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Education Reforms: Private or Public
United States education system is not at par with general standards of quality education worldwide. The problem lies with our school and college curriculum and lack of sound reforms in the area of education. Though every year, our administration declares that education reforms is at the top of its political agenda, still each year we fail to notice any changes in the school and college education. Not only is our curriculum faulty, we also do not have right degree of private participation in this field which is resulting in deterioration of education especially in state run schools and colleges. For this reason it is important to encourage private initiative in this area because public participation has not only failed to improve the standard of education, it has also resulted in intense public resentment. Many people feel that public funds must not be used to educate selected few. For this reason many voucher and school choice programs have not been as successfully as they were pre-estimated to be.
DO WE REALLY NEED REFORMS AND WHY?
Educationists and employers nationwide are complaining of declining standards and feel that suitable measures must be taken to introduce reforms. These reforms must aim at bringing about concrete and meaningful changes in the curriculum that would produce positive results. For one the educationist are of the view that students are no longer prepared for the practical world, the education system in our country is only text-book-based which sometimes cannot be applied to the real world situations. This can cause various problems, as the students feel inadequate when they face the tough practical world outside their schools. For this reason, it is best to introduce reforms, which would not only prepare the students for success in future but also would be based on the core objectives of education. The educationist nationwide must understand that the weaknesses in curriculum accrue from the fact that most of us are unaware of the very purpose of education. What is it that education seeks to achieve; why do teachers and schools impart knowledge and why do students seek education? It is important to answer these questions in order to find out what kind of reforms are needed and how can students be prepared for future success.
The employers complain that the graduates they hire do not possess the required social and communication skills. This is one reason why many college students face tough conditions when they enter the workplace. While it is true that schools and colleges of the past were quite different from the ones we have today in terms of cultural diversity and technological advances, still they had some truly solid teaching techniques which when employed can produce positive results. For example before 1960s, the colleges focused on practical studies along with theory and several schools had youth apprenticeship programs, which aimed at providing vocational training. This was a good practice as it increased the chances of students' success in the "real world."
We have abandoned this practice now and most of the educational approaches are based on theory alone. Another reason why students are failing in the workplace is because they are not taught the practical skills including oral and written communication, multicultural thinking and teamwork etc. Surveys and researches in this area reveal that most graduates entering the job market completely lack these skills, which result in dissatisfaction of the employers and failure of the students.
Everyday we hear technology is turning the world into a global village and still we do nothing to adjust our curriculum to the needs of this "global town." What we fail to understand is that with the world shrinking, our students would be required top compete on a global level. Not only the large corporation with global presence but even the small store in our neighborhood would want to employ someone who understands the importance of a multicultural thinking. This is because we in the United States have people pouring in from different countries of the world and they bring with them values that often do not match ours. For this reason, we must teach our students the significance of developing tolerance and respect for other cultures, along with every practical skill that they would need to succeed.
It is interesting that even some straight A students would sometimes fail to achieve success in their practical lives, this because our curriculum has become obsolete, we no longer impart practical education. We are still harboring the orthodox notions that those who do well academically have a good chance of succeeding while those who do poorly should not be paid much attention to as they are simply burden on both the schools and the society. This restrictive thinking has led to many problems, as students no longer know how to succeed when they are apparently doing everything right.
PUBLIC OR PRIVATE REFORMS
It is therefore extremely important to not only upgrade the curriculum but also in general improve the education system by involving more private organizations. We have already seen that public reforms in the past have only led to an increase in the financial burden of the public itself. The government uses public funds to pump more money into public education, but most of the efforts only lead to public outcry as it feels that their money is being used for the education of selected few. Secondly, we do not have sufficient public funds to take care of reforms entirely on their own. For this reason it is important to encourage private businesses to come forward and invest in education. The private organizations have been making some investment in this area but the problem is that their efforts have only resulted in the creation of 200 to 300 good schools. These schools are not sufficient to absorb the vast number of students seeking decent education and this is why we need more active participation from private sector. It has also been noticed that school reform movement has made little progress since it came into existence. Due to the reasons mentioned above, our students are still as ignorant about major issues as they were back in the 1970s. They are still as unprepared to step into the real world, as they were when the movement began.
Nancy J. Perry writes:
Former Deputy Secretary of Education David Kearns, who has just taken over as chairman and president of the New American Schools Development Corp., a nonprofit organization formed by business leaders to support the design of a new generation of American schools: "We put a man on the moon in ten years. Ten years is enough. But in terms of what our children know, have we progressed since the early 1980s? The answer is no. Since the early 1970s? The answer is no."
This shows that while the government has been pumping public money into this field, the results have mostly been negligible. The reasons as mentioned above are insufficient funds, lack of proper planning and insincerity of the administration to bring about a positive change. Not only the curriculum has become obsolete, the teaching methods, the screening process and almost everything connected with education is anything but flawless. For this reason, more private reforms are needed. Private reforms can be brought about with the help of large corporations and concerns, which have enough money to support and improve standard of education in a reasonable percentage of American schools and colleges.
Bush administration has recently been focusing on private participation in education by holding educators responsible for the standards of education in schools and colleges nationwide. With more accountability, parents and students would be in a better position to hold educators responsible for poor performance. For this reason school and college administrations around the country are seeking more participation from private organizations. Businesses are being encouraged to come forward and invest in local schools and colleges. This on the one hand will give private firms an opportunity to make healthy profits and on the other would improve the standard of education. We must not forget that without the attraction of reasonable profits, we cannot lure private money into this field. Business entrepreneurs nationwide would want to invest in education if they know there is something for them in it too.
Private sector has been participating in this field in the past, but their efforts were limited to specific areas such as food and textbooks. But with more accountability laws, these private firms are being asked to expand the scope of their participation and invest in outcome-focused reforms. Direct private involvement in education is likely to have far reaching impact on the standard of education.
Michael A. Fletcher and Neil Irwin (2001) shed light on the importance of private initiative in the field of education:
Private firms have long profited from the huge amounts of money spent on public education, selling schools everything from textbooks and computer equipment to French fries and heating oil. But the shifting of core educational…[continue]
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