School in other Countries

Arvind Grover, another New York City Technologies is visiting his family in India and posted the following about preschool’s in India:

Preschools are somewhat of a new phenomena in India, and it seems like they are starting out on a great foot. In India, there are government schools and public schools—government schools are like U.S. public schools, and Indian public schools are similar to U.S. private schools, slightly confusing. One interesting difference though, is that the privately-run/owned schools are generally for-profit organizations. Education is a big business in India.

The Little Kingdom school that I toured is one of those for-profit schools, but most interestingly it is a franchise. There is a group out of New Delhi selling franchises in this school. With a franchise purchase, one receives complete curricula and training, furniture schematics, room configuration plans, payrolls structures, administrative procedures, and more. Pretty much everything you need to know to run a school. Follow the manual’s setup section, hire some qualified teachers and you have yourself a school!

Seymour Papert had the following to say about the Maine laptop program and the effects of the $100 laptop that MIT is planning to produce soon:

The program in Maine “is producing some very good results,” Mr. Papert said. “There’s more engagement — they’re learning it better with more enthusiasm.” He noted however, that the laptops “are not, on the whole, producing a radical change in what the children learn.” That’s because of resistance to change by some educational leaders, he said. He said laptops would have a bigger impact in the developing nations. “In places where there’s hardly any education at all, there’s also no conservatism about the school systems,” he suggested.

I’m not in favor of out of the box education, and I think that it’s very important to have smart teachers teaching in our classrooms. But if we in the USA are really supposed to change and compete in the global economy as Tom Friedman has discussed in The World is Flat if we do not have the ability to be flexible about what and how we teach in the USA. The rigidity of our current curriculum, even in private schools that don’t have to teach to the test is intense. Papert’s comment about the laptop program not producing radical change is important to highlight. Teachers are trying to ‘cover’ instead of trying to help their students learn to be life long learners.

In Unconditional Parenting, Alfie Cohn asks parents to think about the goals that they want to achieve with their students. He then asks whether the kinds of discipline we use work towards or against these goals.

I think the same is true for education. What are our goals? Is teaching to a test productive? Do exams and covering material create smarter, creative, and moral people?

I’m still wrestling with these issues. Cohn’s argument about avoiding punishment/reward systems in raising your kids is great, but the reality of our capitalist society is that it is based on punishment/reward systems. How do we reconcile the two? Do school’s in developing nations have an advantage because there is no set curriculum and they can concentrate on producing the type of students they need? Is this healthy to ‘produce students’?

What do you think? How do we reconcile No Child Left Behind accountability with the need for human beings to be treated with respect and the need to compete in the global economy? Leave a note.

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