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Nov 21 / Jonathan

Why the United States Should Look to Japan for Better Schools

Brent Staples writes in the NY Times,

No Child Left Behind was based on the premise that embarrassing test scores and government sanctions would simply force schools to improve educational outcomes for all students. What has become clear, however, is that school systems and colleges of education have no idea how to generate changes in teaching that would allow students to learn more effectively. Indeed, state systems that have typically filled teaching positions by grabbing any warm body they could find are only just beginning to think about the issue at all.

Faced with lagging test scores and pressure from the federal government, some school officials have embraced the dangerous but all-too-common view that millions of children are incapable of high-level learning. This would be seen as heresy in Japan. But it is fundamental to the American system, which was designed in the 19th century to provide rigorous education for only about a fifth of the students, while channeling the rest into farm and factory jobs that no longer exist.

The United States will need a radically different mind set to catch up with high-performing competitors. For starters we will need to focus as never before on the process through which teachers are taught to teach. We will also need to drop the arrogance and xenophobia that have blinded us to successful models developed abroad.

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  1. Mark Swanson / Nov 26 2005

    “For starters we will need to focus as never before on the process through which teachers are taught to teach.”

    Hope I don’t scare you, Jonathan, but I agree. Teachers are taught classroom management and how not to offend anyone (especially low achievers). I suspect the Japanese are a little less focused on self-esteem and multi-culturalism and more on student academic achievement.

    Also, teachers can’t do much teaching when they are dealing with students whose home life is in constant turmoil (or worse). Students need some emotional and psychological stability to be good learners and a lot of them are undermined everyday at home. The best teacher in the world can’t make up for poor, non-existent, or abusive parenting.

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