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jld

About education in India . . .

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I'm not saying that American kids shouldn't work harder, and be more responsible, and that American parents ought not to reconsider their own example, and indulgence of their children, but I'm concerned when I hear too much fear of the academic success of kids from other countries. I don't know any American who would do to kids what is considered normal, in at least some places, here.

 

I think that we should take a breath, realize we probably aren't doing as poorly as we think we are, and then be honest about where we could improve, and pursue that course. We don't have to act out of fear; we can act out of belief in our children's potential.

 

 

I do admire the stress on hard work and academic success, but there's a price that Chinese students pay, exacerbated by the one-child policy with the inevitable pressure on the single child.

 

 

My husband and I recently watched 2 Million Minutes. We came away with a desire to stay committed to rigorous home education, but with no jealousy or admiration toward the Indian and Chinese methods.

 

We were so sorry for those kids and their parents. Everything was for a grab-the-ring chance at tomorrow, and those parents had to sacrifice a very obvious desire to love and spend time with their child today.

 

Here's another: These education reform films often highlight Belgium. My brother- and sister-in-law have lived in Belgium for 20 years, and raised two sons there. (The younger is graduating next year.)

 

When they last visited the States, they were actually moved to tears by John Stossel's education reform film that showed kids from Belgium to be a zillion times smarter (and more mocking) than American kids. They both said that it is just a lie that America should imitate Belgium.

 

We were surprised at the emotional response from these two level-headed people, so we asked why they felt so strongly. The reason was that they had known of many, many teens who had committed suicide due to the stress. Shirley said, "The Belgian educational system is not love. This is not educating the whole child, and allowing his family to prepare him for life's celebrations, disappointments, and relationships. It all about advancement and greed."

 

Their own sons went to a Catholic school, although they are not Catholic, because in that school they could still have down time and time with their families. Their older son goes to college here in the U.S.

 

But ultimately I wonder if part of the problem we as Americans face in dealing with education is that we tend to relegate it to the classroom, as though evenings and weekends are exclusive time for sport and entertainment, not books or cultural activities that might expose our children to something new and possibly educational. It perpetually amazes me that so many American children never attend a symphony or theatrical performance unless they are exposed in school. Perhaps if Americans valued ideas more we would not be so scientifically and mathematically illiterate.

 

There is a mistaken and pervasive notion in the culture that education consists of a list of things that are checked off. Complete the list and--voila--one is educated. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people tell me that their child is "fluent" in a foreign language after two years of study. A list of grammatical accomplishments are checked off--what more is to be done?

 

I do not think that longer school days and more testing is the answer. Perhaps what I would like to see are more parents opening themselves up to learn with their children, exhibiting the same enthusiasm for cultural festivals, art museums, books, etc. that I witnessed on the sports field. I am not sure that it is our educational institutions that bear the brunt of the blame.

 

Thank you all for these posts. I agree completely and feel very strongly about this.

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Perhaps what I would like to see are more parents opening themselves up to learn with their children, exhibiting the same enthusiasm for cultural festivals, art museums, books, etc. that I witnessed on the sports field. I am not sure that it is our educational institutions that bear the brunt of the blame.

 

Jane, I agree with the other part of your post, but this part I'm not sure if I do... From a European perspective, it is the school systems in the US that tend to overemphasize sports...all the football stars in school to begin with, then there are the cheerleaders, who get all this attention....I think it is the schools that enflame the sports over culture mentality...and the us vs you part too with the "school spirit" aspect which is also promoted with sports... Yes there are those violent soccer fans here, but they are young men past the high school age and a smaller segment of society...at the high school level, there is not the "rivalry" mentality among schools. And rivalry about what? Not the qualities that are most meaningful in the lifelong sense...

 

I would like to have more time to comment about this whole thread as it is quite interesting but have to get back to work myself...

 

Joan

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I've written at least 2-3 would-be replies to this thread, but I always end up interrupted and/or accidently close the window, so hopefully this time I manage to put it all together.

 

The problem of the American school system, as I see it, is twofold: one, there is a horrid lack of a structure and clearly defined sequential approach to studies, and two, it's societally established that schools are not "classrooms", but all-inclusive umbrella institutions covering "classrooms, sports facilities, living rooms, etc."; in other words, there is a swith from school as an academic institution to school as a prolonged daycare. Keep in mind that reasons why many people homeschool are not only FOR better "classrooms", but also AGAINST "living rooms" (i.e. non-academic ideological influences). Such a chaotic mishmash is found in the very structure of schools too, making schools umbrella institutions for various mutually independent "courses", like a sort of menu, where you pick what you like with minimal directions, and which is almost blasphemous to a real, structured, intertwined education.

 

There is also a "campus element" in the Anglo-American culture and a sort of seclusion of schools from the "outside world" - whether by long school days or the idea that school is to meet not only academic needs of children, whether by the actual physical separation in boarding schools / college culture. In (continental) Europe, usually there are no such strict lines between schools and the outside world and, at least in the Mittel/Mediterranean Europe culture, there is actually quite some emphasis put on the "society" - as in, non-school society - doing its part in creating a well-rounded person. So you have an emphasis on attending cultural events, the culture of sneaking into university libraries as a high schooler on your cousin's card :lol:, the emphasis on (educational) travel, and so forth, generally combined with shorter school days and separation of music/sports/long lunch:D/etc from school, barring the absolute minimum. There is no culture of living in school, to say so, and schools don't have, generally, their own subculture (due to, again, lack of seclusion into their own world, but functioning IN the bigger picture). Fraternities, huge school sports teams, and things like that - which are basically entertainment focus - are almost unique to American school culture.

 

So, entertainment focus + cultural seclusion + educational mishmash, and there you go, supported by entertainment-focus at home (hours upon hours of TV). In fact, one could even say that very few parents learn with their children anything, other than helping with homework. All learning is delegated to school, and yet, schools are not "classrooms" enough and the education is not structured.

 

Many of the Eastern cultures are the direct opposite, in an equally extreme and unhealthy way: there is very little down time, the stress over school is enormous and children cannot develop harmoniously as well-rounded persons due to extreme school anxiety, which often turns to be quite Fachidiot-ish (i.e. focusing on a rather narrow aspect rather than providing a broad education). And while in the US, the culture of richness and entertainment, we have a culture of bullying out of pure hibris among children, on the East we have children crashing exhausted.

 

Europe, in my experience - Mittel/Mediterranean Europe - is the optimal balance, as optimal as one can find anyway. It seems to me that the upper middle class students (and that's what they were comparing in 2 million minutes anyway) profit the most from being in such an environment, educationally but also otherwise: schools are still structured and academic, but not overwhelming, and the family focus is still more cultural than blind entertainment. Europe, however, is changing too - getting "culturally americanized", and pop-culture is equally bad. It's the schools that are still somehow better, though the reforms go the wrong way too.

 

Okay this is so messy because I'm interrupted all the time, but I'm submitting it anyway.

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I just got your reply Esther M and had to say that I so appreciate your perspective as it helps me understand what I'm seeing over here and what I lived in my youth (though I came from a more cultured family so to speak - but what the people around me were living)

 

I will add one thing which I heard recently which is that the "maturite" that people do in high school here in Switzerland - which is the baccalaureate in France and not sure what it is called in Italy and elsewhere, is supposed to give the liberal arts background that we (Americans) get in college (university).

 

So the high school student here is supposed to get all the general culture information in high school (except those that do apprenticeships, etc) vs going to university for culture, so the European can then specialize in uni. (so I guess the UK is out of that with their A levels in high school)...

 

Joan (who must discipline herself now)

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I will add one thing which I heard recently which is that the "maturite" that people do in high school here in Switzerland - which is the baccalaureate in France and not sure what it is called in Italy and elsewhere, is supposed to give the liberal arts background that we (Americans) get in college (university).

 

So the high school student here is supposed to get all the general culture information in high school (except those that do apprenticeships, etc) vs going to university for culture where they then specialize (so I guess the UK is out of that with their A levels in high school)...

