfortunately, they were vastly outnumbered by teachers who didn’t care about the success of their students in the least bit. I had teachers like Ms. Leighton and Mrs. Friedman, who inspired me to work harder than ever before and are my motivation to become a teacher. On the other end of the spectrum, I had teachers like Mrs. Phillips, who believed the classroom was her public forum for touting her religious beliefs and dedication upon an impressionable group of children, as opposed to teaching English, or Mr. Connell, whose class consisted of nothing at all related to Geometry. He would talk his cell phone and place bids for items on EBay, while the students were left to their own devices.
I can remember from a very young age that I was actively engaged in school. I loved everything about school, the social interaction, the new experiences, and especially the acquisition of knowledge. I was not matched in enthusiasm by any of my fellow students until the second grade. That was when I met Daye. Daye’s family had moved here from South Korea just a couple weeks before the school year started. Daye completed her work quickly and efficiently, and managed to be personable with the teacher and her fellow students, even though she was not speaking her native language. I can honestly say, for a seven year old, she was more dedicated to her education than any person I have ever met, even to this day. Even though I was very young at the time, this was the first time I had ever felt challenged academically. I was self-motivated to keep pace with Daye, mainly because I refused to be second best. And despite the fact that she challenged me, or maybe because of it, she became my best friend. Her family moved away the next year, and we didn’t keep in touch. Perhaps having a pen pal was too daunting a task for eight year olds, even for kids as motivated as us.
As I furthered in my education beyond elementary school, I started to notice a difference in my teachers. The older I got, the less interested they seemed in their jobs. Of course a few teachers were still involved with their students, and challenged them to work harder than achieving at the curriculum’s low standards, but the rest just acted as though teaching was just a way to pay the bills, and nothing else. In the sixth grade, I distinctly remember one of my teachers, upon being told by a student that they could not read, she just shrugged and walked away. I was smart and a good student; I was also desperate for the attention of my teachers. I would raise my hand for every question that was asked, only to receive a simple “correct or incorrect.” By the time I reached high school, even I had lost the motivation I once had.
I still completed all of my work to the best of my ability, but all of the enthusiasm I once held for my education was gone. As soon as the school allowed, I started taking advanced placement and honors classes. There, I found teachers who cared about their students, and other students who actually wanted to learn. The rest of the school still consisted of all the things I had grown to resent. I’m sure I was told almost weekly about how my school was rated among the best public high schools in the country, with their star athletes with third grade reading levels and the D averages required to participate in sports or “honor students” with straight A’s, three out of their four classes being Gym, Weightlifting, and Fitness Principles, all of which they could take every semester throughout high school. I had found advanced placement classes to be an escape from my disappointment each day, but I was not convinced that this is what school should be; I’m still not convinced.
Over half of my class graduated with honors; I’m sure that was a difficult feat considering about 90% of work was graded on completeness as opposed to correctness, but the school bragged about it nonetheless. Success of a school shouldn’t be based upon an award winning football team or the ability for most students in grades nine through twelve to pass a test based on the reading, writing, and arithmetic skills that should have been mastered by sixth grade. I know from both the statistics and from friends and family that my school is not the only one of such low quality or substandard practices, but that it represents our nation’s public schools as a whole in most cases. My sister teaches sixth grade math in Baltimore, and has told me on several occasions about how not only herself, but even English teachers, are not allowed by the administration to correct children’s grammar, and that her students come to her class with math skills suiting that of a second or third grader, but she is expected to have them prepared for the seventh grade by the end of the year. Teachers at my sister’s school are told not to correct the children’s grammar in fear of hurting their feelings, but if no one corrects them in school, what are the chances that children form these skills by the time they enter the workforce? Administrative policies, not individual teachers, are to blame for the low standard of education. What teachers could truly be motivated to teach in a system where pay grade is not based upon success or results, just time physically spent in the classroom? The public school system is failing both nationally and in individual states.
