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Sand
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01 Jan 2010, 2:06 am

I wonder if the entire basic educational system is an anachronism. The business of gathering kids into special buildings that require expensive construction and maintenance and all those heavy textbooks and notebooks that must be lugged around and the expensive transport systems and the problems with security and discipline which are frequently overwhelming could logically be replaced with each child provided with a computer with access to daily instruction and testing on a far more flexible basis than is now existing in the current system. No need for dividing kids up into classes and dumping uniform instruction on them that some can take and some find difficult or impossible. Computerized instruction can used preset units that each child could accept divided, not by age, but by capability. Animated standard instructions could be far more comprehensive at specified sites than the textbooks and, in the long run, far cheaper with less waste of paper and other materials.

There would have to be initial mass early instruction in using the computer but gaming could make that fun and highly instructive and even competitive. It could take place in kindergarten or the first grade and then kids could set their own time for education and discipline could extended through the internet and contact with the parents. Actual contact with instructors could take place on the net but much of the material could be automated with testing as part of the automation. Records could be transmitted and archived and some sort of security system must be set to ensure the kids don’t cheat and fake their answers and this may be difficult but not impossible.

Direct contact cannot be eliminated altogether as instruction in the use of materials and machines and physical training requires established facilities but this can be relegated to much smaller special establishments. This type of instruction could also easily be extended to adults and higher education could also benefit by this type of organization.

No doubt social educational life would be impoverished by this system and new social organizations would have to be developed to ensure children could learn how to behave and enjoy each other’s company but this is an area that could be developed separately and, of course, this system would radically change much of the social system.

But it is obvious that the current system needs major revision and something of the sort of change I indicate is, in the long run, probably inevitable.



DentArthurDent
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01 Jan 2010, 7:22 am

I find it interesting that living in Finland as you do you still see a need to criticise the education in your country. Why? because at least here in Australia the Finish education system is held up as a beacon of enlightenment.

I do not agree your idea, mainly for the same reason you critique it - lack of social education. I see no good alternative to schools. What I see is the need for better teachers, one way to improve the level of teaching competency, is to reorganise teacher training into a hands on apprenticeship. I do not know what it is like in other countries, but here in Aus, the process is either do your Degree, and then a post grad year to do your diploma of education, or there are now Bachelor of Education courses. Either way the skills needed to teach are learnt in a sterile tutorial or lecture hall. Very little time given to teaching rounds. I suggest that apprentice teachers should fill the role of present teachers aides. What better way to learn to teach than to be involved at desk level with the students


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Wombat
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01 Jan 2010, 8:07 am

100 years ago most people in America didn't go past the eighth grade. By that time they had the "three R's" drummed into them plus a knowledge of history, civics and geography far beyond what an eighth grader knows today.

The British actor David Niven completed his private school education then went to Sandhurst (officers training school) and was a junior officer in the British army at the age of 17!! !

These days people are being kept in school till the age of 18 or so and then have to go to college until they are in their mid 20's.

As a baby boomer codger I can assure you that I and most of my friends were married with children and owned a house by our mid 20's.

And I would be willing to bet that most of my generation (even the ones who left school at 14) have a greater general knowledge, than the illiterate morons who are forced to stay in school until they are 18 and then "graduated" even though they can barely write their own name.



ruennsheng
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01 Jan 2010, 8:15 am

Returning to the good old days sound good. However, note that times have changed, and even in Singapore, with all the emphasis on literacy and thinking skills to prepare ourselves for a so-called 'knowledge-based economy' (correct me if I am wrong, Singaporeans), learning is still passive and not active on our part. With enforced discipline and changing attitudes, I can dare to say we are now slaves to the grinding machine of standardized testing. How can we ever be real critical thinkers if we do not want to be one of them ourselves?

I suggest reforms in just this area: we just need to return education to the students. Let the students decide what they learn in response to the society's needs. Let them design the curriculum as long as they are good and that they reflect the real realities of real life. If students are willing to work harder if there are no grades, not even pass or fail, perhaps this would be a pretty good thing for education... Let them play a part in forming a new society, instead of people enforcing irrelavent structures onto us...


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ruveyn
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01 Jan 2010, 8:20 am

Wombat wrote:

And I would be willing to bet that most of my generation (even the ones who left school at 14) have a greater general knowledge, than the illiterate morons who are forced to stay in school until they are 18 and then "graduated" even though they can barely write their own name.