Excellent point.

 

Italy changed its maturita' some years ago, from the level of the individual school to the level of the state exams, though, but the distinction still remains. If you look at the word itself - maturita' - it implies (not only intellectual) maturity, and that's exactly what it was about originally. Even my generation - and especially my parents' - considered it almost a secular "confirmation", entrance in the society of educated people. University, after that, was about specialization, narrowing of one's interests.

 

US is completely the opposite. Since high schools don't provide a good structure, you actually have the institution of college to make up for it - so you go to university to broaden your perspective, rather than to narrow your interests and deal with them in a more organized, specialist fashion. In Europe, there is usually no such thing as pre-med or pre-law, you go directly to medical school and directly to study law; there is no such thing as pondering about your major for a year or two (you decide on the major RIGHT AWAY, and your university formation from the very beginning is in accordance with it); and traditionally, there was no such thing as getting a minor in something based on a few courses of something. In fact, I get almost... angry, maybe?, sometimes when looking at the syllabi and structures of many of the American colleges and universities. Quite often it's so high school-ish, at least in the initial years. I feel like those kids are cheated, getting something which camouflages itself as an education, but isn't that.

 

Not that European system don't have their own faults, they certainly do (e.g. lack of accomodation for all sorts of things, from giftedness to LDs, and of individual attention), but somehow they still stand in-between, not only geographically, of the two extremes we see today.

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I will add one thing which I heard recently which is that the "maturite" that people do in high school here in Switzerland - which is the baccalaureate in France and not sure what it is called in Italy and elsewhere, is supposed to give the liberal arts background that we (Americans) get in college (university).

 

So the high school student here is supposed to get all the general culture information in high school (except those that do apprenticeships, etc) vs going to university for culture where they then specialize (so I guess the UK is out of that with their A levels in high school)...

 

You're going to be sorely disappointed if you expect your dc to get this in an American college. Most of them do not require courses in the "liberal arts background," beyond Freshman English. The pendulum swung away from a "core curriculum" of liberal arts courses back in the 60's and only a few colleges have one today.

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I have another point to throw in here, which is that Indian education is not homogeneous. For example Maria Montessori has had her impact there, and there was a Charlotte Mason school in India in the past, too. And I have seen other interesting projects that have come from India, such as the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education.

 

Anyhow, there is a fantastic movie that I recommend people see, as just a nice movie and as an inspiring vision of teaching: Like Stars on Earth .

 

Another difference between Europe and the US involves healthcare. When many children are at risk for both hunger and health concerns being ignored, government programs use schools as a way to find children in need of such services. Which is why many health issues are addressed at school (vision screening, hearing screening, and programs like HeadStart that involve a healthcare component such as dental screenings and nutritional education). If more American children had a more clearcut access to healthcare (through...whatever method), it might not be the case that schools would be the access point.

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That is a really good point. Part of my objection to the cottage schools idea in that thread on the hs board had to do with this, but I didn't realize it. I just sort of felt that they would not be good for many children. If children had better non-school access to these things, I might feel differently about the cottage schools, at least at a lower level.

-Nan

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We had this discussion at work many times before, every time somebody asks why academia is not more family friendly and why there are not more women in academia.

The problem is that you can not forbid the young childless people to work as long as they please (and in academia, for instance, they usually will, because most love what they are doing- or else they would not have chosen this kind of career). In a university environment (which is what I am familiar with), nobody keeps track of the hours a person spends at work. There will be people who put in 14 hours a day - and you compete with them, whether you wish to or not.

I see, however, no solution if you want to keep an economic system that honors productivity and output, rather than a socialist system where everybody gets paid the same regardless of whether they are good at what they are doing or not working at all (I grew up in East Germany, so I know what I am talking about- believe me, this is NOT the solution.). So even if it is not *required* to work more than 40 hours, you can not prevent people from voluntarily putting in 60 - and they thus raise the bar.

 

I'm not talking about lowering the bar, I'm talking about quality of life. We've been hearing so much lately about the contrast between American-style long working hours, short (or no) vacations, making lots of money to pay for the McMansion that nobody lives in because they're always at work/school/daycare, versus the slower pace of life in which people work, but not routinely 60-80 hour weeks, and they have longer vacations, and they have smaller houses, smaller wardrobes, smaller cars, but they enjoy life and spend more time with family, cultural activities, outdoor activities etc. Dh says that most of the people he works with are highly educated, brilliant at what they do, but completely ignorant of and uninterested in anything else--world events, literature, history, you name it. And they don't want to apply their considerable brainpower to anything that isn't related to making money.

 

Just as people on this thread are talking about balance between two educational extremes, I'm talking about balance between two workplace extremes. I'm not saying that the law requires people to work too-long hours and that there should be a law preventing it. I'm saying there is a culture of making money and nothing else, and being free to change jobs doesn't change that. It's the culture in the corporate workplace. (Maybe not in academia, I can't speak to that.)

 

Of course Eastern-bloc totalitarianism isn't the answer; no one's advocating that. Yes, if enough people valued having more time outside of work, the workplace would be different. That's the problem--they don't seem to.

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If children had better non-school access to these things, I might feel differently about the cottage schools, at least at a lower level.

-Nan

 

This is indeed an important point. As Esther Maria noted, the system she describes works for a smallish circle of relatively wealthy people. The others, I suspect, get little or no access to cultural events, university libraries, or educational travel. So one of the things the US tried to do was open up those kinds of opportunities to a larger section of society, and the way they tried to do it was through the schools, at least in part because of our philosophy that the schools are an instrument of democratization, and in part also because there was an existing transportation system (buses) and large group discounts applied.

 

I was briefly on the educational board of the local contemporary arts museum, and one of the pressing issues of course was how to widen their net -- how to bring in a larger circle of people. They were quite interested in getting disadvantaged young adults and teens to the museum, but flabbergasted at how difficult it proved to think through the sheer logistics of transportation: if people had no cars and couldn't afford monthly bus passes (which run into the hundreds of dollars here), how would they come?

 

Using schools as a way to expose kids to the performing arts, museum exhibits, and the like was the attempted answer our country came up with. Problematic as it is in the working out, at least it was an attempt to democratize some of the elite elements of culture. A week-long school-run camp in the mountains in our area is the only chance some inner city kids get during their entire childhoods to spend the night outside the city -- although it's a terribly sad imbalance when you compare that to the fancy prep school up the road, which takes kids to China during their sophomore year and to Yosemite the next.

 

One of the elements of Japanese elementary schools that really impressed me (my knowledge is from reading, not from experience, so perhaps others will know whether this is indeed the case) is that all are physically and structurally mandated to be the same. All schools have the same physical activity resources, the same piano or musical instruments, the same curriculum, the same books. Teachers rotate from school to school, spending a few years in each. In the early years at least, poor kids don't face the enormous, almost criminal disparity of resources and teaching that they do in the US. With longish school days and years and the working lives of most Japanese, there isn't as huge of a gap in after-school enrichment either.

 

Naturally there are problems built into this system, too: kids at both extremes of the spectrum are shortchanged, but then they are in the conventional US system too, in all but the wealthiest of districts.

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Totally off topic:

 

I watched a school group on a small island, once. They were playing on the beach. The children were running in and out of the tide pools collecting anemones and star fish and things and bringing them to show the young adults watching them. At first, I couldn't understand why the councilors were letting them run in and out of the water with their shoes on and their pants un-rolled-up. Eventually, it dawned on me that they were inner city children who had never been to the beach before. The councilors were wisely not insisting that the children go barefoot over unfamiliar territory. They were just happy to get them into the water and exploring.