Among the international rankings as recently as 2010, the United States ranks fourteenth in reading, twenty-fifth in mathematics, and seventeenth in science (Shepherd). The United States is not even within the top ten of any measured subject. The top five countries in the world for education include South Korea, Finland, Canada, New Zealand, and Japan (Shepherd). Twenty-five percent of United States high school students fail to graduate within the allotted four years, and as the Miami Herald states it, “many of those who do graduate are ill-prepared for the demands of college and career,” (Bush).
Why are other countries proving more successful in their education practices? House Education and Labor Chairman, George Miller, claims, “The difference between the countries at the top of these rankings and the U.S. is that the countries who are outperforming us have made developing the best education system in the world a national goal…They’ve recognized that the strength of their economy will be inextricably tied to the strength of their education system in the 21st century,” (Graves). This is obviously support for the fact that education should become a greater priority in this country. As George Miller stated above, a successful education system in turn leads to a successful economic system. Any substantial gain in quality of education would directly result in economic gain in the trillions, just in the next few decades (Graves). Despite spending some of the highest amounts globally on education, we are still not succeeding, lending to the idea that the funding is not the problem, but how it is being put to use (Bush).
One writer, Amy Richards reports, “twenty-five percent of the United States population is functionally illiterate, unable to consult a dictionary, to read signs or follow basic written directions,” (Richards) Based upon recent census data, the population of the United States is approximately 311,591,917, which according to Richards’ claim, means that there are approximately 77,897,979 people in the United States alone that are illiterate (Google Public Data Explorer). That is certainly a vast number of people, and an unexpected number for such a developed country as the United States.
One explanation as to why exactly our public school systems are failing is the existence of zero-tolerance policies for rules within schools, which in turn lead to increased rates of suspension and expulsion. Amy Richards cites the example, “Philadelphia provides a perfect case study in inner city education, expelling students at a rate of three hundred per day. On average, students are about four years behind in reading level in Philadelphia,” (Richards). Higher rates of suspension and expulsion mean one thing for the education system, less students are in the classroom learning. Richards cites Philadelphia as an example, however the same trend can be found in inner-city school systems throughout the country.
One school system that critics argue is very much the gold standard is that of Finland. Finland ranks second in both reading and mathematics respectively, but ranks highest in science in the world (Shepherd). One compelling argument for Finland’s success in education is the fact that private schools do not exist, even on the university level. There are very few independent schools in existence, but even those are all publicly funded. What this means is that all students in Finland are receiving an equal education, that which cannot be elevated by any tuition fee (Partanen). Pasi Sahlberg is the director of the Finnish Ministry of Education’s Center for International Mobility and has recently authored the book Finnish Lessons:What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? (Partanen). In an interview about his new book, he cites the lack of private schools as one reason for success, but also includes many strong arguments as to why their system is so successful. Some of the practices that Sahlberg claims are the most successful include the absence of standardized tests, and also the fact that “in Finland all teachers and administrators are given prestige, decent pay, and a lot of responsibility. A master’s degree is required to enter the profession, and teacher training programs are among the most selective professional schools in the country,” (Partanen). Pasi Sahlberg also brings up ideas that aren’t often contemplated as success enabling in the United States such as, “Finland offers all pupils free school meals, easy access to health care, psychological counseling, and individualized student guidance,” (Partanen). Are the absences of such practices the reason for the immense gap between Finland’s prestigious education program and the mediocre counterpart of the United States? Standardized testing is considered a facet in public education in the United States, yet students in Finland only have individual testing created and graded by teachers, and have a much greater margin of success. Finland implements educational practices that are almost completely opposite to those of the United States. Critics argue that the Finnish model would not work in the United States because of the extreme differences in size and ethnic diversity, however Samuel Abrams, of Columbia University’s Teaching College argues against this point by citing the country of Norway as a prime example. Abrams argues that though Norway is similar in size and cultural diversity to Finland, Norway’s educational system is much more similar to that of the United States, and garners similar, sub-par, results to those of the United States (Partanen).
