Education System Improvement

I’ve complained lots about the state of our educational system and what I think needs improving in it. Well tonight, I took the opportunity to try and make a difference. There’s currently a task-force on the Island dedicated to finding out what we’re doing right and wrong and how we can improve our schools. So a few friends and myself decided to drop down to their discussion forum tonight. I have to say it was well worth the nearly 3 hours we spent there. The evening was open to the general public but it was mostly teachers and parents that showed up. Very few students attended. Including us three, there was probably about 10 students overall.

We arrived about 10 minutes late so we just all popped into a group together. Immediately we started into the debate/discussion. First on the agenda was what we’re doing right. I kept my mouth shut during this time as the other people had plenty of good things to say. Some things I agreed with while others I did not. A teacher mentioned that we’re teaching children more than just facts; they’re teaching critical thinking skills and understanding. I disagree, at least at the high school level. They are teaching facts and that’s about it. A few teachers find it in them to try really hard to make the students understand but for the most part, it doesn’t happen. But the fun stuff was just starting. Next up was what are we doing poorly. Oh boy, the night was going to be enjoyable.

At first we were wary of speaking our mind. There were many teachers in our group and saying something offensive wouldn’t have gone well. So we listened to the others for a while to see how touchy everyone was. When it was apparent that all was well, we set out on our path of verbal destruction. Essentially the point we were trying to make was that student achievement cannot be just measured by the marks we receive or what we place on a standardized test.

One topic of special interest to me was the discussion about the PISA test which is a standardized test administered internationally to get a feel for how everyone’s doing. Apparently the results from the last test showed PEI taking the last place standing in Canada. So not something to be all that proud of, but wait a minute; let’s look at what the PISA test actually tests for. Oh ok, reading, science and mathematics. Anything about music in there? Uh no. Anything about arts? Oops, nope again. So is it really a fair comparison of the level of education in these vastly different countries or even within our own country? I think not. Let me give you an example.

This year for our band trip, we went to Truro. We had the opportunity to see McGill Big Band One which is a world-renowned jazz band. Now it’s a great honor to be able to play in that band. Only the very best get to. And low and behold two people, who have previously gone through the music program at my current high school, are playing in that band. That is totally unprecedented. There are only a two other people from the same city in that band and there are two from one school on PEI. That must say something about the level of music education we have here and specifically at my school. Does that show up in that PISA test? Definitely not.

So why are we getting into a big fuss about a flawed test that is supposed to compare education levels? I honestly don’t know but it shows you just what we emphasize in our education. We want our students to get high marks. What they do outside of the strictly academic setting is irrelevant to them. I totally disagree.

Generally the night was an eventful one and we finally got our chance to express our views to the general public. Perhaps one day things will actually change for the best. We can always hope right?

Charlie.

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