 

This is another thing that worries me about cottage schools. Who will run them for inner city children, with all their problems? Finding teachers who are willing to teach under those circumstances is hard at best. A cottage school would require more teachers. And where would you put them? As unsafe as schools are, at least they are large enough to be able to afford metal detectors. (Not that I think those are the answers, either, obviously - just a horrid stop-gap solution to a horrid necessity.) I know that the above children were lucky to be given that opportunity and that most of them don't and that smaller, individualized schools with a loving teacher would maximize those opportunities. I just don't think there would be enough loving teachers for this to work universally, and if you take too many children out of the public school system, I worry that it would pull down the rest. Perhaps I am wrong. I haven't read the posts on education elsewhere that describe the system in the Netherlands? I think? where the money follows the child. I suspect that what works for a small fairly homogenous European country might not work on the massive US scale. I don't know.

-Nan

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Europe doesn't have all the answers to education - the gypsy population knows that well.

 

Upon talking with oodles of exchange students from various parts of the world, I'm convinced no one place has all the answers to education. One type of educational system wouldn't fit every student either.

 

Every European student I've talked with has liked our general educational system over theirs... with the main exception being keeping all students in our system through 12th grade (or making them drop out). They like sports and the variety of classes offered as long as there aren't behavior "issue" kids in the classes. They like that not everyone has to be taking the same thing. These similarities of "likes" are true even if they prefer their own (non-educational) culture over ours (which runs about 50/50).

 

Of course, one should keep in mind that the grass tends to be greener on the other side of the fence. What they might like is the "difference" from what they've been used to.

 

It would be VERY interesting if someone ever did a follow up study on exchange students 10 or 20 years later - asking them then what they liked or disliked about the different educational systems (once they are in adult life for a little bit).

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As Esther Maria noted, the system she describes works for a smallish circle of relatively wealthy people. The others, I suspect, get little or no access to cultural events, university libraries, or educational travel. So one of the things the US tried to do was open up those kinds of opportunities to a larger section of society, and the way they tried to do it was through the schools, at least in part because of our philosophy that the schools are an instrument of democratization, and in part also because there was an existing transportation system (buses) and large group discounts applied.

 

While not all the Europeans get all the Latin etc, there have been many changes since the US started its response to the lack of equality in education - and that is that generally Europe (at least Western Europe) has become more equalized...It is not just a small circle of elite people who get to high school and get cultural exposure...in some ways it is similar to the US in that if the parents can help with study skills etc, their offspring can do better. But there are people who can rise above their parents educational level. Each country has its differences so you can't really make a blanket statement..just want to say that the system now is different than it was 30 years ago.

 

I'm not talking about lowering the bar, I'm talking about quality of life. We've been hearing so much lately about the contrast between American-style long working hours, short (or no) vacations, making lots of money to pay for the McMansion that nobody lives in because they're always at work/school/daycare, versus the slower pace of life in which people work, but not routinely 60-80 hour weeks, and they have longer vacations, and they have smaller houses, smaller wardrobes, smaller cars, but they enjoy life and spend more time with family, cultural activities, outdoor activities etc. Dh says that most of the people he works with are highly educated, brilliant at what they do, but completely ignorant of and uninterested in anything else--world events, literature, history, you name it. And they don't want to apply their considerable brainpower to anything that isn't related to making money.

 

My husband comments a lot on this, saying that Americans think that they have "workers paradise" but that they don't realize that they don't. He points to longer vacations, less hours a week, etc. In some ways they definitely have more potential family time...but I'm not sure how they all spend it.

 

Again I think it is hard to make blanket statements, as "workers paradise" where school starts at age "3" (France) is not paradise to me, for those little children at least. There are so many different systems here, between Scandinavian systems, French, British, etc, and they all seem to be breaking down in one way or another (each in different ways), but so does the US system. In Switzerland people shake their heads at the French out in the streets, as they seem to protest without even thinking about the long-term consequences of what they request. They seem bent on defending their little piece of the pie, even if it brings down the ship.

 

So I agree with your values, but I'm not sure that things will be that great in France in 30 years.

 

You're going to be sorely disappointed if you expect your dc to get this in an American college. Most of them do not require courses in the "liberal arts background," beyond Freshman English. The pendulum swung away from a "core curriculum" of liberal arts courses back in the 60's and only a few colleges have one today.

 

I guess my view is antiquated at best. Thankfully though we have the WTM system which helps give that cultural element in high school...:001_smile:

 

Joan

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As Esther Maria noted, the system she describes works for a smallish circle of relatively wealthy people. The others, I suspect, get little or no access to cultural events, university libraries, or educational travel. So one of the things the US tried to do was open up those kinds of opportunities to a larger section of society, and the way they tried to do it was through the schools, at least in part because of our philosophy that the schools are an instrument of democratization, and in part also because there was an existing transportation system (buses) and large group discounts applied.

Actually, I'm glad to inform you that you suspect wrong. :)

 

Barring UK and its tradition of private education, European countries still have their best schools in the public sector, and the whole trend of fully-fledged private schools is relatively new (I'm not counting traditional religious schools with private schools here, though; many religious schools often have only a semi-private status and are free of charge, or charge minimally). That means that much greater number of children has an access to those schools, given appropriate academic performance. European countries are much more "democratized" in that way, and the social stratification on the educational level doesn't go that far as it goes in the US. Also, note that schools aren't so strictly district-based, especially not high schools, so given adequate academic performance, one has a much wider range of opportunities. Universities try to give a chance to the highest number of people, some countries don't even have numerus clausus, acceptance is based on academic scores rather than all kinds of volunteering, extracurriculars and other things which American universities consider. In my opinion, the whole system is A LOT more democratic than the US system, students get a much fairer chance.

 

Furthermore, there IS much of the school support and organization regarding trips and cultural events - in my experience, also a lot more than in the US. I couldn't get a grade in Music or Art without having attended X number of exhibitions, opera or concerts yearly - I could also pick whether I attend what I like in my private arrangenemt, or I want to go with school's group-sponsored tickets with other students.

For trips, very often it happens that if somebody cannot pay, the whole class unites and pays for him too, or the school does, or whatever. I couldn't fathom the whole class going to Paris expect for an odd student who cannot pay. The system is arranged the way that it maximally benefits the students educationally.

 

BUT, it also means no expensive gyms, no fancy theatres inside school, no sponsored cheerleading, no photo workshops, no unnecessary cost with regards to the equipment, no fancy smartboard-ish stuff, etc. Basically, NO to all of those "extras" that American schools quite often have, but because of those things, the actual education suffers, students graduate without having been to an opera and without having seen the world outside of their state unless they're from a rich family that travels.

 

In my experience, Europe is much, MUCH more accomodating with regards to those class differences, even though, of course, differences persist and there are schools which are traditionally attended by the rich and the powerful, it's just that those schools aren't nearly as "closed" as their equivalents in the Anglo world. There is a certain mismatch in the home culture vs. school culture, being that the latter usually does reflect the elite productions (remember our previous discussion?), but who can live with that and is a good student, he generally has access to appropriate Italian schools, regardless of whether he's a son of an influential lawyer or a neglected minority.

 

In Italy there are at least no such things are lottery-based charter schools or parents faking they live in a certain district just to get their children into a decent school. Frankly speaking, though, seeing the direction in which educational reforms in Europe are going, we'll end up quite soon in a totally different system. :(

 

For now, schools are discriminating, but on the academic grounds rather than parental wealth. The best are put together rather than the richest, while the discriminating criterion of the best American schools is usually parental wealth, since best Amerian schools tend to private. But as I said, it's the trend that's getting Europe as well, unfortunately. In one hand, it would be wrong and "socialist" to try to prevent it, on the other hand, it does separate the segments of the population.

 

However, I ramble too much. I hope you got a general idea of what I had in mind. :)

Europe doesn't have all the answers to education - the gypsy population knows that well.

The problems related to the Roma population are too complex to be able to be accessed through the prism of the (in)adequacy of the school systems' date=' IMO.

 

ETA: Just to make sure we understand each other, I [i']generalize [/i]now, both European and American education. Of course that things are not black and white.