I have explained potential reasons for the shortcomings of the United States. These include, improvement of education not being a main goal for Americans, standardized testing, high-rates of suspension and expulsion, and inadequate pay-grade determinants for teachers. For some of these problems, there are obvious solutions, such as abolition of standardized testing and zero-tolerance policies. I have also offered a potential solution, the Finnish model, which our country’s education system would be more than capable of adapting to if there was governmental policy change. Any change for the better to our education system could potentially yield unfathomable amounts of economic growth and the ability to compete in international rankings.
Shepherd, Jessica. “World Education Rankings: Which Country Does Best at Reading, Maths and Science?” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 07 Dec. 2010. Web. 16 Sept. 2012. .
Bush, Jeb. “How To Improve Our Failing Education System.” The Miami Herald. N.p., 30 May 2012. Web. 16 Sept. 2012. .
Graves, Lucia. “House Education Chair: U.S. School System Is ‘Failing Our Country'” The Huffington Post., 07 Dec. 2010. Web. 16 Sept. 2012. .
Richards, Amy. “Why The American Public School System Keeps Failing Our Youth.” ReLIFE’s Blog. N.p., 24 Oct. 2011. Web. 16 Sept. 2012. .
“Google Public Data Explorer.” Google Public Data Explorer. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2012. .
Partanen, Anu. “What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success.” The Atlantic. N.p., 29 Dec. 2011. Web. 16 Sept. 2012. .

Perception Of Parents Towards Co Curricular Activities

In todays highly competitive world, students have to bear a lot of mental stress and also have to get involved in so many things in order to acquire knowledge. This is where co-curricular activities play a very significant role. They help us get mental rest and also help us stay physically fit and healthy. Being only brilliant in academics doesn’t help a student become a responsible citizen of that country. A student should also be equally talented in other fields and even if not, they should at least pay some interest in them. It’s because being both academically and co-curricularly talented helps a student to face the world. This also helps in developing his/her personality. There is no doubt that academics are the priority in a student’s life but it would be very wrong to say that co-curricular activities are a kind of hindrance to academic excellence. But students can only value these activities when they get a supportive environment from their parents. Thus, present study focused its attention on the attitude and perceptions which parents of secondary school child have about Co-curricular activities and factors which affect their attitude. In other words, study made an attempt to find out those key factors on which parents build their attitude and perception for co-curricular activities at secondary level because it’s the peak of the student’s adolescent age and after this they decide for their future plans.
Key Terms: attitude, perception, co-curricular activities
INTRODUCTION: Education is not merely concerned with a merely of the 3 R’s. It is concerned with the integrated development of the personality of an individual; his physical, cultural, aesthetic, social, mental and emotional aspects. Secondary Education Commission (1954)”We would like the school to see if it can provide a richly varied pattern of activities to cater to the development of children’s entire personality.”
It is extremely difficult to emphasize sufficiently the tremendous importance of the co- curricular activities for the development of the whole man. Changes in the philosophical and psychological ideas have now given a new direction to the school curriculum.
Philosophical ideas have brought about a change in die aims of education. The crying need of the hour is the education for democracy, and hence education must aim at producing those individuals who can intelligently and amicably participate in the various activities of life. Traditional curriculum has failed to meet the demands of the changing concept of education. The co-curricular programme is a convenient tool by which an inadequate curriculum may be modified.
Secondly, a consideration of psychological factors reminds us of the necessity of giving more and more attention to understand die individual differences of the children and of providing proper outlets for the flow of the energies of the children. These activities are very helpful in this regard.
‘Learning by Doing’, ‘learning by Living’ and ‘Learning without Tears’ are the main characteristics of new education. Education accordingly is seen in terms of 7 R’s i.e., Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Rights, Responsibilities, Recreation and Relationships.
But the ‘Art of living’ is much more comprehensive concept than the acquisition of knowledge, however intelligently planned. It includes training in the habit and graces of social life and the capacity for cooperative group work. It calls for patience, good temper, sincerity, fellow and discipline. These objectives can only be in the context of the social life and the many curricular activities must find a recognized place in school.
