Tag Archives: Education

Pakistan Accelerates War On Taliban

During the past several years, American leaders have urged the Pakistan government to seriously engage the Taliban within its borders. A series of Taliban blunders such as invading provinces they promised not to attack and suicide bombings have resulted in the Pakistan army’s new aggressive actions against their enemy. The Pakistan government has placed a bounty on the head of Baitullah Mehsud, leader of the Taliban in northwest tribal regions. There are also air strikes which have led to claims that dozens of “militants” have been killed. There is evidence the Pakistan army is employing military strategies borrowed from Americans such as bombing villages in which alleged Taliban leaders are residing.

There is no doubt a significant segment of the Pakistan population has grown weary with Taliban excesses such as suicide bombing. But, military action in itself will not destroy the Taliban or other militants. Pakistan needs a powerful economic development program together with one which creates an effective education system that provides for poor children an opportunity to obtain technological skills leading to good paying jobs. Air strikes help, but schools and jobs are much more effective in defeating the Taliban.

Bounties may gain media attention, but as a Taliban commander told a reporter: “We are like a suicide squad. Mujahideen(holy warriors) do not care about head money. Our mission goes on.” Reading and writing and arithmetic will always out bid bounties.

Swedish Government Will Not Educate Imams

A special commission hired by the Swedish government to investigate the necessity of educating Muslim imams concluded to do so would interfere with separation of church from government. State sponsored education for imams claimed the report would constitute special considerations for one religious faith over others. The commission recommended that further education should come from normal education institutions. Of course, the very nature of this report is somewhat insulting to Muslims. Is there a commission studying the necessity of the government providing education for Rabbis, priests and ministers? How was the assumption reached that imams required special education?

Undoubtedly, the real reason for this study is an assumption that imams in Sweden are somehow connected to terrorism. One initial question is evidence that such is the case. Perhaps, a more important goal of government would be to subsidize meetings of religious leaders from all faiths to learn from one another and build the foundation of peace between those of different religions.

Money Alone Can’t Solve Roma Problems

The European Union is willing to spend millions of Euros in an effort to improve the lives of Roma children in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Educational opportunities undoubtedly are a key component of dealing with issues of prejudice and bigotry, but money in itself spent in school improvement is not sufficient for the tasks that lie ahead. An estimated 300,000-500,000 Romas live in Slovakia and a large number inhabit settlements which lack running water or electricity. Roma children do not succeed in school which places them at a disadvantage in seeking decent paying jobs or even securing modern housing.

The story in America of dealing with poverty and discrimination is the importance of simultaneously confronting education, housing, and jobs as well as undertaking programs for adult education. Spending another hundred or two hundred million Euros will not result in much difference unless it also addresses other issues. There is also need for an extensive program dealing with multiculturalism for children in Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Obama Flunks Education 101!

Barack Obama entered the presidency with an opportunity to overhaul the disastrous education policies of George Bush, but his initial decisions indicate he has failed to grasp the implications of what should constitute education in the 21st century. On one hand, the president makes clear to the automobile industry it will not receive any money until it ceases producing cars that are not consistent with needs of the new century. On the other hand, he is willing to give education billions of dollars to an education system that is producing the wrong product and can’t even do a good job in that failed effort. We need a new education system that meets 21st century needs, not an education system that is teaching the wrong curriculum in ways that are outmoded.

At the core of a new education system is a curriculum that is consistent with needs of children. A kindergarten child who enters school this September will graduate high school in the 2020s, have a mid life crisis in the 2040s, prepare for retirement in the 2070s and may well witness the birth of the 22nd century. That child does NOT need an education which requires memorizing material which is fed back on tests. They need an education which unlocks the creative and critical thinking capacities of each child. They need an education process which empowers youth to become learners because during the course of their lives, they will have to learn and learn how to switch careers. No Child Left Behind which Obama supports dumbs down education into a series of tests which transform children into robots who recite and memorize.

The teaching of history has disappeared from elementary school because teachers want more time to teach for the test. The teaching of history at the secondary level is a test case in incompetence. At a time when Americans need to learn how to learn, at a time when American youth needs to learn economics and dealing with diverse human behavior, children devote their time memorizing unimportant facts to feed back on a test.

We are entering a Fourth Revolution in education. The First Revolution happened 70,000 years ago when our ancestors learned how to speak and to express themselves in visual ways. The Second Revolution happened 6,000 years ago when they learned reading and writing. The Third Revolution happened 200 years ago with the introduction of government organized schools and people called teachers who handled education. In these initial three revolutions, the goal of education was to impart information concerning basic skills and attitudes. The Fourth Revolution is now happening. In it, youth can receive information and also is now able, due to technology, to become creators of knowledge. Barack Obama’s education policies are linked to the Third Revolution, not to the emerging Fourth Revolution in education.

Please write to the president and insist we need to take a step back and figure out the nature of 21st century education rather than spend billions on an inept, outdated approach to educating youth.

Barack Obama Flunks Education 101

President Barack Obama is proposing giving American education about $50 billion more dollars to use on improving “test scores” and other such ideas on how to measure what is being taught. On one hand, Obama believes the automobile industry should cease producing cars that are out of date and invent a new generation of cars, but, on the other hand, he does not see any need for schools to invent a new concept of education that fits life in the 21st century. Sending billions of dollars to the current system of schooling is wasting billions of dollars. Obama had an interesting opportunity to spark a new approach to education, but he has decided to continue the current failed way of thinking about education.

