Creating a school education system that works

They are supposed to be the best days of your life, but unless you moved about the world as a military brat and had the chance to go to a local school, you probably only know one pre-university education system. It turns out there are many more.

Finland as a gold standard?

Finland is consistently one of the top performers in the schooling charts. On the standards of reading, math and science the country is continuously in the top 2 worldwide. Yet spend is 30% less per child than it is in the US.

In Finland, children don’t start school until they are 7 which is at least 2 years later than most other countries. It is not until they are teenagers that they start homework and exams. The only mandatory exam is one at 16 which could be at the end of their school life.

There is a complete lack of academic pressure. The Finnish concept is to teach children how to learn rather than how to pass exams. They are two very different skills.

China leading the way in math skills

Chinese children study math until they are 17 or 18. They are encouraged to use math language and marks are deducted when they don’t. Problems are presented in a group scenario where the entire class solves the problem. But with 15 hours a week spent on math, including homework time, the individual still has to develop the requisite skills.

One end of the tech spectrum to the other

In the Netherlands, the education system relies on the use of the iPad. The system there recognizes the inherent teaching ability of the product and that so many children have access to one. The effect is that the device is central to their teaching policies and effectively means that children almost get one-to-one tuition in their “ieducation” classes.

Not so the case for Barefoot College. As the name suggests, this organization reaches out to the poorest regions of the world. Barefoot College has already reached 70 countries and actively teaches 7,000 children per year.

The differences lie in their approach to everything they do. Preparing a child to be an active member of their community might mean that they learn from the local bone-setter or cattle-herder. Classes may take place at night because children are needed during the day. The skills these children need for their life may be taught by their own community – the source for teachers who Barefoot College has trained to pass on knowledge. The entire community is involved.

There is no one answer

Education is recognized as a basic human right. According to Unesco, 264 million children are denied school every year. Only 45% of children aged 14-17 will get to finish secondary school. These numbers worsen when we begin to talk about girls.

We can argue about which system is the best as much as we like, but it seems that we should get everyone into school and then we can discuss the niceties.