Thursday, October 17, 2013

Education as Priority


I read an interesting article in The New York Times earlier today. It described, through stories from Amanda Ripley’s new book ‘Smartest Kids in The World’ that Finland, South Korea and Poland have better education systems than America. As someone who has spent a good deal of time within the education system it was intriguing. 
The rigor of the syllabus in Poland was what seemed to be leading to clever graduates. Not that American students aren’t clever but on average they are less clever. What do you think would happen in Australia if a policy was implemented that made school days longer, like in South korea? Or that the work was both more complex and of a higher quantity, like in Poland? What would happen in Australia if getting into an Education degree was harder than getting into medicine, like in Finland?
Of course all of these would cause chaos within parents groups. They would scream for less homework because of stress, even though the South Koreans seem to relish the opportunity. They would complain of higher failure rates, even though the kids in Poland manage to pass what is referred to as the hardest High School Syllabus on Earth. The only issue with Education being a harder course to get into is that the highest ranking high school kids won’t pick it if the pay doesn’t add up to what they could earn in Medicine or Law. 
In Finland teachers are paid extraordinary amounts, because only the very best students can become teachers. The government in Finland promises to invest in Education and then, unlike Australia, actually does.
I know it is a crazy thought, imagine a country that is better at something than Australia. The culture in this country favors sports over education and that leads to a population of under achieving kids that hoped they would make the AFL but didn’t and now don’t have anything to show for it except stories from Junior footy.
If Teaching at University was a 95 ATAR only the best would apply. The best will apply only if the Government would focus on paying teachers what they are worth and not on fixing skills shortages. Making something easy to get in to doesn’t do anything but create a cohort of graduates that aren’t smart enough to do well in High School but because of easy acceptance are smart enough to teach other kids to do what they themselves couldn’t?
How could a kid who gets an ATAR of 60 tell someone effectively how to get an ATAR of 99? They have no idea how to get that score. 
ATAR is not everything though, kids who get into other University courses will have more trouble upon graduation finding a place for themselves in the global economy than kids from South Korea, Finland or Poland would. Because our courses are too easy, high graduation rate means nothing if the average graduate can’t spell ‘necessary’.
Therefore, it is necessary for Australia to stop dropping the ball when it comes to Education, improvement means real investment in teachers and coursework, not giving all the kids an iPad. A smart whiteboard and a projector won’t do as much if you can’t entice the best students to become teachers. Education is the future, every politician has said it, what they need to do now is to make positive steps towards the future and stop investing in new laptops, kids are using them for Facebook guys, it’s a waste of money.
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I'm a Taekwondo and MMA athlete. I also write novels and screenplays.