We also should keep in mind that 2 million minutes addresses children of comparable socioeconomic background, which is quite a secure one.

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For trips, very often it happens that if somebody cannot pay, the whole class unites and pays for him too, or the school does, or whatever. I couldn't fathom the whole class going to Paris expect for an odd student who cannot pay. The system is arranged the way that it maximally benefits the students educationally.

 

BUT, it also means no expensive gyms, no fancy theatres inside school, no sponsored cheerleading, no photo workshops, no unnecessary cost with regards to the equipment, no fancy smartboard-ish stuff, etc. Basically, NO to all of those "extras" that American schools quite often have, but because of those things, the actual education suffers, students graduate without having been to an opera and without having seen the world outside of their state unless they're from a rich family that travels.

 

 

For what it's worth, in both the school district I went to eons ago and the one I work at now, the vast majority of field trips are free to all students. They are paid for out of tax dollars. These include trips to museums in nearby cities, art exhibits, state parks, or anything else a teacher deems worthy. More expensive trips (like band trips to Orlando or senior class trips) have extensive fundraising opportunities like car washes and candy sales to assist with funds. Some students also can get funds through certain organizations that help. I'm not sure there are any that can't go due to parental wealth (or lack thereof).

 

It is many of those things in your second paragraph that our exchange students from various countries love. The actual education does NOT suffer due to them. It suffers in the school I work at now due to lack of motivation, desire, and a few other [mental] things, but certainly not at all due to the extras our school has. In my high school days our ps was near the top of the top for my state - and we had all the extras of the day (including a planetarium and one of the first schools in the US to test personal computers). I certainly don't feel my education suffered. Our school brought in most of the major plays/operas for students to watch - it was mandatory (traveling shows). It's not an either/or deal. I went to a completely free public high school - not a bit of it was private.

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We are US living in Germany, off-base (in a little German village). It's interesting to get the perspectives here of people who have experience with both the German and American (military) schools.

 

There is one family where the dad is American and the mom is German. Their son is about 12 and he has always gone to German school. There is just something a little "off" with him (Aspergers? immaturity?) but I was never sure what. Well, he was moved from the German school last year to the American school on base. I had some discussions with his mom about it and she said that the German school had basically written him off, labelled him as autistic (I don't think so!) and wanted him to go to a special school. They had also tested him for the gymnasium (college prepschool) and decided he wasn't qualified. Well, she and her dh are college educated and they couldn't believe that he was just written off like that! They tried to get him into a couple of private Catholic schools but said they they were very exclusive and didn't want him either. She and her dh believe in him, and he is doing so much better at the american school. Yes, the work is easier, but they are happy that they meet him where he is, intead of trying to fit him into a mold that all the otehr kids are in.

 

Another mom (she's German, dad is American) pulled her kids out of the American school since she was afraid that they were falling behind their German peers. However, the kids are biracial and I believe that they have a hard time with it.

 

Another complaint I hear a lot about the German schools here is that the bullying is extreme. Kids are harrassed byt other kids in front of teachers who turn a blind eye since they want the kids to learn to work it out. My friend's young son was hit in the face with a metal shovel at recess last week and the hitter was never really disciplined. I was out to dinner with her and she was supposed to go in and talk with the teachers the next morning. She started tearing up talking about how much she wants her son to continue to speak German, but it's so hard to think that in the meantime, he's being attacked!

 

I think that the American system is much more welcoming of differences in abilities and in individuals. This can be a benefit to many kids, especially those who don't fit the mold. But *I* certainly don't want my kids in the US school system! When we moved here I put my heretofor homeschooled kids in the American school since we only had a couple of months to go until summer. These are supposedly good schools but I was very unhappy with the rigor in them! My oldest (gifted) was bored out of here skull, my second was never held accountable for sloppy work, etc. I too am very concerned for the future of our country and will continue to homeschool as long as possible!

 

jeri

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Jane, I agree with the other part of your post, but this part I'm not sure if I do... From a European perspective, it is the school systems in the US that tend to overemphasize sports...all the football stars in school to begin with, then there are the cheerleaders, who get all this attention....I think it is the schools that enflame the sports over culture mentality...and the us vs you part too with the "school spirit" aspect which is also promoted with sports... Yes there are those violent soccer fans here, but they are young men past the high school age and a smaller segment of society...at the high school level, there is not the "rivalry" mentality among schools. And rivalry about what? Not the qualities that are most meaningful in the lifelong sense...

 

I would like to have more time to comment about this whole thread as it is quite interesting but have to get back to work myself...

 

Joan

 

Joan,

 

I will agree that schools here in the US emphasize sports but that is usually at the high school or possibly middle school level. Community organizations begin sports programs for youth of preschool or elementary school age. In my area, soccer begins at age 4. Football begins around age 10. Not sure about the swim team or basketball, but I believe these are both sports that start in summer or afterschool programs around age 8. None of these programs are sponsored by the school system. They are programs that require parents to transport their children to practices, games and events several nights a week. Parents are also often called upon to sell things to fund the league. One of my walking buddies has a ten year old son who is playing football. He has three practices and one game per week. She has complained loudly on how these evening practices have affected her family who cannot have a relaxing dinner together. Families who have two or four children participating in different sports or even the same sport but at different levels are often living out of their vans or SUVs.

 

Unfortunately, many American parents seem to believe that their young child will be the next sports superstar. My son played recreational hockey for a few years. Many of the people at the rink looked down on him (and us) because he did not want to play the more competitive "travel" hockey. He just wanted to have fun.

 

The saddest part of the American sports culture is that it only cultivates those who have some talent. Kids who are average at a sport tend to quit playing at an early age. Everybody needs exercise. Recreational sport is almost unheard of in many communities. It is really silly because so few kids go on to become college athletes or play professionally. Most children are recreational participants in sport, but parents like to bill their kids' prowess as something beyond recreational.

 

J

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They had also tested him for the gymnasium (college prepschool) and decided he wasn't qualified. Well, she and her dh are college educated and they couldn't believe that he was just written off like that! They tried to get him into a couple of private Catholic schools but said they they were very exclusive and didn't want him either. She and her dh believe in him, and he is doing so much better at the american school. Yes, the work is easier, but they are happy that they meet him where he is, intead of trying to fit him into a mold that all the otehr kids are in.

See, this is where the problem lies.

 

You have a child who is obviously not meeting the school's criteria. You have parents whose pride is hurt (naturally, as each parent is pretty much in love with their child and of course that they don't like being told, "we're sorry, but for our school, this is not good enough") and now the kid is doing much better in a school where the work is easier. The same thing would happen if he had stayed in the German system, he'd just be in a different-language easier school.

 

Note that we also don't know whether this child is a late bloomer or no. You're assuming he is.

The point is, however, that AT PRESENT, he is not meeting gymnasium's standards and, consequently, isn't admitted there where he's not meeting the standards.

I see no issue here at all. Some criteria have to exist for the best schools, academics-wise, and it's good to select students who can meet them and not slow the whole class because of those who can't.

 

It's only the parental pride thing when your child happens to be below the line of the accepted children. It's not even about fitting the kid in the mold, it's more about academic standards the schools have.

 

I don't know about the options of shifting tracks for real late bloomers, though, we'd have to ask regentrude about that. :)

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Unfortunately, many American parents seem to believe that their young child will be the next sports superstar.

 

Now that I re-evaluate, I think you are right - high school spending is only reflecting the general atmosphere which seems to have that "get rich and/or well-known" dream embedded in the psyche (not of every American, but the number seems high)

 

The saddest part of the American sports culture is that it only cultivates those who have some talent. Kids who are average at a sport tend to quit playing at an early age. Everybody needs exercise. Recreational sport is almost unheard of in many communities. It is really silly because so few kids go on to become college athletes or play professionally. Most children are recreational participants in sport, but parents like to bill their kids' prowess as something beyond recreational.

 

An important point - that seems to frequently escape analysis.

