Dear Future President,
Change is in the air in the United States. Black Lives Matter protests are spreading across the country, gay marriage was legalized by the federal government, It’s time to focus on something that will change the future of this country forever. It’s time to change something that will heavily influence the future of America. It’s time to change the american education system. An American classroom 100 years ago looks and functions nearly identical to a classroom today. Think of how much America has evolved in the past 100 years, the automobile was invented, women can vote, the Civil Rights movement took place, when will it be educations turn? Countries around the world are in the process of making an educational reform, and some have already successfully done so. Finland for example has the highest graduation rate in Europe at 93% and their students score on top for global testing. America in comparison has a graduation rate of a mediocre 75%, their students score average in global testing (Below average in Math). America’s educational system is outdated and based on American education can be improved by making teaching more competitive, minimizing the usage of standardized testing, and offering an individualized curriculum.
First off, let's look at how teachers are treated in Finland compared to America. Teaching in Finland is a highly revered and competitive profession, teachers are esteemed as doctors or lawyers. “Only one in 10 students who apply to teacher education programs are admitted.” Not only is teaching more competitive, all teachers are required to have a Master’s Degree whereas in America a Bachelors will get you by. Teachers in Finland are treated like professors at universities, and they teach fewer hours during the day than US teachers, with more time devoted to lesson planning. They also get paid slightly more in Finland. The average teacher in the US makes about $41,000 a year, compared to $43,000 in Finland.” Teachers in Finland are not only more educated but they’re given more time to improve their curriculum. Not to mention they’re paid more and work significantly fewer hours than American teachers. It’s very easy to see why Finnish educators outperform American educators.
Next, american students are overwhelmed by the amount of standardized testing they’re forced to do. From the time they middle school American students are very familiar with task of standardized testing. Every kid is given the same multiple-choice test and the scores are used to evaluate the effectiveness of the teacher and the academic ability of the student. On paper this sounds like a save-all solution to measuring our students intelligence. However, the tests often fail to display an individual's overall knowledge and often causes what teachers call a “drill n’ kill” curriculum. An article states, “China displaced Finland at the top of the 2009 PISA rankings because, as explained by Jiang Xueqin, Deputy Principal of Peking University High School, "Chinese schools are very good at preparing their students for standardized tests. For that reason, they fail to prepare them for higher education and the knowledge economy." China is trying to
depart from the "drill and kill" test prep that Chinese educators admit has produced only ‘competent mediocrity.’” China, the world leaders in standardized test taking are admitting that curriculum geared towards success on standardized tests fails to prepare kids for anything other than taking tests. Now let's look at Finland, Stanford University researchers state, “Finland topped the international education (PISA) rankings from 2001-2008, yet has "no external standardized tests used to rank students or schools." Finland never fails to shine where America struggles when it comes to education. Finnish students take 1 standardized test when they’re 16 years old, and that's it, compared to the 100 million standardized tests American students take every year. Standardized testing is so engraved into the American education system it’s hard to imagine a future without it, but that future is a bright one. With your help we could eliminate standardized testing and all of the negative things associated with it. Our children's learning can be focused on creative thinking, problem solving, and teaching our characteristics and lessons that will prepare them for real life, instead of preparing kids how to fill out a scan tron.
Finally, education is best suited when it is molded to an individual student's needs. Albert Einstein once said, “Everyone’s a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will spend it's whole life believing it’s stupid.” To truly tap into a child's potential for learning they need to have an individualized approach to their learning that helps them identify and strengthen their weaknesses. This is where Finland’s education really shines, every teacher is trusted to do whatever it takes to turn young lives around. An article written on Kirkkojarvi Comprehensive School in Finland claims, “If one method fails, teachers consult with colleagues to try something else. They seem to relish the challenges. Nearly 30 percent of Finland’s children
receive some kind of special help during their first nine years of school.” Finnish educators have no boundaries when it comes to ensuring the success of their students. Every student has different strengths, different needs, different dreams, so how can we expect every student to be successful when they all listen to the same teachers tell them the same things the same exact way? If America really wants to see their students succeed they need to focus on adjusting curriculum to fit every individual. Education is not what it used to be, we aren’t training factory workers, we’re training future engineers and architects, education cannot be a one size fits all.
Educational reform is not an overnight process and will take time and patience to become effective. Finland, who I’ve used for many examples, wasn’t always the shining star it is today. In the 1970’s Finland was just escaping the grasps of the Soviet Union and its economy was struggling. Finnish officials made the bold decision that quality education was its best chance at economic recovery, and they were right. The Fins were bright enough to see that to ensure a better tomorrow our children have to have every available asset they can, education being the most important. American teachers deserve a lot more respect, the amount of hour they put in and how little they get paid is ridiculous. But I also believe becoming a teacher should be a more rigorous procedure, the best students need the best educators. Standardized testing is proving time and time again that it is an ineffective method for measuring the quality of our students and teachers. You need to start changing curriculum to focus on creative thinking and problem solving instead of filling in bubbles. Finally kids need individualized approaches at teaching. Reducing class size would be a very effective but very difficult method for making this easier.
This is not going to be an painless or short password. Sacrifices will have to be made, money will have to come from somewhere, but positively changing the future for our children and all who follow them, it's a price worth paying