I see you are talking about the tax funded illiteracy mills. What you are saying is particularly true of the U.S. whose elementary schooling system is a shame, a disgrace and an abomination. Yet over 90 percent of parents whose children are going to such schools think their kids are doing just fine.

I had to overcome the public schools by my own efforts. When I was thirteen years old I taught myself algebra and calculus. With my own children they all learned how to read phonetically by the age of four. My grandson Nick, was reading phonetically by the age of three and one half. My son, who I taught to read at an early age, saw to it that his son (my grandson) also learned to read at an early age.

Any normally intelligent kid who is not doing calculus by 8th grade has been betrayed by the system.

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Wombat
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01 Jan 2010, 9:33 am

ruveyn wrote:
I had to overcome the public schools by my own efforts. When I was thirteen years old I taught myself algebra and calculus. With my own children they all learned how to read phonetically by the age of four. My grandson Nick, was reading phonetically by the age of three and one half. My son, who I taught to read at an early age, saw to it that his son (my grandson) also learned to read at an early age.


Me too. I knew how to read before I went to Kindergarten which was a great disappointment to me.

I have read an average of perhaps ten books a week from then till now.

I read EVERYTHING. Classics,, "whodunnits" science fiction, history.

If a subject interests me then I will read about it until I feel that I have learned enough to satisfy my curiosity.



Sand
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01 Jan 2010, 9:55 am

DentArthurDent wrote:
I find it interesting that living in Finland as you do you still see a need to criticise the education in your country. Why? because at least here in Australia the Finish education system is held up as a beacon of enlightenment.

I do not agree your idea, mainly for the same reason you critique it - lack of social education. I see no good alternative to schools. What I see is the need for better teachers, one way to improve the level of teaching competency, is to reorganise teacher training into a hands on apprenticeship. I do not know what it is like in other countries, but here in Aus, the process is either do your Degree, and then a post grad year to do your diploma of education, or there are now Bachelor of Education courses. Either way the skills needed to teach are learnt in a sterile tutorial or lecture hall. Very little time given to teaching rounds. I suggest that apprentice teachers should fill the role of present teachers aides. What better way to learn to teach than to be involved at desk level with the students


I am not criticizing the Finnish educational system I am merely saying the infrastructures of most educational systems are rapidly becoming obsolete considering the revolution in interpersonal communication now available. It is highly uneconomic and gauged to unnecessary auxiliary support systems that are wasteful and not designed to each individual student and the student's individual capacity to absorb information and integrate it into general understanding. I agree social education is a very necessary component but it could be designed differently.



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01 Jan 2010, 4:17 pm

I don't think you could ever entirely replace schools with computers. I have seen some cool things happen with my children in group enivornments that could never happen on a computer. Table groups reaching out to a weak student and helping them one on one, things like that; something that goes beyond the 3 R's and stretches into a life skill. But computers and individualized programming via those computers is and will be a larger and larger part of the overall method. It is happening already in my childrens' brick and mortor schools, and entirely on-line charter schools are also available as an option (we live in an area where the concept of school choice is very strong). Having options and flexibility is always a good thing when it comes to education.


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01 Jan 2010, 7:40 pm

Wombat wrote:
100 years ago most people in America didn't go past the eighth grade. By that time they had the "three R's" drummed into them plus a knowledge of history, civics and geography far beyond what an eighth grader knows today.

[snip]

And I would be willing to bet that most of my generation (even the ones who left school at 14) have a greater general knowledge, than the illiterate morons who are forced to stay in school until they are 18 and then "graduated" even though they can barely write their own name.


Thank you for posting that.

So many pseudo-intellectuals will go on about how many years of "education" kids get today compared to 100 years ago.

100 years ago, you were made to LEARN. You were held back if you didn't LEARN. You were whipped if you misbehaved. They got results.

Yes, they may not have learned a lot of the new stuff we've discovered since then, but they could exit school with an "eighth grade" education and succeed in life.

Today, a kid can graduate high school (and arguably, college) by the skin of their teeth and be an idiot who can't do anything. Don't hurt their "self esteem" by not giving them their piece of paper. 8th grade back then is not equal to what 8th grade is today. The only kids more "enlightened" by the changes in education over the last 100 years are the ones who go to good schools, have good teachers, and make the effort to learn....and even then you wonder if the learning curve has been made more shallow in the last 100 years.