Obama wants to spark “competition” by encouraging Charter Schools and then measure success by some form of testing. This approach comes down to dumbing down the nation and preventing teachers from doing the real job of 21st century education– educate youth to be critical and creative thinkers so we can reinvigorate our society by producing young people who can invent new forms of industry, be global thinkers to understand the need for new approaches in dealing with people throughout the world, and, above all, be individuals who understand how one learns. Learning how to learn is the most important skill for life in this century and this can not be tested on a test.

Charter School operators are not stupid. They understand if the criteria for “success” is test scores then they teach children to pass tests. Doesn’t Obama even understand that basic rule of schools? But, creative and critical thinking can NOT be measured on a written test, only a teacher working with children and posing them problems to solve can measure success. The Obama education approach simply a Ponzi scheme to waste $50 billion instead of using the money to unleash the creative thinking of educators.

First, we need to understand what is needed for a modern education. Obama would be better off asking Billy Gates to head up a new commission to: Identify 21st century skills and thinking that should be the basis of education; then identify how that education should be delivered to children. Instead, we have more of the test mania which dumbs down every aspect of education. It also fails with about 30% of students.

As an Obama supporter I am shocked by his old fashioned conservative approach to dealing with education. How anyone can accuse Obama of being a “radical” or a “Socialist” is incomprehensible. He is conservative to the core on education.

Tyranny Of Testing For Turkish Youth

The spread of testing throughout the world makes life for students increasingly stressed by the need to adhere to adult standards as to what learning is all about. More than 900,000 primary school graduates in Turkey sat for state high school entrance exams which determine if an individual makes or doesn’t make a sufficiently high enough grade to qualify for one of the prestigious secondary schools. Basak Taner told a reporter, “When the starting bell rings, I feel that my life will begin too.” In the world of testing, a single test can determine if one has learned over the course of several years. Of course, few tests can enable students to express their original thinking or their creativity which, ostensibly, is the purpose of going to school.

Fortunately, for Turkish students the Ministry of Education is replacing these exams next year with other means of evaluating student thinking. In the future, student grades and teacher comments as well as three exams will replace the current system of a make or break one test process. Of course, students are not pleased with the news there will be three rather than one exam.

A major problem with any form of “testing” is that teachers alter their teaching to attain higher test score results which results in less effort to allow students to demonstrate their creative and critical thinking abilities. As long as there are “special high schools” which allow students to get into “desirable universities,” the tyranny of exams will endure.

Indonesia Passes Education Laws But Kids Don’t Go

Despite compulsory education laws in Indonesia, latest figures indictae a high percentge of children still are not attending schools, particularly at the secondary level in many parts of the nation. In a recent survey of the country’s 440 regencies and municipalities, almsot half of children between the ages of 13 and 15 were being denied the benefits of a secondary education. Poverty is an important factor but attitudes of parents regarding further education also play a role in fostering non-attendance at schools. Unfortunately, while Indonesia passes laws compelling children to be in school, they do not provide free education, let alone free textbooks and materials for those going.

So many nations which suffer from poverty are unable to provide funding for poor children to attend school. One is left to wonder how nations of the world will spend trillions on the military and be unable to spend a few billion to further the well-being of children.

White Racism Still Exists In South Africa

Three Pretoria High Court judges expressed their shock at the Hoerskol Emelo and its governing board for displaying insensitivity to students who did not wish to be taught by teachers using the language of Afrkaans. Last year the judges rejected the application of the school to set aside a government action which empowered it rather than school authorities in deciding the language of instruction. The school insisted it lacked classroom space to accomodate a wide range of students even though its enrolmment is at the lowest rate in the school’s history. The court insisted children have a right to attend schools in their community which have space available and the Hoeerskol Emelo definitely has space.

The majority of people in South Africa have adjusted to life in a society in which they are now a minority. But, there are those who still seek to create white enclaves that keep out the undesirable black skinned students. Both white and black skinned children will benefit from attending the same school, one in which the language of instruction is in English.

End Education Apartheid In Britain Says Educator

Dr. Anthony Sheldon told a gathering of British educators it was time to end the system of apartheid schooling which enbles those with wealth to attend institutions which enable children to attend the best universities and therefore secure well paying positions in society. He was particularly concerned about the powerful independent sector of Britih education whose students always attain higher scores on tests and push their graduates into the most outstanding universities. Sheldon emphasized the current system whereby a handful of poor children are plucked from poverty and given an excellent education simply perpetuates the overall dismal showing of most schools servicing the poorer people of society. He asked the independent schools to reach out and form alliances with schools in their area which have many poor children in order to bridge the education gap.

Dr. Sheldon’s words are sincere, but ignore the realities of life. Independent schools might reach out to “help” a school in a poor area, but the enthusiasm of year one will have disappeared by year 3. He ignores the issue is not “helping” but creating a new system of education that will benefit all children and will be tuned into needs of 21st century life. In the 21st century, we don’t need “do-gooders” we need to do good for all.

Fight For Women’s Rights In Rural Turkey

Rural Turkey continues being the main supporter for those in Turkey who wish to restrain the rights of women. Teachers in southeast Turkey encountered dozens of women who were hiding their daughters in sheds to hid them from teachers seeking to foster the idea of education for women. There is a split among the parents of women in this region, some accept the forces of modernity including the rights of women to an education while others fight against this prospect. Mujhan Sahin, a female teacher from the region commented: “There is a prejudice against women in the region. They should not read, go out or stand on their feet.” She noted this attitude was conveyed to her parents who defied tradition and educated their children. As a result of Ms. Sahin’s efforts, over 20 girls were allowed to attend school.

Ironically, Kurds in Turkey remain the most conservative elements of the population even as many within their ranks fight for the right to belong to the nation of Kurdistan.