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The most efficient education

These days a better education is on top of the Obama administrations agenda and I wish to share my thoughts for the most efficient education. First I will explain what America is doing and then I'll tell you what I think they should be doing.
1)American education doesn't seem to teach American students by the textbooks enough. Sure they use the textbook but they don't use all of it nor do they use it in order of the table of contents. This is a problem for 3 reasons.
1.Each child will go through a different education experience and that might bring a disadvantage for some students.
2.Changing the education process is harder cause they don't teach by the book. Even if they change the book there will only be minor changes.
3.A student cannot study ahead of time.
The textbook being used more will make the next idea I have possible. It's the 3 step study system. Precede, class, repeat. The student studies ahead of time before class, takes the class and then for the final touch look back at what the student learned. This isn't even possible because of the current system, It shouldn't be so hard to start studying.
Of course this will be ideal if the textbooks got thinner, government controlled, and more portable(Not hardcover).

2) Make a free education videos that are top notch on quality. This will make kids in all areas of the country have access to quality education. The best teachers should do this or it will be rendered useless.

  • Mar 15 2011: Here is an actual example of how the student driven education I propose works: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/15/opinion/15engel.html?ref=todayspaper
    • Mar 15 2011: This went right once. It can also go terribly wrong. The kids there were cooperative. Not all social structures in school are the same. There might be people who gets left out due to unpopularity or a leading group of the system that are looked at as role-models(cool kids) might express a negative reaction and kids would be scared of being left out if they tried to make it work.
      • Mar 15 2011: Are you sure all the kids were cooperative? Or perhaps some LEARNed to be cooperative?

        However I do agree with your other point. No doubt the method the article discusses is not appropriate for all students. Another problem with our education system is that we look for ONE method to use for ALL students, as if all students are the same. It makes as much sense as making all clothes the same size, regardless of the sizes of the customers. The production line model of education may have worked when all society needed was human automatons working on a production line, but now mechanical automatons and software can do mindless jobs better, faster & cheaper. Now the work society needs to do is solve complex multifaceted problems. We need people who are flexible, can think on their feet, and adjust their direction in mid-flight to respond to changing circumstances. Something not likely to be achieved by an educational system that spoon feeds students and does not require them to figure things out for themselves.

        As far as holes in their knowledge, are you really stating that math skills learned for the purposes of ice cream production, for example, cannot be transferred to estimating lumber for house building or payroll management, or any other need? Additionally, the students are not on their own. What are we paying the teacher for, if not to guide the students?

        >It sounds like a lot of time spent for a feeble result.<
        What leads to feeble results is trying to teach students who don’t care about learning something and who only remember a lesson long enough to pass the test. That is what leads to feeble results.

        I am of the opinion it is easier to teach people who want to learn something.
  • Mar 13 2011: I think you need to define ‘education’.

    From my perspective, physical text books as repositories of knowledge are rapidly being made obsolete by the new storage technologies and online ‘libraries’.

    What I find missing are the skills of critical thinking, mainly because students aren’t challenged to solve problems in areas that are of interest to them. We teach subjects as if they are . . . ‘academic’. They're not, but students won't believe it as long as subjects are taught as an abstraction to them.

    Additionally, as we have machines now that can store and retrieve data, it’s more important that the skills for critical thinking be developed. Since we now have power tools for the mind, let the tools do the drudge work so that students can become practiced in figuring out solutions in areas that interest them. It doesn’t matter whether it is football tactics, science projects, world history analysis, or fund raising for the school trip. The problem solving skills required of the Scientific Method, Harvard Management Theory, Nursing Process, or whatever one may choose to call it, are the same and transferable across disciplines, as are the skills of leadership and cooperation among those who are intelligent, or strong, or creative, or diligent, etc.
    • Mar 13 2011: This is true, I think the education system should evolve into many branches that specialize in teaching what interests the students. Schools today are too generalized and spread thin.

      How can we accomplish that though? That would require an almost completely reworked education system. With the ability to acquire free eduction from new technologies its hard to imagine a single school facility being as necessary, but children still need direction from teachers don't they?
      • Mar 13 2011: If you teach kids what they are interested in you'll probably have lots of people who don't know anything at all. Plus you can't be interested in something until you've learned enough from it. My dad is a professor that majored in chemistry. He said the classes were boring but actually testing wasn't. People seem to overlook what children are capable of. They can learn all the general things and what they are interested in without a much of a problem anyways. It's not like children don't have enough time to learn it because of the general stuff.
        • Mar 13 2011: No they should still learn general education. Otherwise they would all be illiterate. In this idea there would be a primary school much like elementary where the children would learn all their general education except it would go on longer then elementary school. Then at some point it would break off into the specialized education and even then if would have core classes of general education. It would be like college except more immersed in regular schooling and funded by the government.
        • Mar 13 2011: >If you teach kids what they are interested in you'll probably have lots of people who don't know anything at all.<

          You must different kids than those we have here. The ones we have are curious about everything when they start school, but it gets beaten out of them.