Meaning of co-curricular activities: Activities which complement but are not part of the conventional academic curriculum are known as co-curricular activities. It means that Co-curricular activities are those activities which fall outside the regular academic curriculum yet they are a part of schooling or collegiate life. These are observed in tandem with an institute’s curriculum and have a yearly schedule. Most of the educational organizations in various different parts of the world facilitate these activities for school and college students. Faculty is mostly involved in organizing and directing these activities in schools while it may be independent from faculty in universities or colleges. Today these activities have become more profound than ever before. Co-curricular activities form the core of students’ life.
The Origin of Co-curricular Activities:
These activities are as old as education itself though sphere was not as vast as it is today. Monitor stem was one of the important institutions of the ancient Indian system of education. The Gurukulas of were residential institutions providing opportunities social contacts on a large scale. In Athens and Sparta activities like athletics, music, and student participation internment were very common. Lots of educationists in the past have also reflected that these activities are inseparable part of any school curriculum and hence very important for students.
Rousseau’s revolutionary statements such as ” to live is the trade I want to teach him (Emil) the object is not to give him knowledge but the taste and capacity of acquiring it, and the method is that of personal discovery ‘and ”now the youth is to be educated fir the life and is to be in social relationship. ‘Spencer (1820-1903) came out vigorously in his advocacy of co-curricular activities with his clarion call’ to prepare us for complete living is the function which education has to discharge. ‘and for making this goal in actuality he advocates activities concerned with family life and rearing of the children social and political activities, leisure time activities like music arts; crafts etc.
The great educational philosopher Dewey provided the great impetus to co-curricular activities in education, who advocated the philosophy of pragmatism. ‘Education is not preparation, of life put life itself ‘with the assertion Dewey shook all those who had been emphasizing bookish education for making one’s future life and career meaningful and productive. His suggestion for adopting ‘project method’ in education, are directly through co-curricular activities at par with the intellectual subjects in the School Curriculum.
Thus we see that the global trend of ‘too much bookish education’ that rose and held sway from 13th to 19th centuries is most of the school and colleagues was greatly checked and corrected by these progressive educational thinkers in the later half of the previous century and in the first of this 20th century.
Co-curricular Activities as an Integral Part of Education:
In the past, these activities were mainly organized after school hours and so were ‘extra curricular But now “they are as integral a part of the activities of the school as its curricular work and their organization needs just as much care and for might.” The Secondary Education Commission marks, “Given a clean, pleasant and well-maintained building, we would like the school to see if it provides a richly varied, pattern of activities to cater fee development of their children’s entire personality has to formulate a scheme of hobbies, occupations id projects that will appeal to, and draw out the powers ‘children of varying temperaments and aptitudes’.
National Policy of Education (1986) has mentioned about “sports and physical education and also rendering of social service by students while learning, are an inseparable part of the learning process”. Further they suggested that “at upper primary stage, while participation in activities relating to physical education and sports should be the main theme, some elements of textual materials could be introduced also. A minimum of one period a day should be devoted for physical education and sports at this stage.”
Similarly Programme of Action (1992) has emphasized that these activities (CCA) should benefit students and youth in a number of ways, including character building, co-operative endeavor and endurance. These activities will also greatly help students develop a sense of self-confidence and self-esteem, and will help then in their future careers. For this physical education and yoga should be introduce for at least 45 minutes per day, preferably just after assembly. And games should be included in the school time-table for at least two periods in a week.
In National Curriculum Framework (2005) art as a subject at all stages is recommended which includes music, dance, visual arts and theatre. It also emphasized on work which is linked with learning from pre primary knowledge into experience, as well as physical activity so that the child’s success depends on well planned physical activities.
Thus, having understood that co-curricular activities are important part of student’s life, investigator made a very serious attempt to find out the attitude and perception of parents as they are the most influential factor in selecting curriculum and activities for students at secondary level.
OPERATIONAL DEFINITION OF KEY TERMS: Attitude: A predisposition or a tendency to respond positively or negatively towards a certain idea, object, person, or situation. Attitude influences an individual’s choice of action, and responses to challenges, incentives, and rewards (together called stimuli). Four major components of attitude are (1) Affective: emotions or feelings. (2) Cognitive: belief or opinions held consciously. (3) Conative: inclination for action. (4) Evaluative: positive or negative response to stimuli. In short, the way a person views something or tends to behave towards it, often in an evaluative way.