 

Joan

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While not all the Europeans get all the Latin etc, there have been many changes since the US started its response to the lack of equality in education - and that is that generally Europe (at least Western Europe) has become more equalized...It is not just a small circle of elite people who get to high school and get cultural exposure...in some ways it is similar to the US in that if the parents can help with study skills etc, their offspring can do better.

 

 

 

I wasn't talking about all Europeans, but about the group Ester Maria was describing, whose educations are exclusively "academic," as she says, and whose cultural education, educational travel, and access to university libraries (three things she mentioned) occur outside of school -- which is only possible for people with disposable income.

 

In her second post she says that kids DO have school access to the arts and travel and that this IS after all part of their exclusively academic education -- well, either they do or they don't. Can't have it both ways.

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The actual education does NOT suffer due to them.

I don't think the education can not suffer in the atmosphere in which the extras (sports, theatre, student activities, etc.) are emphasized, and academics are considered too unimportant to organize them in a clear structure, thus allowing children to "pick from the menu".

In a school in which students can take photography with the fancy labs (= something that's obviously an extra) but can skip higher maths or 4-year foreign language if they wish to skip it something IS wrong, in my opinion.

 

Yes, many exhange students love that freedom. The grass is greener + people generally love the atmosphere of the least coercion possible. I still opt for the system with a rigid structure inside and extras outside of school, thus making it very, very clear to everyone that school is an academic institution, not an all-inclusive daycare. A difference in perspectives, I guess.

 

I'd still rather enroll the kids in an American school than Indian/Chinese/Japanese/etc. one, though. :)

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There is one family where the dad is American and the mom is German. Their son is about 12 and he has always gone to German school. There is just something a little "off" with him (Aspergers? immaturity?) but I was never sure what. Well, he was moved from the German school last year to the American school on base. I had some discussions with his mom about it and she said that the German school had basically written him off, labelled him as autistic (I don't think so!) and wanted him to go to a special school. They had also tested him for the gymnasium (college prepschool) and decided he wasn't qualified. Well, she and her dh are college educated and they couldn't believe that he was just written off like that!

 

 

This is one reason we didn't accept dh's job offer in Germany; dd has Asperger's and I felt the system would not work well for her there, as it doesn't here -- but at least here we can homeschool.

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I wasn't talking about all Europeans, but about the group Ester Maria was describing, whose educations are exclusively "academic," as she says, and whose cultural education, educational travel, and access to university libraries (three things she mentioned) occur outside of school -- which is only possible for people with disposable income.

Yes, like I said, differences persist because of those outside-of-school components. Those differences will always persist, in any society, because of different family lifestyles, different choices regarding money, different income in the first place, etc.

 

However, schools do encourage/sponsor some of that trying to broaden the students' perspectives - all students' perspectives - so in that respect there is a parallel with the American schools trying to do that.

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In my high school days our ps was near the top of the top for my state - and we had all the extras of the day (including a planetarium and one of the first schools in the US to test personal computers). I certainly don't feel my education suffered. Our school brought in most of the major plays/operas for students to watch - it was mandatory (traveling shows). It's not an either/or deal. I went to a completely free public high school - not a bit of it was private.

 

Creekland, if you said your school was at the bottom of the state, then it would seem noteworthy, all the things offered. I went to high school in the state where you live now and we had none of those things.

 

All my cultural exposure (out of the home) was in college. Now that I re-evaluate that though, I think it was more from the friends that I made than from any "core" classes that I took.

 

In her second post she says that kids DO have school access to the arts and travel and that this IS after all part of their exclusively academic education

 

ETA - I changed the quote as I hadn't read your post. But now I can speak to this...Countries over here vary greatly and it is not necessarily only the academics who get cultural exposure. I can only speak for Geneva about smaller issues like this, but most 9th grade classes to take class trips - to Venise, Rome, etc. 9th grade is still obligatory schooling, so everyone is going...even people who will go into apprenticeships the next year.

 

Joan

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I can only speak for Geneva about smaller issues like this, but most 9th grade classes to take class trips - to Venise, Rome, etc. 9th grade is still obligatory schooling, so everyone is going...

Yes.

 

I believe KarenAnne meant the fact - which is true - that there still are notable differences with regards to travel opportunities or cultural exposure coming as a result of family culture. It's like that, however, in pretty much any society we look at - there are people who are richer and/or to whom "culture" matters, ergo, their children will automatically have some advantage there.

 

What I argue is that, with all that, European schools are still less stratified by social classes and the public school systems aren't as bad (yet). Of course that one may find exceptional public schools in America and terrible public schools in Italy, but if we're generally speaking, I think the education offered in most European countries is okay given the two extremes we talked about before + most of the extras are outside of schools, though schools still care about the cultural education to some extent.

 

However, I'll repeat again: 2 million minutes doesn't deal with children from poor, or even from average socioeconomic background. The discussion has gone to monetary issues and classes, but we need to know what we are comparing with what.

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My niece and nephew went to public school in Scotland, where the enormous inequities that continue to plague education in England (where dh had a private school education) are perhaps less pronounced. Still, the best public school in Glasgow is, surprise surprise, right in the middle of an extremely wealthy neighborhood. England itself has huge inequity issues, similar to those in the states, and this is going to become an even bigger problem with the change to non-state-funded university education. Dh had a job offer in Plymouth last year and we did extensive research, both on-line and in person, into the various schools available. The disparities were disheartening, and very similar to those we face here in southern California.

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Another complaint I hear a lot about the German schools here is that the bullying is extreme. Kids are harrassed byt other kids in front of teachers who turn a blind eye since they want the kids to learn to work it out

...

I think that the American system is much more welcoming of differences in abilities and in individuals.

 

One of the reasons I am homeschooling is that my gifted DD was bullied in her American public school. I do not think you can make a blanket statement like this.

Btw, the American system is certainly not accommodating gifted students - the one-size-fits-all approach until high school is detrimental.

 

As to the child who did not get into gymnasium: this is not the end of the world. If he proves capable and is just a "late bloomer", he will be able to either switch later, or to finish the ten year high school degree that is not college track (Realschule) and then complete three extra years to get the gymnasium degree (Abitur) which is your ticket to university. My niece, who attended a special school because of her physics disability and was not able to do the gymnasium is just in the process of finishing up.

And again: the school discriminated not based on location or parental socioeconomic status, but on ability.

 

Edit: It is also possible to self study for the Abitur and take a the exam without having attended gymnasium at all.

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As to the child who did not get into gymnasium: this is not the end of the world. If he proves capable and is just a "late bloomer", he will be able to either switch later, or to finish the ten year high school degree that is not college track (Realschule) and then complete three extra years to get the gymnasium degree (Abitur) which is your ticket to university. My niece, who attended a special school because of her physics disability and was not able to do the gymnasium is just in the process of finishing up.

And again: the school discriminated not based on location or parental socioeconomic status, but on ability.

 

Edit: It is also possible to self study for the Abitur and take a the exam without having attended gymnasium at all.

Thank you for the explanation. :)

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This is another thing that worries me about cottage schools. Who will run them for inner city children, with all their problems? Finding teachers who are willing to teach under those circumstances is hard at best. A cottage school would require more teachers. And where would you put them? As unsafe as schools are, at least they are large enough to be able to afford metal detectors. (Not that I think those are the answers, either, obviously - just a horrid stop-gap solution to a horrid necessity.) -Nan

Ah, Nan, you know, they always find money for that. When I was in high school (a public school in a major American city, with a so-called majority-minority student body), we had a major budget shortfall. But there was money for glossy posters with the number of some hotline to call if you thought a fellow student had a gun, and money for hand held metal detectors. Incidentally, it was later revealed that the way the school conducted the searches was contrary to district policy as it involved interrupting the entire class for nearly 30 min while everyone was searched. And when a friend of mine just left her scissors behind when she went up to get searched -- scissors she'd brought from home because she needed them for art class, since they didn't have supplies, no one ever figured it out. Things like paint and permanent markers were also no-nos. Also hard to do art when all the supplies are forbidden! So...color me unimpressed. And the district also had money for free condoms. Just not for books or chemicals or any number of other academic subjects.