          I’m suggesting letting students own interest be the engine to motivate their learning, for example:

          Say they like ice cream. Have them find out how to make some. How many kids in the class? How large a serving? How much do they need to make? Have them find out what ingredients they need. How much cream, sugar, ice, salt, etc. will they need. Why do they need these ingredients? What happens? What flavor(s)? Help them figure out how to decide? What kind of equipment? How much labor? Have them decide who does what. Who brings which ingredients? Who will turn the crank. How will they clean-up? A student could be assigned to develop a chart showing what percentage of steps they have taken, how much more needs to be done, and be responsible for keeping the class updated on its progress, and so on and so forth.

          This example involves research, chemistry, group dynamics & consensus building, arithmetic, division of labor, etc. The teacher would perhaps be more of a facilitator. No question the first few times this will take a long time, but as the class gets used to this, they will get faster & better at it, and will learn how to learn & learn and learn how to solve problems.

          And at the end, they get to have the ice cream, the fruits of their labor.

          I think this method, going from their concrete desire and then extrapolating to abstract principles, would be more effective than what most schools do now; Filling their heads with knowledge with the promise it will be useful, someday, maybe.

          That’s my theory anyway.
    • Mar 14 2011: If such thing happened I suggest it happens in Highschool. Generally people are interested in the same thing that he or she was interested while going through the mental changes in puberty(or so I heard).

      I doubt people get the things that they are curious about beaten out. In most cases people change dreams because they realize what they were dreaming of actually is and not because they learned stuff that aren't related.

      Plus stuff like icecream making doesn't need any education at a hard level. By stuff like icecream making I mean jobs that are skills. These jobs are usually very easy to learn and people get good at it not from studying but from experience. Even if someone goes the normal route he/she can still become an icecream maker.

      The best motivation for money is the promise of success, fame, and fortune.

      You might be thinking that they don't need to learn math or english if they are gonna make icecream but they do. They might be icecream makers whilst they are american citizens. The only way for democracy to work is to have smart citizens.
      • Mar 14 2011: >You might be thinking that they don't need to learn math or english if they are gonna make icecream but they do.<

        ??? You’ve misunderstood my post. That’s exactly the point I tried to make. I wasn’t speaking about jobs at all.

        I postulated that by learning how to make ice cream, they WOULD be learning and practicing math, science, and other subjects and also develop problem solving skills.

        Ice cream was only an example. Additional ‘projects’ could be about music that they might like, or movies, or any other interest they might have. As education is required for everything, everything would serve as a mechanism for learning.
        • Mar 15 2011: Wouldn't that be very inefficient? They won't learn what they should in the right order nor will they have the sources to know them well. It sounds like a lot of time spent for a feeble result. Maybe doing this once in a while won't be bad but this sounds more effective as a way to look past what they learned and put it to use, not learning it itself.
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          Tao P

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          Mar 17 2011: What is inefficient is grouping children together based on the day they were born and then teaching them all the same thing. Ilhyun you seem to believe that humans are machines and that we must put knowledge in them one piece at a time, in the right order to ensure that they are complete. Vincine's example is great: kids love icecream so lets get them excited by having them learn to make and (depending on age) perhaps sell icecream. This teaches them planning, some chemistry, economics, cooperation in a fun, concrete way.

          Learning comes from doing, indoctrination comes from parroting facts. I don't want my child's mind to resemble a textbook.
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          May 18 2011: I agree very much with Tao P and Vincine Fallica. Textbooks should by no means be the main part of education. There is so much more to it. I believe in saying that John Wooden from UCLA said in his inspiring talk:

          "No written work, no spoken plea
          can teach our youth, what they should be.
          Nor all the books on all the shelves
          is what the teachers are themselves."

          I think that a person of teacher should percieve what each student needs, but reflect upon it during group activities. I like the ice-cream way, this is the way we should lead and teach our children. If we demand them to know the whole textbook there would not be enough space in their brains for creative ideas and thinking.

          I would add this quote of British historian, who very well described education system employed nowadays:
          "Education … has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading. "

          What we need now is to give each student possibility to nurture talent they have in themselves, not to make everybody the same. A swiss psychologist suggested:
          "The principal goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done."

          But probably the best response was given by Mark Twain, when he was asked about his opinion on schools: "I have never let my schooling interfere with my education."

          I think it is worth to have a look through Kurt Martin Hahn's notes on education and Outbound Trust and UWC and perhaps to have a look at some of the Ken Robinson's videos.
  • Mar 17 2011: As most people in this post, i also disagree with your proposal. I actually believe that this would only take us further away from the solution and closer to forgetting how our brains were made to work. With creativity, not like computers. Guided freedom is definitely the answer. We also need teachers who are better at honing in on particular students talents and interests and allowing them to explore them. We need to promote individuality and creative thinking through guidance and example not by saying it and then enforcing the opposite.

