The United States beats almost every country in the world in many categories, but when it comes to education, American students are lag behind those in many other countries, including China, Finland and Korea, in most subjects. The question is: what needs to be done to overhaul the system and make the US among the leading countries in education. Following are some suggestions:
- Invest in teachers
The quality of teaching is extremely important to success. As a nation, the US has not invested in the training of teachers like it has in the training of doctors and our lawyers. It is also important to improve the quality of school principals, district leaders, superintendents and central office leaders to teach them how to support teachers.
- Modernize teaching
In the traditional education model, teachers work alone, isolated in their own classrooms without communication or support from the school or fellow teachers. Schools should identify their best, most effective teachers and then empower them to lead and train other teachers. This will help to retain teachers and reduce isolation, allowing teachers to solve their problems together.
- Trade-offs may help
Although children learn better in smaller classes than in big ones, reducing the size of classes is expensive — you need more teachers and classrooms. On the other hand, extending the school year is also costly. Few public school systems have the financial power to extend both the school year and shrink class size. A novel idea could be to extend the school year make classrooms a little bigger. The positive trade-off of spending more days in school is larger than the negative effect of having larger classes.
- Allow children to learn at their own pace
Schools are generally quick to adopt new technologies, many of which have been found to have a limited effect on student achievement. One strategy which is overlooked is adapting learning programs for instructing each student. This means allowing kids to set their own goals and work at their own pace. It also lets teachers focus more on smaller groups — while other groups work independently — instead of teaching the whole class at once.
- Involve students’ families
Research suggests that early education, done well, may be crucial to achievement later in life. Successful programs are those that involve the family in some way, so that the whole family contributes to student learning. This way, kids can benefit all the way through high school.