Perception: The process, act, or faculty of perceiving. Perception means how do children perceive co-curricular activities in the present study? Is it negative or positive?
Co-curricular activities: These activities may be defined as the activities undertaken to strengthen the classroom learning as well as other activities both inside and outside the classroom to develop the personality of the child.
OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY: To study the attitude of parents towards co-curricular activities.
To study the perception of parents towards co-curricular activities.
To study the factors influencing the attitude of students and parents towards co-curricular activities.
METHODOLOGY: To study the problem ‘Descriptive survey method’ has been used.
POPULATION: The population for the present study comprised parents of the students of class IX and X of Sarvodaya Schools, Directorate of Education, Delhi Govt.
SAMPLE: Sample for the present study comprised 100 parents of the students of class IX and X randomly selected from Sarvodaya Schools of District- South-West of Delhi, Directorate of Education, and Delhi Govt.
TOOLS/TECHNIQUES USED FOR DATA COLLECTION: In the present study the investigator has used Questionnaire and Interview Schedule as tools to collect the data.
Questionnaire for the selected parents.
Interview Schedule for the selected parents.
FINDINGS OF THE STUDY: Present research was started with some preplanned objectives and now, it is the time to look back at the objectives of the study again.
First objective was to study the attitude of parents towards co-curricular activities. It was found by the researcher that half of the parents (47%) are not willing to let their child to participate in the co-curricular activities (CCA) as they responded that this is an important phase of student’s life when they have to look forward to their future instead of wasting their time on these activities. On the other hand, there are parents (45%) who support their child to participate in CCA as they believe that these activities provide the children with great opportunities to develop their self confidence and keep their children physically fit and healthy. These parents provide proper guidance and encouragement to their children and arrange all the material required for it. These parents are in favor of equal balance between academics and co-curricular activities.
No. of parents who want their children to participate in CCA It can be very easily concluded from the Fig. 1 that almost half of the parents have positive attitude towards the participation in co-curricular activities. These parents encourage their children on every step to provide moral support and they take keen interest in their performance as well. They are present to see the growth and beauty of the talent and confidence of their child. On the other hand, 47% of the parents are strongly against the participation of their children in the co-curricular activities as they believe that children of secondary level are of adolescent age and it is the crucial period in which they have to plan for the future career and decide their future goals for better life so the children shouldn’t waste their time on these activities, instead they must utilize the time for their study. Parents consider that the academic curriculum is much more important and should be given more status in schools than the co-curriculum. According to them, educational institutes are only meant to deliver education and awarding recognized qualifications. They also view higher education of a greater importance than the co-curricular when being selected by employers. There is also a view based on logic that there is more need for super talented individuals and as such institutes should make specialized individuals in their selected fields. Most modern careers require expert knowledge and skills, which can take years to acquire. Co-curricular activities distract students from developing skills in whatever selected field they have chosen to specialize in. 8% of the parents occasionally encourage their children to participate to get their mood fresh and for having fun and enjoyment.
Thus, the positive and negative attitude of parents towards co-curricular activities is based on their own assumptions and this automatically gets inculcated in their children too.
Second objective was to study the perception of parents towards co-curricular activities. Through this objective an attempt was made to understand and study the perception of parents i.e. how do they perceive co-curricular activities? Are co-curricular activities important for the child all round development? It was found by the researcher that majority of the parents know about co-curricular activities and 52% of the parents (Fig. 2) agreed that participation in co-curricular activities did build up the confidence level of child. The responses indicated that participation acts as catalyst and the talent triggers up. The students get exposure and appreciation. It encourages and motivates him/her for further participation. Participation gives the feeling of satisfaction and achievement, the self concept becomes high.
