The best schools teach us about education

August 9, 2016 11:00 am
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Creating a flawless system of education is not a reasonable goal. However, as Cory Turner reports, the National Conference of State Legislature’s has been looking into how the American education system might benefit from the practices of several of the top-performing educational systems, such as those of Japan, Singapore, and Finland. So, what can the best schools teach us about education?

Though the report covered many elements that might create a better system, three of the main findings are as follows. First, we must not overlook the importance of early childhood education. In the US, many children live in poverty and enter kindergarten in a cognitively deficient state due to lack of stimulation and nutrition. Making preschool services widely available not only improves children’s cognitive abilities, but also indicates concern over socio-economic issues, which have profound impacts on the academic success of students.  

The second point of the report concerns better training of teachers. According to the legislature’s report, the top-performing schools are in countries where teachers are trained in top-tier universities with many hours of practicum. In addition, teachers in the US follow a mainly individualistic approach to education, as opposed to the multidisciplinary approach of top-performing countries. Teachers in top-performing countries are encouraged to collaborate with each other and spend only approximately 30-35% of their days teaching students. The rest of their time is spent improving lesson plans, talking to other teachers, and assisting students in need.

Lastly, Turner discusses the need for schools to hold technical and career education (“vocational education”) in higher esteem. In the US, vocational programs are “a second tier for low-performing students”. Turner cites schools in Singapore, which do not see technical education as any less valuable than other career paths.

Compared to other systems of education, it seems as though the US does not put as much emphasis as it should on early learning, teacher training, and technical education. These elements may not be enough to create a flawless system of education. However, the world’s best educational practices may inform us on how students learn best, and how teachers teach best.

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This post was written by Madeleine De Welles