Reforms In Education Essay Questions
This was written by David K. Cohen, John Dewey Collegiate Professor of Education and professor of public policy at the University of Michigan. This post originally appeared on the Albert Shanker Institute’s blog.
By David K. Cohen
What are we to make of articles (here and here) extolling IMPACT, Washington D.C.’s fledging teacher evaluation system, for how many “ineffective” teachers have been identified and fired, how many “highly effective” teachers rewarded? It’s hard to say.
I argue in my new book, Teaching and Its Predicaments(Harvard University) that fragmented school governance in the United States, coupled with the lack of coherent educational infrastructure, make it difficult either to broadly improve teaching and learning or to have valid knowledge of the extent of improvement.
Merriam-Webster defines “infrastructure” as: “the underlying foundation or basic framework (as of a system or organization).” The term is commonly used to refer to the roads, rail systems, and other frameworks that facilitate the movement of things and people, or to the physical and electronic mechanisms that enable voice and video communication. But social systems also can have such “underlying foundations or basic frameworks.”
For school systems around the world, the infrastructure commonly includes student curricula or curriculum frameworks, exams to assess students’ learning of the curricula, instruction that centers on teaching that curriculum, and teacher education that aims to help prospective teachers learn how to teach the curricula.
The United States has had no such common and unifying infrastructure for schools, owing in part to fragmented government (including local control) and traditions of weak state guidance about curriculum and teacher education.
Like many recent reform efforts that focus on teacher performance and accountability, IMPACT does not attempt to build infrastructure, but rather assumes that weak individual teachers are the problem. There are some weak individual teachers, but the chief problem has been a non-system that offers no guidance or support for strong teaching and learning, precisely because there has been no infrastructure. IMPACT frames reform as a matter of solving individual problems when the weakness is systemic.
IMPACT and similar programs aim to distinguish more and less qualified individual teachers by using longitudinal measures of student achievement — especially value-added calculations — to estimate each teacher’s contribution to student learning. The goal is to reward teachers whose students gain more, or eliminate those teachers whose students gain less, or both. These programs, which promise large improvements in student performance without serious investment in system redesign, understandably have wide appeal, because they offer the appearance of a simple solution and cost little.
President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan favor such programs, as do a growing number of governors, state legislators, business leaders, and several large foundations. As with many states and localities, Washington D.C.’s efforts were undertaken with the support of federal and foundation incentives.
But niche “reforms” like this could not do enough by themselves to offer real improvement, even if they were accurate and reliable, which they are not.
In the case of performance pay, one problem is that the United States lacks an instructional system that would enable valid determinations of which teachers boost students’ test scores. Another is that researchers report that that performance pay does not boost student test scores (the most recent case in point is New York City’s decision to cancel its scheme after a RAND study that found that money rewards had no effect on students’ test scores).
And still another is that existing tests do not support defensible determinations of teaching quality, except perhaps at the very extremes of the distribution (see here). (One reason for that last point is that the tests have limited reliability — scores on one administration of a test weakly predict scores on another administration of the same test a week or two later.)
Tests also do not agree very well; different parts of the same test that attempt to measure the same academic content seem to yield different results. Moreover, both the students who take such tests and their teachers have unequal access to educational resources, and some teachers systematically get more or less able students (see here, here, and here). For these reasons and several others, the existing tests can incorrectly identify teachers as ineffective or not. Hence this approach is suspect even in niche terms.
In making teachers the culprit for system failure, these policies assume that the causes of weak student learning lie chiefly in teachers’ deficient sense of responsibility, determination, and hard work. It’s true that some teachers are not responsible or determined, but dealing with that small fraction of the teaching force will do little to remedy the chief school-related causes of weak student performance — the absence of systemic clarity about what is to be taught and learned, how best to teach it, and support for teachers to learn those things — all things that well-designed infrastructure could offer.
The lack of infrastructure has been especially damaging in the high-poverty schools at which teacher accountability has chiefly been aimed. One result is that most accountability policies have set off a chain of disappointing results — including the gaming of tests by states setting the bar very low, or by district and school personnel cheating (recently in Atlanta).
To be fair, efforts to refine niche reforms have had several constructive effects: They have helped call attention to America’s longest-running educational problems; they have stimulated public and private work on these problems; and they have drawn attention to inequality in public education. But they have done little to provide the systemic support that infrastructure could offer for the quality instruction that students need.
A coherent educational infrastructure in the United States could enable valid judgments about the quality of teaching and learning and about which teachers do a better job of helping students learn. If teachers and students used common curricula, for example, they would have more equal chances to teach and learn. Teachers could have meaningful opportunities to learn to teach the common curriculum in preservice or later professional education. And there could be assessments of students’ learning that were valid for the common curriculum, so students could have less unequal chances to be tested on what they were supposed to have been taught. Reform should aim to build these key elements of infrastructure, and build educators’ capability to use it well.
The mere presence of these things would not, of course, assure quality education. That would depend on how infrastructure was designed and how educators used it, and use would depend on the capability of school systems, the people who work in them, and how society supported their work.
But because teachers in the United States have lacked these resources, they have had great difficulty building shared occupational knowledge and skills. They have had no common framework with which to make valid judgments about students’ work and no common vocabulary with which to identify, investigate, discuss, and solve problems of teaching and learning.
Hence, they also have little common knowledge that could be systematized for use in the education of intending teachers. Individual teachers have developed their own knowledge and skills, and some have become quite expert — but public education has had no organized means to turn teachers’ individual knowledge and skill into common know-how, let alone remember it, improve it by analysis, and make it available to novices. Thus, even aside from the question of whether they are valid and reliable (and they are not), small, narrow programs such as IMPACT can distract the nation from how best to solve the schools’ central problems.