No. of parents who agreed that CCA builds self confidence of the child Fig. 2 also reveals that there are 33% parents who believe that co-curricular activities are not at all important as they distract the students from academics. They believe that the academic curriculum is really much more important and must continue to be given more status in schools than the co-curriculum. Students are meant to be receiving an education and gaining recognized qualifications. Co-curricular activities are nice, but they have never been shown to actually play a vital role in a student’s life. And if they distract students from focusing on their academic qualifications, then they could be actually harmful. So, these parents have total negative perception about CCA. 15% of the parents accepted that CCA has very little impact on student’s personality and their locus of control is more towards academics but they wanted their child to participate in CCA to be active, alert and for refreshing their mood.
It was also found out by the investigator that majority of the parents are aware of the need and benefits of co-curricular activities but half the parents are not ready to give CCA an important and required place in the lives of their child as they are not able to understand that the child can have a future career in any of the activities.
No. of parents who agree that CCA helps in the all round development of the child Fig. 3 shows that 80% of the parents agreed that CCA helps in the all round development of the child which means physical, mental, social, emotional, psychological, spiritual and moral development. These parents also confirmed that co-curricular activities identified the hidden talent of their child. The responses revealed that majority of the parents found that CCA is important in today’s life as: Child becomes competent enough and self dependent; learns to fight against his inhibition; child becomes interactive; healthy and fresh mind to pursue future aim and CCA in school is right stage, right platform, and right opportunity to enrich skills. Only responses of 16% parents reflected that CCA doesn’t play any role in the all round development of the child.
No. of parents who want CCA to be a part of Curriculum: Fig. 4 represents that majority of the parents are in favor of CCA as they want that it should be an integral part of regular curriculum where as 17% of the parents are not in favor of including CCA in the curriculum because academics forms an important part in their viewpoint. 25% of the parents want that CCA should be a part of the academics occasionally for providing a change to the students.
Third objective was to study the factors influencing the attitude of parents towards co-curricular activities. It was found out by the scholar that social pressures, emerging trends, interest of the child are some of the key determining factors for the attitude and the perception of parents. These factors form the positive attitude and perception about co-curricular activities and this positive perception are directly reflected in the perception of their child.
It is a well known fact that wide range of experiences prepare students better for the future, especially in today’s uncertain world. Broad education can provide better preparation for life in a society where an individual may need to change career several times in their life. Student minds aren’t mature enough to ascertain what’s good and what’s bad for them? Their decisions may be influenced by peer pressure etc. but at the same time these activities should not be forced. Co-curricular activities need to be more refined, varied and interesting so as to be widely accepted and successful. A successful co-curriculum builds links between the school and the wider community, bringing local enthusiasts in to work with students, and sending students out to work on community projects. Many children have talents in all sorts of different areas, and it is wrong to force them to specialize too early. A career is not the only part of an adults life school needs to make sure they have interests and skills that will help them in their family and leisure lives too. Through equal balancing of academic and co-curriculum, the students have the chance to exercise their rights and the opportunity to be multi-talented.
CONCLUSION: Thus, it can be concluded from the findings of the study that parents understand the value and need of the co-curricular activities but half of the parents do not encourage their child to participate in these activities as they regard it as wastage of time and academics becomes much more important in their live. These parents think that children can only be successful when they will spend more time on academics. There is also a view based on logic that there is more need for super talented individuals and as such institutes should make specialized individuals in their selected fields. Most modern careers require expert knowledge and skills, which can take years to acquire. Co-curricular activities distract students from developing skills in whatever selected field they have chosen to specialize in.
On the other hand, there are parents who agreed that children should actively participate in these activities as it helps in identifying the hidden talent in the child and develop self confidence. These activities provide a rich experience to the children which help them to sustain in this uncertain world and make them multi-skilled. Participation in these activities develops many skills such as leadership skills, taking initiatives, team-spirit etc. Thus, it can be concluded that these activities are really important as they have a potential of developing the intellect of a student which is always not possible with theoretic procedures. For this co-curricular activities need to be effective so that they can give the right exposure to the mind. When effective these activities provide a practical hands-on approach to the students which provide similar experiences which they will face in the outside world. Such experiences go a long way in producing multi-faceted personalities which, in due course of time may bring honour to the country as well.