Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Educational Reform in an Ever Changing World

Educational Reform in an Ever Changing World
Educational systems throughout the world have changed due to new advances in technology. In the early part of the 20th century, education became compulsory and teachers' focus was on "mass producing" workers suitable for employment in the factories that had sprung up due to the Industrial Revolution. Now, in the early part of the 21st century, the world is changing again due to technological advances. If teachers don't want to lose their jobs  to computers, they must adapt to the present form of education. School systems themselves must also change their emphasis. While education in the previous century focused on teaching obedience, today's children must learn to think critically and creatively to succeed in an ever-changing and globally connected world.
School children 20 years ago studied subjects out of books and practiced skills on mimeographed drill sheets. Today, however, this technology is outdated. It's rare to find a classroom that doesn't incorporate at least one computer and many teachers require children to access educational programs to reinforce basic skills. Also, the Internet is becoming a huge tool to educate students.  For example, interactive websites and videos are used to teach children vital skills such as reading and mathematics. While these technological advances make a teacher's job easier, some question whether students really need teachers at all. Why not simply put them in front of a computer to learn? After all, people are already doing it  by taking online classes to get their college degree or mastering a foreign language by studying through computer programs such as Rosetta Stone. Maybe a society in which all instruction is given by robots and reinforced by computer programs may be more beneficial in the near future.
The problem with computerizing education, however, is that each student is an individual with a different learning style. Students often need one-on-one guidance from a teacher that understands how to work with each student's unique learning personality. However, this important function is gradually being lost as schools cram more and more students into each classroom and expect teachers to bring them all to the same educational level by the end of the year. Invariably, some students fall behind while others find the work too easy and tune out due to boredom.
If the next generation of students is to succeed, teachers must not be made obsolete. Instead, the teaching profession must break away from the cookie-cutter mold that was so successful in the last century. Instead of expecting all teachers to teach the same way, schools must shift their focus to celebrating individualism. Teachers should be rewarded for using creativity to reach each child in their classroom. This is why standardized testing must no longer be mandatory to judge a students educational capabilities. Instead, each student should be judged on his own merits: where was he at the beginning of the school year, and much did he progress?
The bottom line is that the world today isn't the world of twenty years ago so students won't be able to succeed in this world by learning from old teaching methods. Knowledge rapidly changes in today's world. If teachers are going to keep up with it they must integrate technological advances into their instruction and show students how to use their creativity and critical thinking skills. If they don't do this, teachers will indeed be obsolete, as well as fail to provide students with the education they need and deserve.
-Lindsey Wright 

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