    In my opinion, I'd also rather see a collection for work at the end of a students school career, (papers, art, projects, music, etc) then a number that is supposed to represent your amount of success.
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      Tao P

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      Mar 17 2011: We would be better off not having any textbooks than following rigid procedures of 'this page on this date', etc. We are teaching in a way that is convenient for the teacher at the expense of the student. What do you hope schools produce? Obedient, apathetic workers who do what they're told without too much fuss? If so then our current system is working and bring on more textbook based learning.

      I agree with Jon that schools should be a place of guided freedom. When someone is interested in something they learn easily and need no threat of punishment or reward from the teacher. Children are full of wonder when they enter school, so lets look at how we can fan this flame of curiosity instead of smothering it with the constant judgment of our current system.
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    Mar 13 2011: I think that seeking educating students from only one universal source would be a great injustice to society.
    Who would choose The Book? Sounds like indoctrination to me.
    • Mar 13 2011: The most important role that the book would play is helping the much needed change actually happen and letting kids study when they want to more easily.

      When did I say the textbook should be an universal source? I said it should hold a greater importance than it currently does now.
  • Jul 20 2011: My experience in learning is different: I have had the same chess teacher for 27 years. While possessing not one whit of talent as either or player or "idea" person, with extreme hard work my books are critically acclaimed, openings are named after me and my games are published in top professional magazines. But---it took decades of hard work with a great teacher. How many kids can take the time, effort and money to do this?

    My other example: In geology my friend was first my teacher, then a mentor and now a great friend. We have known each other for 30 + years. How do you teach kids the importance of long-term relationships and their importance to learning? I learned from my mother and father for 59 years.

    The "learn by rote and repetition" school produces engineers; imagination produces scientists, artists, musicians, and those of a creative nature. However, the absence of basics being taught in school in America is appalling. For instance it is generally recongized that due to the progressive drop in time spent writing cohesive essays, today's students don't know to write papers that flow, instead forcussing on disjointed ideas with no clear structure.

    You need the basic tools of the trade. In writing: e.g. grammar, snytax, spelling, etc. In math---algebra, geometry, trigonometry. In science--earth science, biology, chemistry, physics.

    Other critical exposure---every child should be exposed to art, music and literature---not just be grinds. As a scientist my favorite course at Syracuse University was American Literature and Culture (Obviously English professors better be good teachers or they should give up teaching!).

    I pursued anything of interest when I was young "curiousity" but, also learning the basics, allows me to discover paradigm shifts in many disciplines. This is only possible in America because had I been born to another culture, I would have been expected to go out and support my family---instead I carve out as much free time to be creative.
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    Mar 17 2011: I personally think that this idea's feasibility rather depends on the target audience. As others have pointed out, this doesn't foster the creative and social aspects required by young students. However, I believe that it is the next step in higher education (perhaps even high school), in which the students don't really require much "social interaction" from their educators so to speak.
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    Mar 17 2011: I have to say that I disagree with you about wrote learning. Although I am only a teenager, I have been a lifelong believer in Carl Rogers' thinking about education, specifically how reasoning is more important than simple facts. Reasoning cannot be learned from a textbook, one cannot improve their critical thinking skills from a textbook just as one cannot improve their social skills from a book. However, I am in no way saying that facts are unimportant but rather that specific and tedious details are useless if the idea is not understood. I think that it is difficult to look in and see the complex relationship here between the school system, labor unions and politicians, which hinders the learning of many students.
    I think that your idea about online educational content is excellent however. The Khan Academy is a great example of this, and I would recommend the TED talk from Salman Khan.
  • Mar 12 2011: Yes I agree that schools do not teach enough from text books but there is a myriad of problems with textbooks in the first place. I'm sure that the reason we dont teach the entire text book in order today is because we lowered the standards at some point so that other students in lower preforming areas could have a better chance at eduction. On that note, it would be harder however for students in lower preforming areas to read and go over material before class because they have many other obligations or obstacles blocking them from doing so.

    Stepping outside of demographics however, you will see that children's minds have already been rewired. Visual learning is becoming much more effective in teaching. It is because of that that I strongly agree with your second point. The current format of textbooks is very out of date for todays visual learning student. We must keep textbooks without a doubt but we must reformat them and couple this with a supply educational videos that will give the lecture portion of class on whatever material is being presented that day. Then, we will leave the bulk of the class time to human contact. Teachers would then have time to be one on one with their students instead of lifelessly reading from a textbook that dose not click with the student in the first place. Students themselves can form somewhat of a class discussion during sometime after the video lecture
    • Mar 13 2011: That's another problem with education. We care too much for the people who preform worse than others. Maybe in the younger years of education people it makes sense to help them but later on people who do worse are doing worse because they don't care. Why should the students doing exceptionally well have to sacrifice better education because of people who quit?
      • May 4 2011: Ilhyun Jo, it seems to me that you too set on your own idea that every child should be given the same kind of treatment. Some children do bad in school for a lot of reasons. It doesn't mean that they don't care. If you haven't done so, I suggest you see a talk by Ken Robinson titled "School kills creativity".. that would provide some food for thought.