 

And I don't think the metal detectors do much -- plenty of school violence happens with the fist. Wasn't there a rash of incidents in Chicago last year?

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However, I'll repeat again: 2 million minutes doesn't deal with children from poor, or even from average socioeconomic background. The discussion has gone to monetary issues and classes, but we need to know what we are comparing with what.

 

But money is germaine to the discussion, because in many countries the education of the upper middle classes rides on the backs of the rest of the kids and what they are given (or not). The whole 2 Million Minutes is about getting "ahead," whether or not the US is globally competitive, and that issue is definitely economic and has everything to do with class differences within educational systems.

 

I want to briefly say something about Asperger's. Ester Maria, this probably will infuriate you, but so be it. Most Asperger's kids are extremely, extremely bright. Dd has a documented IQ much higher than mine, and I did well enough in the system to get a PhD. She briefly attended an elite private school, a very good school, last year on scholarship and did well enough there -- all A's but for a B+ in drama, where the teacher graded, bizarrely enough, on "energy level," and it turned out dd had mono at the time.

 

At any rate, she ended up staying home to recover from mono and didn't want to return, not because she couldn't keep up or do the work, but because the way the kids were taught bored her (she was far more advanced in reading and writing, was the only kid in her class making an A in physics) and did not suit her way of learning -- I had put a lot of time and effort into having her figure out how she learned best, backed up by a neurological evaluation, and the school had one single way all kids were supposed to learn because it was "best."

 

To suggest that the method a school or a social circle or a culture has decided should work for all the "top" kids, and that top kids are defined by the way that method works for them, is both circular logic and very insulting to all those who think and work equally brilliantly but differently -- to those like my dd who CAN EARN STRAIGHT A's WITHIN THE ELITE SYSTEM as well as those whose style is so different that they thrive in different BUT EQUALLY RIGOROUS environments. There is not one single kind of superior intelligence, nor is there one way of teaching/learning that works for all really smart kids.

 

The child in the German schools mentioned in the one post may well equal or better the performance of his German age mates, once teachers figure out the best way to teach him. We don't know, and that's the whole point. What the poster was commenting on was the ASSUMPTION that because one particular method didn't work for him, he was therefore not competent or capable of achieving at that level.

 

Your attitude about this so infuriates me that although I respect your right to articulate it on these boards, I can't listen to it. I am therefore leaving this conversation and will not be back.

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I wasn't talking about all Europeans

 

Sorry, I think we were all posting at the same time and I was fighting with my children over who gets to use the computer while trying to post at the same time and thus missed your post. I'll delete my comment from the other post....

 

Also, about the UK (sorry I keep misnaming that country), I think it is quite different from the continent in many ways... (but I still don't like the public school system here either).

 

Also, diagnosis, school help and treatment of LD in Europe is way behind the US...

 

Joan

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Every European student I've talked with has liked our general educational system over theirs... with the main exception being keeping all students in our system through 12th grade (or making them drop out). They like sports and the variety of classes offered as long as there aren't behavior "issue" kids in the classes. They like that not everyone has to be taking the same thing.

 

It does not surprise me that a student would like to have the possibility to choose subjects and to drop subjects he is not good at or not interested in. That the students like it does not say anything about the quality of the education (my students sure liked it if my class was easier and everybody got an A).

IMO, it is precisely one of the strengths of, for instance the German, school system that every student is forced to study three sciences over several years, and one or two foreign languages and that you can not drop math. This gives a much more comprehensive education. (There are magnet schools where exceptionally talented people get this education plus an extra focus on arts, music, languages or math and science)

 

The main point is that the role of school is viewed as academic (as Ester already pointed out); in Germany school is not viewed as the place where you satisfy all your non-academic interests, although many schools have clubs and organizations for these things - but they are not classes. Classes are for academics - not basket weaving. The latter can be done after school.

Sports and music are things children do outside of school. there are many highly subsidized programs for low income families- but again, these are separated from the school. (Which, OTOH, also means that your opportunities to play in a orchestra or be on a soccer team etc are not limited by the offerings of your local school. )

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Yikes!

No, I know metal detectors don't work and aren't really the answer. I was just seizing on the first thing that came to mind when it comes to trying to make a safe environment for children, not necessarily something that worked. I still think that cottage schools would have the potential to be overly variable in their ability to educate the children in their district. In theory, they might work better and even be safer, but I can see how in practice this might be hard. It is way too complicated for me to even begin to figure out. Sigh. I just come from a town with varied population of rich and not-rich with a small school and I know the disadvantages of that (and the many advantages) and can't really see moving the system successfully into the inner city.

-Nan

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I don't think the education can not suffer in the atmosphere in which the extras (sports, theatre, student activities, etc.) are emphasized, and academics are considered too unimportant to organize them in a clear structure, thus allowing children to "pick from the menu".

In a school in which students can take photography with the fancy labs (= something that's obviously an extra) but can skip higher maths or 4-year foreign language if they wish to skip it something IS wrong, in my opinion.

 

 

 

It absolutely does not have to suffer with the extras. My high school (growing up) regularly sent students to all our top colleges (Ivies and others) and still had plentiful options for students. We had to take 7 courses each year. College bound students took the regular 4, a language, and 2 other electives of their choosing. PE was one half credit of those two. In the high school where I work, each student takes 8 classes each year.

 

Plus, remember, we don't separate our kids into different level schools like many countries do. Our trade bound students are in the same schools as our top college bound students. Those students don't necessarily need higher levels of math and science (just as they don't in European "trade track" schools). They can opt to take their cooking classes (chef bound), photography, wood shop, metal shop, small engine, or more. All classes are open to anyone interested in them (though higher levels of math/science need to have pre-requisites). I like it that way. My definitely college bound son is taking wood shop next semester. I definitely prefer it the American way in that aspect. I prefer the European option of letting kids respectfully drop out sooner if academic pursuits of any sort aren't for them. If we didn't keep students in school that didn't want to be there, our babysitting chores would be over and education would improve all around. Burn out would be far less too.

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Creekland, if you said your school was at the bottom of the state, then it would seem noteworthy, all the things offered. I went to high school in the state where you live now and we had none of those things.

 

All my cultural exposure (out of the home) was in college. Now that I re-evaluate that though, I think it was more from the friends that I made than from any "core" classes that I took.

 

Joan

 

Sorry, in my desire to be brief, I don't think I was clear. I went to one of the top public high schools in a rural part of NYS in my youth. Sending students to Ivies, MIT and similar was common. I now work at a semi-rural high school in PA that is lower than our state average on all sorts of scores and we rarely have a student even think about going to a top school. Both have fairly high tech "stuff" for the time (though the school I teach at has only recently been upgrading to smart boards, etc). The PA school doesn't bring in traveling plays, etc, as the one in NY did, but other than that, they both use technology. One did it quite successfully, the other I've pulled my kids out of due to sub-par results (though my youngest is back in by his choice).

 

My point is the technology doesn't make - or break - the education. It's mindset of the students, teachers, parents and staff IMO.

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It absolutely does not have to suffer with the extras. My high school (growing up) regularly sent students to all our top colleges (Ivies and others) and still had plentiful options for students. We had to take 7 courses each year. College bound students took the regular 4, a language, and 2 other electives of their choosing. PE was one half credit of those two. In the high school where I work, each student takes 8 classes each year.

 

 

In England/Wales it takes only three years to do a BA or BSc degree (unless you specialise in a modern foreign language, in which case you will spend a year overseas). This means that you cover your general education at school, before reaching university.

 

If you are heading for university, you reach (something like) SAT subject test level in around eight subjects at age sixteen, then specialise in around five subjects from age 16-18 (plus a couple of non-academic subjects, usually some form of social education and PE). Then, at university, you take only the courses which relate directly to your chosen degree subject(s). If England/Wales wanted to have a more generalised or slower school curriculum, it would also mean a massive reform to the university curriculum.

