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Is education a resource that can be squandered, not by the recipient, but by the providers?

Parents and governments have finite time and money to apply to education. The education systems sometimes change on a whim with a new government, or alternatively never update.

Should we experiment more or experiment less with our children? Can we cause damage by experimenting? Can we trust the governments and schools to know what is best for our children? Should there be more choice in the education systems available?

For the expenditure, are we getting value? Is it permissible that a school can fail a child by not managing to engage them and light the fire of learning?

Parents care to differing levels and while some assume that school is just a part of growing up and the outcome is not their business, others want to be controlling the syllabus. Should some parents have more control than others?

Schools claim education is a partnership between school, parent and child. Should parents be more accountable? Has society, with it's expectation of two working parents destroyed the viability of this partnership?

Is some education frivolous? Are children leaving school with the right skills? What are important skills that are not taught? Things like balancing your bank account, lifting, stacking, where to find information, how to file a patent, how to create a database, or any skill at all. Parenting even!

Should the last year of school (regardless of leaving age) be "life skills" and provide a segue into maintaining responsibility for your actions, managing your life, sourcing the skills you need, writing down your own morals and virtues and creating a roadmap for your future desires and expectations?

  • Mar 6 2012: I agree, there was a lot in the bag. Essentially there are a lot of stake-holders, it's big business, and the student outcomes are really just a measure that democracies use to try and sway government policy.
    One style does not suit all students, (nor teachers), and it is diversity and free choice that will allow parents to match their child to a school.

    However too much free choice and the national outcome gets stratified. No doubt there are people who make a career of designing education systems, and good luck to them.

    There are good teachers and bad. The bad are squandering the opportunity of their students to learn.
    There are good principals and bad. The bad are squandering resources at their disposal on projects that suit their own needs rather than those of the students.
    There are good students and bad. The bad are squandering the opportunity to learn, however my question is not about the recipients, but the providers.

    I am curious that you say first that education is not a partnership and later that parents must become involved. Perhaps it is semantics, or perhaps you mean the parents should direct the schools rather than have active input into just their own child's education. However the unfortunate truth I have noticed is that some parents actually do not have any interest whatsoever in the education of their own child(ren). I wonder what/if those parents would teach/show the children if that parent had the role of educator?

    Education is more often than not crying foul, and claiming they have no money to do things. This can only be one of a few things, bad management, living beyond their means, exceptional costs in specific instances, greed, lack of extra funding from the parent community or if all schools cry foul, then an under-estimation by the government.

    The whole subject is complex, but my original question is;
    Is education a resource that can be squandered, not by the recipient, but by the providers?
    The rest is supplementary.
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    Mar 6 2012: Wow. You put ten pounds of stuff into a five pound bag. First of all education is not a partnership. Schools have one goal and you have many. I agree that you should support and encourage education. The reality is that the text book publishers are driving schools. They provide the material and schools adjust curriculums based on the texts. Another driver are test developers. Independent of the text developers they test what THEY percieve as valid measurements to prepare the student for college. Colleges prepare the student for the projected needs of the industrial and military complexes. Then here come the politicians. They develop Common Core Standards which may or may not support what the book publishers and test developers have in place. As you know education is a multi billion dollar industry which have all of the blood suckers wanting a piece of the pie. At the bottom of the pile is the student and the parents. They are really not in control of anything. Want better results. Elect the right people. Put the "business" of education back at the local level. Parent must become involved and take schools back and stay involved to keep it there. Over the years we have allowed the fox to guard the henhouse. Poor decisions and to much government intervention has brought schools to their knees. Voters and parents are the cure. Best of luck. Bob.
  • Mar 6 2012: In answer to the question in the title: Absolutely.

    I would say something like Scientology education amounts to deleterious brainwashing that not only wastes time and money, but makes it so that you actively deny both healthy critical education and puts you into a position of unhealthily severing social connections, excluding previous friends and family that aren't willing to follow you into the manipulative and morally bankrupt cult.

    Of course, that example is rather extreme, but we can absolutely waste human resources by filling people's heads with counteractive, incorrect and rigid thoughts.

