An effective education system plays an important role in the development and success of a country. America became one of the most powerful countries on the basis of its technological prowess which was a result of an effective education system. Today, America spends more money on education than any other country in the world. However, educators are of the view that there are serious problems with today's education system, and it either needs to be restructured or revamped. They back their claims by the findings of the several reports on the quality of education in America. The United States ranks 19th in the list of student scientific literacy, 24th in mathematical ability, 12th in reading ability and 26th in world-solving ability. This pales in comparison to other developing countries where the government money spent per child is significantly lesser. So, lack of capital, surely, is not the problem. According to researchers, there are some chronic problems which are plaguing America's education system. Let us try to get some insight on these challenges.
High Attrition Rate Among Teachers
Teachers are often made the scapegoats for the problems in American education. There have been calls to restructure the teachers' union so that individuals who are unqualified for the job can be removed and replaced by more qualified ones. The reality on the ground is that the job of teachers is much more difficult than what it seems. Difficult work assignments, long working hours, work pressure and above all, reality shock are some of the challenges teachers face on an everyday basis. It is not surprising then this field has seen an attrition rate of around 50% in the past decade, causing losses worth $7 billion annually. Also, around 44% of teachers quit in the first five years of their career, an alarming 85% of those who are hired is because of the vacancies created by attrition. Blaming teachers solely would mean turning a blind eye to the problems that they face in their profession. Many people presume that a teaching job is less stressful to one in the corporate world, but an inside assessment will tell you that it encompasses a great deal of responsibility and ownership. There are deadlines to be met and the challenge of controlling a classroom is demanding, if not stiff. The consequences can be seen on the already burdened education budget. Hiring new staff year after year causes the state to lose billions of dollars which otherwise could have been spent on improving the educational infrastructure. Also, attrition means that students have to be content with teachers who may not be fully devoted to teaching and hence, not the perfect professionals to do the job. The solution is not easy and there is no magic-wand which will alleviate these issues. But, the need of the hour is to find potential solutions rather than passing the buck around. Administrators who have the authority to make important decisions should work together with academicians to figure out what will work in the best interests of the teachers and students. This can include providing assistance to new teachers who are in for a shock when they face numerous challenges while carrying out their job. These teachers can be helped with classroom management strategies and introductory classes which prepares them for the real thing. Also, teachers who are contemplating quitting the profession can be counseled and their grievances can be addressed. This might not be a magic-cure to curtail attrition rates, but it can help in getting a message across to the teachers that there is support for them.
Lack of Parental Involvement
Parents have an important role to play in the development and education of a child. Surveys have found that students whose parents are actively involved in their ward's education are more likely to get good grades and complete their school education. But sadly, it has been observed that parents get involved only when there is some serious trouble or when they are summoned by the school authorities. It is important to be aware of how your child is faring in the school rather than being ignorant.
Parents may cite reasons such as lack of communication and time, but they have to understand that it is a serious issue and needs their consideration. Without the support of parents, students are vulnerable and can be easily bogged down. It is important, therefore, that parents, apart from assuming a monitory role, also act as guide to their children.
Lack of Strong Educational Policy
In 2001, the Bush-administration came out with the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), with the aim to lift the education standards in America based on the reports that Hispanics, African-Americans and Latin American students form of a major proportion of college drop-outs. This Act focused on continuous testing to increase accountability. However, results from the last ten years have shown that scores have considerably dropped in maths and science, leading to outcries of withdrawal of NCLB.
Loopholes in education policy are not only impacting the future of millions of students, but it is also creating a dearth of individuals who can contribute in the development of nation.
One example of this is the way religion has been tabooed in schools. Instead of having a healthy and progressive debate on the way 'religion' as a subject should be put across, politicians of the day are busy in filing lawsuits against each other to determine its status in schools.
Violent Behavior and Drug Abuse
Gun-culture, alcohol consumption and drug-abuse are some other challenges that the education system faces, but these essentially are societal issues and changes to education policy may or may not deter these. It, however, does not mean that these issues can be undermined; in fact efforts should be made by all of us to identify the situations that lead to all these problems. Instead of passing the buck, all of us can act more responsibly and strive to make amends to our education system.
In the end, we can surely say that there is an urgent need to do something about the health of education in America. A change needs to take place, but we have to be cautious that we don't take any decision in haste as it can boomerang and complicate the issue. A detailed analysis and an honest approach to find the solutions is what we need to get started. We hope that those at helm of affairs are aware of the problems and are working earnestly to do something about it.