 

Laura

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It does not surprise me that a student would like to have the possibility to choose subjects and to drop subjects he is not good at or not interested in. That the students like it does not say anything about the quality of the education (my students sure liked it if my class was easier and everybody got an A).

 

For example, at my boys' school all the students study for the International Baccalaureate. They complain that they can't drop subjects such as English, maths, a foreign language, a science (as pupils in most UK schools can at sixteen). The fact that they complain does not mean that the standard UK system is better; I think that the IB provides a richer and more balanced education.

 

Laura

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It does not surprise me that a student would like to have the possibility to choose subjects and to drop subjects he is not good at or not interested in. That the students like it does not say anything about the quality of the education (my students sure liked it if my class was easier and everybody got an A).

 

I fully agree.

 

IMO, it is precisely one of the strengths of, for instance the German, school system that every student is forced to study three sciences over several years, and one or two foreign languages and that you can not drop math. This gives a much more comprehensive education. (There are magnet schools where exceptionally talented people get this education plus an extra focus on arts, music, languages or math and science)

 

But are they? German exchange students tell me only those students who continue on in their top level get the college prep classes.

 

In our school, to graduate, EVERY student needs 4 years of English, 7 years of combined math/science (4 in one and 3 in the other), 3 years of social studies, 2 technology credits (such as computer programming or drafting), 2 of PE, one of health and one of driver's ed. College bound students also need 2 credits of a foreign language. They can take French, Spanish, Japanese or Chinese. If they don't have the credits, they can't graduate. However, the levels of those English, math, science, and social studies classes vary to match the student's ability much in the way I would envision European different levels of schools vary. Trade bound students don't take Calculus and college bound students don't take "math standards." I don't think there is that much of a difference EXCEPT we keep all the students in the same school and don't let any drop out until they reach a minimum of 17 years of age with parental consent or 18 without it.

 

The main point is that the role of school is viewed as academic (as Ester already pointed out); in Germany school is not viewed as the place where you satisfy all your non-academic interests, although many schools have clubs and organizations for these things - but they are not classes. Classes are for academics - not basket weaving. The latter can be done after school.

Sports and music are things children do outside of school. there are many highly subsidized programs for low income families- but again, these are separated from the school. (Which, OTOH, also means that your opportunities to play in a orchestra or be on a soccer team etc are not limited by the offerings of your local school. )

 

True. And personally, except for insisting that our students stay in as long as we do when they don't want to (encouraging them to become behavior problems teachers have to deal with), I prefer our system. So do the exchange students - at both the school I teach at and the school I went to in my youth. (A higher academic school and lower. It's not the actual education we talk about, but the system.)

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In England/Wales it takes only three years to do a BA or BSc degree (unless you specialise in a modern foreign language, in which case you will spend a year overseas). This means that you cover your general education at school, before reaching university.

 

If you are heading for university, you reach (something like) SAT subject test level in around eight subjects at age sixteen, then specialise in around five subjects from age 16-18 (plus a couple of non-academic subjects, usually some form of social education and PE). Then, at university, you take only the courses which relate directly to your chosen degree subject(s). If England/Wales wanted to have a more generalised or slower school curriculum, it would also mean a massive reform to the university curriculum.

 

Laura

 

Our exchange students concur that your [European] last year of "high school" (for lack of a better word) tends to cover what our first year of college does. Sometimes the ages even match (age of "senior" in high school there matches first year "freshman" here.) More students here (in good high schools or for many of us homeschooling) also have started taking these college level courses in high school. Our colleges and universities are still adapting to this - and the lack of consistency with these courses sometimes. Hence, we have all those threads about who will or won't accept various credits.

 

I'll admit I'm biased toward liking our "4 year college experience" (on campus) since I really enjoyed it myself and will send my boys to enjoy the same, so I don't really want them to finish sooner even if they have extra credits. I'd rather they take more courses they enjoy (within or outside their major). However, just because I am biased doesn't mean one is better than the other. It's just personal preference. We do put more emphasis on enjoying studies outside a major here. That seems rare there.

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I'll admit I'm biased toward liking our "4 year college experience" (on campus) since I really enjoyed it myself and will send my boys to enjoy the same, so I don't really want them to finish sooner even if they have extra credits. I'd rather they take more courses they enjoy (within or outside their major). However, just because I am biased doesn't mean one is better than the other. It's just personal preference. We do put more emphasis on enjoying studies outside a major here. That seems rare there.

 

There are more general courses, it's easier to switch 'major' and the degree takes four years. However, the university degree traditionally starts at 17, rather than 18 as in England/Wales, so everyone graduates from university at the same time. I could imagine encouraging a child who was very clear about his interests and goals to go to a university in England/Wales, and one who was still unsure to go to one in Scotland/US.

 

Laura

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There are more general courses, it's easier to switch 'major' and the degree takes four years. However, the university degree traditionally starts at 17, rather than 18 as in England/Wales, so everyone graduates from university at the same time. I could imagine encouraging a child who was very clear about his interests and goals to go to a university in England/Wales, and one who was still unsure to go to one in Scotland/US.

 

Laura

 

Thanks for the info. Scotland is one place we've never had an exchange student from. I'm really enjoying this thread and the talk about how different places do things (as well as pros/cons of each). Exchange students tell what they know, but their experience is limited, of course. The adult version is very informative.

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But are they? German exchange students tell me only those students who continue on in their top level get the college prep classes...

In our school, to graduate, EVERY student needs 4 years of English, 7 years of combined math/science (4 in one and 3 in the other), 3 years of social studies, 2 technology credits (such as computer programming or drafting), 2 of PE, one of health and one of driver's ed. College bound students also need 2 credits of a foreign language.

 

A few things about the German system:

not all students attend a school that gives the college prep degree (Abitur), but about 50% do. out of those, even students who do not choose the most challenging classes (Leistungskurs) get to take classes that are comparable to the introductory courses I teach at the university.

(I just had my niece visiting who is a senior in Germany; she is not good at math and is taking the lowest possible level of math that gives her the college prep degree- she had two years of calculus.)

 

About comparing to your listed requirements:

The German system does not focus exclusively on the last four years. If you start your first foreign language in 3rd grade, you will have had ten years of that language by the time you graduate. Second language starts in 6th grade, again, several years. That simply does not compare with a two credit requirement (or even the four years required by selective universities). Almost all young Germans are relatively fluent at least in one foreign language (mostly English) - something that just is not true for the majority of young Americans.

The science education, too, does not just happen in the last four years - biology is started in 5th, physics in 6th and chemistry in 7th. Even students who do not wish to go to college will all have had a few years of actual sciences. Math education is more rigorous - topics that students study in high school are taught in middle school. (My DD, who went to a good school here, was one year behind the German math curriculum at the beginning of 6th grade already - also part of the reason we homeschool.)

 

So just looking at the last four years does not give you an accurate picture of the system, because the foundation built by the end of 8th grade is vastly different.

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You're going to be sorely disappointed if you expect your dc to get this in an American college. Most of them do not require courses in the "liberal arts background," beyond Freshman English. The pendulum swung away from a "core curriculum" of liberal arts courses back in the 60's and only a few colleges have one today.

 

I'm not sure that's the case. I think non-liberal arts colleges have increased, but there are still liberal arts universities where you must take courses from all the disciplines in order to graduate, no matter what your major. At least that's true at most of the Minnesota universities that I know of.

 

Even at my son's mostly-engineering college (CSM), there still were humanities majors and a few courses (beyond Freshman comp) required by all students. They often focused on ethics in engineering and such, but I would still consider the liberal arts component to go well beyond Freshman comp (languages, philosophy, maths, sciences, and social/cultural courses), and there was even a humanities degree offered. The school specifically looked for students who had experiences outside of math & science alone.