The views expressed in this post, which first appeared on the Albert Shanker Institute’s blog, do not necessarily reflect the views of the Albert Shanker Institute, its officers, board members, or any related entity or organization.
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Essay No. 01
Educational Reforms in India
Education is very important for any individual as well as nation. Education helps in all round development of personalities which ultimately help the nation in becoming great and powerful. Unfortunately educational planning and implementation has not been quite satisfactory. Many shortcomings have come to the forefront which ultimately derail the developmental activities. That is why educational reforms have become the most in India to correct the shortcomings and failures.
Education is not merely the being one literate, i.e., how to write and read. Education is more than mere literacy. Education involves reason, the correct approach to life, helps one to know that is right and wrong and be moral. Education helps in broadening one’s outlook. It removes superstitions and develops critical faculty in individuals. Education helps in increasing awareness of surroundings, social and political issues. It makes people knowledgeable and develops wisdom. Literacy is the beginning or first step towards making one educated.
But unfortunately, in the last 50 years half of the population of India has been literate. Compulsory primary education was to be provided after 10 years of enforcement of Constitution. But it has not been done so. The literacy rate according to 1991 Census is only 52%. The condition of women is still worse, their literacy rate is only 36%. It is said that if you educate a man you educate an individual but if you educate a woman you educate a family. Such is the importance of education of women.
Other lacunae on the education front is that we have been producing only clerks in the system as done by British policy of education. Schooling pattern is not uniform all over India. Various educational policies have been implemented but net result is not upto the mark. Basic education is faulty. Upto Class V the medium of education is not in its mother tongue. The burden of books is greater at lower classes in schools. The effort is not towards learning and asking questions but they are being told just to cram and reproduce in the examination without understanding. The standard of teaching has also gone down. Teachers do not teach properly. The condition of government schools is even worse. But public schools charge high fees by which poor children are deprived of good school education. As a result they lag behind in their lives.
Teaching at schools have not become functional. They do not provide jobs as if the education becomes useless later in life, it is felt. So efforts towards vocationalisation should be made so that it becomes functional and useful. Government’s negligence towards education has added the worries. The government’s expenditure has been less than 6% of its GDP. Initially it was only 2%. It was recommended by educational policy makers and Commissions that at least it should be 6%. Government has to come out with new education policy to ensure quality education to children and grownups.
At higher levels, campuses have become centres for politics and violence. There is often closure of colleges. Even when they are open, very few classes are held which disappoint students. Centres of learning practice agitations and hartals. Some science institutes like IITs and IIMS are only doing better but practice of brain drain is quite rampant which is a wastage of national resources. This practice needs to be checked. Lack of moral education leads to many problems on the campus and outside the campus. Moral education should be imparted right from the earlier years and at homes. That is why we see degeneration of social values in people. If correct values are instilled at right time, there will not be serious problems of corruption, communalism, casteism, etc. Eve teasing and sexual harassment can also be controlled with right kind of education. Actually education helps in broadening outlook which can change social attitudes and stereotypes which exist in our society. Many of social evils can be nipped in the bud itself like dowry, violence, etc.
So educational reforms become urgently necessary. Government should come out with new education policy by making the education system a uniform system. Medium of instruction should be in the mother tongue upto Class V. Moral education and coeducation should be the norm. Teachers should be retrained and retaught to teach. Only good teachers should be selected not only on the basis of knowledge but also on the basis of attitude and interest in teaching. Higher education should be streamlined .Only seriously interested in higher studies should be allowed to go for it. Degrees should be delinked from jobs. Examination system should be made tight at all levels. They should be made educated in such a way that they should be capable to start their own livings not dependent on few government jobs. Efforts should be made towards encouraging and not cramming. Girls should be encouraged to go for education which can help in reducing the population also.
Reforms in education is long awaited. New education policy of 1985 could not come out with concrete results. The situation has not improved much as it was before 1985. The conditions of government schools need more attention. The infrastructure for education needs urgent attention. The government should spend more than 6% of its GDP on education. Autonomy has to be given to various research institutes but at the same time accountability has to be demanded in a more forceful manner. The whole system needs overhauling in order to give a better education. Only right kind of education at this juncture can help in solving myriads of problem facing this country.
Essay No. 02
After Independence, there have been set up several education commissions and committees to bring reforms in the Indian education system. But, as we know, there has been only a limited success in this field. Of course, now there exist many schools which may be considered much better than most of the schools during the pre-Independence period, but much more needs to be done.
At present, we have on the government level a system of 10+2+3. There is high school teaching upto class ten. Then there is 2 year schooling known as 10+2 after that and thereafter there is graduation which covers three years. Thereafter, M.Phil. requires one year and Ph.D. at least two years.
There is actually no end to higher education and then there are so many courses, diplomas and degrees in various disciplines which require different periods of study.
The most crucial question, however, is the general, basic and such education which may be elementary in nature though whatever names, nomenclatures, compartments and components it might be having. This general education is essential for broadening and evolving the mind.
In the public school system of education, education starts with playway methods, nursery, KG-I, KG-11, Class I to VIII, etc.
The most important point in all types of education is that it should be affordable to the common man. There should be no discrimination on any basis. It should be need-based. It should mould the child’s personality to the constructive and positive side. It should eliminate cramming and copying. The child should be at the center-stage in this system. His faculties of expression and growth should be developed.