    That said, I would certainly shy away from calling anything that does not conform to market forces something useless or squandered. That would be a grave misunderstanding of the purpose, importance and nature of education.
  • Mar 6 2012: Such a lot of questions and each of them merits a book on its own. whether you think parents do or do not care sufficiently or governments see a need for cannon fodder with respect to the needs of the workplace, the question of education remains vexed. Do you think that citizens (both adults and children) have a duty to acquiesce and do what governments require, by way of pre-adult training? What future can a nation have if it fails to educate future generations?

    Perhaps the ideal would be to have no government input into education, thereby removing the aspect of education as a convenient political football which which to beat the electorate at election time. I remain to be convinced that the teaching profession has any reliable theory of education from which to work and upon which all teaching staff are agreed.

    If you are the owner of a factory and the education system turns out people who are happy to press a button on a machine, repetitively for a couple of years, you may be satisfied with the education system. There is no doubt that well educated people want more than that and are far more demanding for themselves than people who have a limited education. Clearly, 'one size fits everyone' is not a good strategy for education systems and choice is essential if we are to engage everyone whom we need to address.

    With the amount of online resources available these days, it ought to be possible to cater to all education needs. The internet can be a very liberating resource but requires universal access to the worldwide web and more computing tools. Something along the lines of a tablet type of device for everyone would be capable of achieving much. The process of education appears to work well where it is an integral part of play (for younger children) and where it is self-paced and well explained for older children.

    The provided link is just one example of effective teaching through play.
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    Mar 6 2012: Idealism regularly rears it's ugly head when education is discussed. A reality check is in order.

    There is a huge element of 'teachers as administrators' - collecting data for the bureaucracy. This is generally a waste of everyone's time and efforts, students and teachers.

    School is often about managing large groups of students logistically.

    Most governments (especially the current National government in NZ) don't truly value education - this is evidenced by politicians and ministers scrimping and saving and watching the bottom line with the eyes of a miser. In a nutshell, they generally are completely lacking in vision.

    Reading and writing are not the major players they were in previous centuries. But they are a hard habit to break.

    In NZ, we are severely limited by the telecommunications infrastructure - a bad hangover from the last time the government sold off our state assets. (Note to the Finn brothers - history does repeat when politicians stick their noses in).

    Parents definitely need to be involved more (many are) but this idea of education 'experts' needs to be reigned in. Teachers often have more experience in the job than parents but theories and 'knowledge' about learning haven't really progressed much in the past few decades - there just seems to be a proliferation of buzzwords.

    And the professional development circuit needs to be scrapped. In my experience, they are not useful and in the rare instances they are "inspirational" they are preaching to the converted.

    If education is squandered, it is usually by the ministry, not the learner. There's my 2-cents..
    • Mar 7 2012: You have many valid points.
      Certainly the "experts" have crept into almost every field. The current crop of managers are too afraid to make a decision and instead defer to the 'experts' (who have just finished University and have no experience). This allows them to just tick off boxes rather than actually manage the whole situation. If it goes wrong they can then claim that it was the fault of someone else as they were merely following a recommended system.

      Schools are perhaps becoming like the hospitals where once Doctors managed the hospital to a budget, now an extra layer of staff (managers) draw large salaries and decline spending on medical equipment in favour of management equipment. This experiment has not worked. Essentially it is the Education Ministry that has become the layer of management for schools.

      I suspect every stakeholder would discern the squandering to be in another stakeholders court. That's if we agree there is squandering!

      If the assumption was first made that the provision had to be twice as efficient, then perhaps some new thinking would arise. Rather than small twiddles, raising classroom numbers, changing allocations, denying certain resources, etc.

      Has anyone calculated if 'mainstreaming' has saved money overall or just shifted the expenditure to another budget and added stress and frustration.

      It must be all in the name of digitisation! Instead of a report that says your child is bright at maths, needs to work on writing skills, is socially normal and is an active and contributing member to the school and class, you now get a report that says 0010100100110011010100011. Just perfect for digitisation.