 

I do agree that liberal arts have been reduced over the years, and that fewer students are choosing Liberal Arts universities often because of the sad fact that they don't lead to jobs (for instance, my niece with her history degree is working in a grocery story, another niece in Asian studies joined the Army, my birthdaughter with a cultural anthropology degree went back to school to become an accountant, and I could go on). An education for its own sake is still a worthy thing, in my view, but the debt required seems to be way more than when I was in college & just can't always be borne.

 

Well, Liberal Arts may be a side issue as far as the general discussion, but maybe the cost of a Liberal Arts education is pertinent, especially in light of the fact that many careers now require extensive technical training which might extend the number of years (and cost) of college, if Liberal Arts were fully retained?

 

Julie

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That is a really good point. Part of my objection to the cottage schools idea in that thread on the hs board had to do with this, but I didn't realize it. I just sort of felt that they would not be good for many children. If children had better non-school access to these things, I might feel differently about the cottage schools, at least at a lower level.

-Nan

 

This has been an interesting thread to read, the cottage school one sounds intriguing, too. I tried to search for it without any luck.

 

Can someone help me out, please?

 

Thanks.

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A few things about the German system:

not all students attend a school that gives the college prep degree (Abitur), but about 50% do. out of those, even students who do not choose the most challenging classes (Leistungskurs) get to take classes that are comparable to the introductory courses I teach at the university.

(I just had my niece visiting who is a senior in Germany; she is not good at math and is taking the lowest possible level of math that gives her the college prep degree- she had two years of calculus.)

 

About comparing to your listed requirements:

The German system does not focus exclusively on the last four years. If you start your first foreign language in 3rd grade, you will have had ten years of that language by the time you graduate. Second language starts in 6th grade, again, several years. That simply does not compare with a two credit requirement (or even the four years required by selective universities). Almost all young Germans are relatively fluent at least in one foreign language (mostly English) - something that just is not true for the majority of young Americans.

The science education, too, does not just happen in the last four years - biology is started in 5th, physics in 6th and chemistry in 7th. Even students who do not wish to go to college will all have had a few years of actual sciences. Math education is more rigorous - topics that students study in high school are taught in middle school. (My DD, who went to a good school here, was one year behind the German math curriculum at the beginning of 6th grade already - also part of the reason we homeschool.)

 

So just looking at the last four years does not give you an accurate picture of the system, because the foundation built by the end of 8th grade is vastly different.

 

 

But just as my great high school in NY is not repeated at all schools across our country (nor subpar one I teach at) nor is your experience with German schools. The exchange student we hosted was placed in Calc here, yet she had never, ever done any trig functions at all. She said they were in the back of her book, but the teacher never got to them. Doing Calc was a struggle for her, but she did manage to get a 3 on the AP test at the end of the year. There's no way she would have been able to stay in the course if I hadn't been able to help at home as she had a lot of catching up to do. Had I known it, she wouldn't have even started the course here, but I went off her report of what she had done. Then too, she was astounded that my then elementary aged kids were studying the solar system in school. She said she never recalled studying that at all and didn't even know the number of planets there were. My oldest was in 3rd grade and she couldn't believe many of the things in their science book. They did have bits and pieces of various sciences as you mention, but parts are certainly left out.

 

We have a student in our school now from Germany who has been placed (accurately) in Alg 2. I haven't asked him which track he was/is on in Germany though. I do know he only has one year left when he returns. We have another in Chemistry who is learning right along with our students. If she's seen the things they are doing before, it isn't obvious from her work.

 

Out of all of our exchange students I've met (approx 5 per year, 10 years - so roughly 50 here, plus a couple I distinctly remember in my high school growing up), exactly one has been absolutely top of the top superb academically. She'd have done well wherever she went. The majority fit right in with our top 10% to where you wouldn't know the difference other than language issues (which isn't such a big deal in math). A few are in our lower top 25%. The German boy that is here now is the first we've ever put in Alg 2 I believe. Most get in Calc, Stats, Pre-Calc or College Alg - pretty much the same as college bound students here. Granted at the school I teach at the actual education they are getting here is subpar compared to a good school with the same named classes, but even then, only one has truly outshined all but one of our native students in the 10 -11 year history I've been here.

 

I don't doubt that schools like you've experienced exist just as the high school I attended existed and regularly sent out top students. However, it's not that way at all schools from what I've seen. By name and idea, it's probably true. By learned and remembered material, not necessarily so much.

 

And I agree with you about languages. I very much wish the US would allow languages to be learned much earlier when it comes naturally to students. At the high school of my youth, we started French (or Latin) in 7th grade and continued through 12th. Here where I teach, students can only start their language in 9th grade. At one nearby public school students start French and Spanish in 1st grade. I was hopeful a trend would start, but it hasn't happened yet.

 

Incidentally, our best academic exchange students tend to come from China...even though they have the biggest language difficulties at first. They really put in the time and effort to glean all they can and surpass what teachers require in homework with their outside study. But I'm not saying we should copy their system. I just agree with those that wonder what we need to do to compete with them in the future. We haven't had a student from India. The bulk of ours come from Germany, then other countries in Europe, Asia, South America, and Mexico (all in order of numbers). We also have many students who have immigrated from Mexico and Bosnia, but they are in a different category (almost always in lower level classes). Exchange students usually have to be near the top educationally in their school to get accepted.

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I do agree that liberal arts have been reduced over the years, and that fewer students are choosing Liberal Arts universities often because of the sad fact that they don't lead to jobs (for instance, my niece with her history degree is working in a grocery story, another niece in Asian studies joined the Army, my birthdaughter with a cultural anthropology degree went back to school to become an accountant, and I could go on). An education for its own sake is still a worthy thing, in my view, but the debt required seems to be way more than when I was in college & just can't always be borne.

 

Well, Liberal Arts may be a side issue as far as the general discussion, but maybe the cost of a Liberal Arts education is pertinent, especially in light of the fact that many careers now require extensive technical training which might extend the number of years (and cost) of college, if Liberal Arts were fully retained?

 

Julie

 

Perhaps we should open another thread on the topic of a liberal arts education which I believe remains relevant in today's world--despite the cost of education.

 

My husband attended Lehigh, known for its engineering programs although he studied mathematics. Had he pursued his initial interest, electrical engineering, his degree would have been completely different than the electrical engineering degree of today which now focuses on computer hardware. In many respects, his liberal arts background at Lehigh, coupled with basic courses that engineers study (physics and chemistry), was an excellent foundation for his job. He works for an electrical utility. The technical skills required for his work are not taught in colleges; they are very industry specific. I once again return to the argument that a liberal arts background teaches one to think, write well and be able to integrate ideas.

 

Of course, LACs need to play a role in launching students. I am not sure all LACs have good employment placement programs or counseling for grad/professional schools. That may be yet another consideration for applicants.

 

Way off topic here! Apologies to the OP!

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Everyone extolls the Finish model. What happens there? My dd is in high school I just want her to be actively and creatively engaged in her learning....."The Social Network" movie really shows this to be the most important thing.

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What happens later in Finland? There is this video on the BBC's website, but the students shown are not very old.

 

(I think Japanese elementary schools are rather interesting but change dramatically in style in middle and high school, so one should judge the whole age range.)

 

Here is the Finnish ministry of education's website (English version).

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Then too, she was astounded that my then elementary aged kids were studying the solar system in school. She said she never recalled studying that at all and didn't even know the number of planets there were. My oldest was in 3rd grade and she couldn't believe many of the things in their science book. They did have bits and pieces of various sciences as you mention, but parts are certainly left out.

 

I just picked out a French physics text for 8th grade and it covers 3 topics - air, electricity and light. Some of the detail is greater than what one might get in say Physical Science and some is less... So my impression is that what we would call General Science for 7th grade or Physical Science for 8th grade has just been divided out into the different domains of biology, chemistry and physics and maybe earth sciences/astronomy can get left out altogether sometimes...

 

Joan

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