Sand
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01 Jan 2010, 8:13 pm

My initial comment was that the new technologies are being fitted into old rigid infrastructures and the possibilities for economy and diversity are neglected because the possibilities do not fit well in the older system. I called for new radical systems to totally revise education as we now know it. It was a very primitive request since the problems are as huge as the possibilities. I am not an educator and I have not attempted to examine the details which are extremely important. But the problems of the older system are growing larger than the problems of devising a new radical system and my point really is that new thinking is becoming a vital necessity to accommodate and take advantage of new possibilities.



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01 Jan 2010, 8:33 pm

I always wonder about the people who insist that people were somehow smarter 100 years ago (this seems a common claim, and I don't understand why). What is the evidence for this assertion?

Both of my grandfathers dropped out of school after the 8th grade. They were both only barely literate. One became a dairy farmer, one worked a menial factory job, both ultimately earned a living with hard physical labor because they were not able to make a living in any other way. They knew little to nothing of history, geography beyond their immediate surroundings, politics, mathematics, or science. They were typical for their time period. In what sense were they better-educated than the typical person today?


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ruennsheng
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01 Jan 2010, 8:44 pm

Agreed.

Education should fit in the needs of the current world, instead of being compared to the past. It's true in the past people could have more broad-based knowledge gained from rote learning, however, we can now think!


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01 Jan 2010, 9:11 pm

Hey Sand, I've thought the same thing before. And I'm surprised that the education system is taking as long as it is to overthrow its old and redundant methods. Computerised learning would prevent the common distractions and obstacles to learning. There would be no teacher biases, disruptions from other classmates, and new information would be introduced at a rate that accords with the student's ability. And social education would be received in more group-oriented subjects of learning - like arts, sports. Also, these would not be compulsory!! So there would no longer be any unnecessary standing around on a cricket field hoping that the cricket ball doesn't come their way! And it would rescue so so so many children and teenagers from a destiny of 10-12 years of ABSOLUTE HELL! (I apologise for an intense dislike of school and hope this doesn't offend anyone who likes it.) Also, the computer would not make the student spend the majority of their class times waiting outside the classroom which was what happened to me, or endure ridiculous and pointless conversations at the principal's office, or wait to be allowed back into school. All of this despite the fact my IQ was higher than most of the pupils and teachers in that school! (I guess I still haven't got over it. But now it's mainly in sympathy for those who are still enduring it.)


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zer0netgain
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02 Jan 2010, 12:05 am

Orwell wrote:
I always wonder about the people who insist that people were somehow smarter 100 years ago (this seems a common claim, and I don't understand why). What is the evidence for this assertion?

Both of my grandfathers dropped out of school after the 8th grade. They were both only barely literate. One became a dairy farmer, one worked a menial factory job, both ultimately earned a living with hard physical labor because they were not able to make a living in any other way. They knew little to nothing of history, geography beyond their immediate surroundings, politics, mathematics, or science. They were typical for their time period. In what sense were they better-educated than the typical person today?


A valid point, but you use a skewed sample. Your grandfathers, by their own choice, DROPPED OUT of school rather than finish. So, they are not representative of someone who finished the educational plan of their time.

When people compare today's kids to those of 100 years ago, it's a fair presumption that they are speaking of kids who got through the standard educational program of their time.

It's similar to people (adults) today comparing their educational experience to what their kids are going through now. I can safely say that, for the most part, kids are spoon fed through school today where I was made to work...and I had a real crappy education in my day; my state rated almost the worst in the nation for public schools at the time. I can't imagine schools being even worse now, but they are...it's about putting in time, not educating kids with knowledge and skills. Your results will depend on the teachers, the school, devotion of the student, etc.

That employers complain that each generation of new graduates are less prepared to go to work than the one that came before when little has changed in their job environment speaks volumes.



Sand
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02 Jan 2010, 2:08 am

There is no doubt that a substructure of real physical work and dynamic interaction with materials is a necessity to a very large percentage of human commercial and cultural activity but the proportion of mere exchange of information and direction in these area is growing and much of it can be accomplished at greater economy than now at present. Pumping working people and children to and fro in work and education is a costly and inefficient business and basically is a huge waste of time and money and terrible wear on infrastructure. Much can be accomplished by the present and growing future information networks and as the emerging technology of robotics becomes more vigorous and adept that sector can take over much of the physical contact work. But that, of course, is still a bit far off in the future. Nevertheless much current activity can be made more efficient and more pleasant with a better look to the future and since time itself is the most precious and irreplaceable item in all our lives it can be better utilized with current technology.