In the US, in some communities, the high school dropout rate is 60% (in some Native American communities it’s 80%). Some estimates assert that if this rate were halved, the result would be a net gain to the US economy of almost US$1 trillion over ten years. From a purely fiscal perspective, it makes sense to tackle disengagement in youngsters, particularly as high dropout rates are very expensive in the long run (think social housing, benefits payments etc.). The Hong Kong government publishes statistics that suggests the local dropout rate is very low (http://www.cmab.gov.hk/en/issues/child_statistics4.htm). However, a 2013 study indicated that less than half of Hong Kong teens expected to complete a university education, compared to over 70% in Singapore and over 80% in South Korea (http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1222458/fewer-hk-youths-expect-complete-university-compared-singapore). However, simply throwing money at the problem is not the answer. In places like the US and Hong Kong, more is spent on education than almost anywhere else in the world, class sizes are smaller, and there are hundreds of initiatives every year that aim to improve access to education.
Humans are naturally different and diverse, yet for the most part, education is about conformity. It embraces a narrow spectrum of achievement that is overly focused on STEM disciplines. Equal weight should be offered to the arts, humanities and physical education, because unhealthy bodies struggle to fulfil their intellectual potential. Young people prosper best under a broad curriculum that celebrates their various talents. . The diverse and dynamic creativity of the human mind is part of this process and again, it should be encouraged rather than repressed. Students are also inherently curious, and good teaching fosters this curiosity. Good teachers act as mentors, they stimulate and engage, but they also facilitate learning. While standardised testing is an important diagnostic tool in this process, it should not come to dominate the culture of education. Testing should support learning and not obstruct it. Otherwise, both teachers and students are encouraged to embrace a culture of compliance because the passing of exams allows advancement in life. These issues are explored in greater detail by Sir Ken Robinson, international education advisor and Emeritus Professor at the University of Warwick (http://sirkenrobinson.com/).
So what does all this mean for teachers, pupils and parents? An initial step might be to encourage the prestige of the teaching profession. This does not mean affording unsubstantiated status to the so-called “super tutors”, it means preventing the deprofessionalisation of teaching and recognising teachers as highly skilled individuals. Teaching and learning should also be individualised to the greatest possible extent. This may seem like a challenge in a packed classroom, but it is certainly possible in the home. Lastly, lets embrace the diversity of dreams, and encourage just as much respect for the student who becomes a dancer, than their classmate who becomes a doctor.
© 晉博教育中心 Brighten Youth Education Centre