Is the goal of our education system to prepare our children to enter the job market? Does our current system meet those goals? An argument can be made that our education system fails to meet these goals and changes are dearly needed.Our education system has become outdated and too expensive. From the time a child enters kindergarten, the learning process is to get them ready for college. In reality only a small percentage of students will ever attend a college or university. However, our system is to force every student to learn curricula that is required for college entry. We do this in an effort to be fair, so that all students have the same opportunities. What this has really created is an unfair system that does not address the needs of the majority of our students.Education must become tailored to the student’s needs. All students must be taught basic reading, writing and math skills, which should be accomplished before they reach high school. By the time a student reaches high school they should be tested to determine a track for continued education. Unfortunately our education system has stigmatized any form of education that does not include college. This is where the system is unfair as most students would be better off attending a trade school rather than being forced to take classes they are not capable of learning. Students who are not academically inclined should be diverted to schools that teach them job skills. Aptitude tests should be used to determine a students natural abilities. The type of education a student receives should be based solely on testing.In addition, our colleges and universities must also change. Even this education must become more like a trade school and be narrowly targeted to the career the student has elected. Students are graduating from colleges with degrees that do not prepare them for the job they will enter. Our college education system is so broad that it often takes five years to get a four-year degree. This is not necessary and entirely too costly for the student and the country. If a student attends college to become a doctor then teach them what they need to know to be a doctor. Broader areas of education that do not need to be learned to perform the job skill should not be required. Surely half of the currently required classes could be eliminated if our education system was more narrowly tailored to the area of profession chosen by the student. The broad system we currently employ leads to students being saddled with thousands of dollars of debt. This would seem to put the emphasis on funding schools rather than teaching students. Students would be better prepared for the work force if the education system concentrated on the education they needed rather than the broad area of learning we have now.An example of waste in higher education is the requirement to learn a second language. Learning a second language is a worthy part of either lower or higher education. However, students are required to take two years of language courses and a large majority cannot speak the language at the end. If the goal is to teach a second language, then our school system is failing miserably. What should be adopted is one of the commercially available language software programs that teaches you to read and actually speak a language. If students were required to do this for one year, they would become proficient in speaking a second language and the goal would actually be met.With the advent of the Internet the possibilities for teaching our students is endless. The need for brick and mortar schools will become obsolete. Parents will have more options than the current public school system. Schools, colleges and universities will have to adapt in order to exist. Preparing our students to enter the work force should be the goal. Parents can no longer afford the cost of tuition and it is criminal to saddle our students with thousands of dollars of debt before they even enter the work force.Most job creation in this country is done by small businesses. A lot of very successful small business owners do not have college degrees and don’t consider having one to be a great asset to them. Especially when the degree is not tailored to their business. If a college degree is going to be the student’s highest achievement on their resume, shouldn’t it be specific to the job they are seeking?Change is coming whether our educators and government want it or not. We should embrace this change and make educating our children about preparing them for the job market.
The amount of time and effort students and parents put into planning, and how early they get started, are important factors in achieving access to postsecondary education. Schools play a key role in making planning resources, information and opportunities available and accessible. Educators believe that students should start post-high school planning in ninth grade or even earlier, but relatively few students report starting earlier than 10th grade.Young adults who did not continue their education after high school were more likely than others to say they wished they had started planning earlier, and were also more likely to report that they would do something different if they could start over again. Most reported that they would go to college. Among the most helpful approaches that schools take in preparing students for postsecondary education, educators list:- spending class time on college and career planning
– consistent, ongoing individual attention or advising
– goal-oriented personal learning plans, and
– college fairs or parent information nightsEducators working in schools that separate the responsibility for postsecondary education planning from other tasks within the guidance office gave more positive assessments of their schools’ ability to provide post-high school planning assistance for students of all ability levels. From a list of planning activities, students and young adults rate guidance counselor meetings as the most helpful (although they rate parents and teachers as more helpful with planning overall). Parents rate college campus visits, closely followed by meetings with guidance counselors, as the most helpful activity. Meeting with their child’s guidance counselor is the only planning activity that parents of General/Voc Prep students are as likely as other parents to have done. While virtually all current students report having regularly scheduled meetings with guidance counselors, only 74% report having had a serious discussion with a guidance counselor or teacher about their plans for the future. Only two-thirds of the young adults surveyed reported that their high school offered regularly scheduled guidance counselor meetings.Discussions about access to higher education often focus on financial considerations, and many of those surveyed expressed concern about college affordability and financial aid. Nearly three-quarters of parents surveyed say they are discouraged by the rising costs of college, but very few (only 7%) say their child won’t be able to attend because of costs. Roughly one-third of students and parents say that it is likely that money will be the determining factor in whether or not they (or their children) go to college. About one half of students and fully 68% of parents say that money will determine which college they (or their children) choose. Three in ten young adults report that money was a very significant factor in determining what they did directly after high school, regardless of where in they live. Students who went on to a two-year college, technical or trade school were roughly twice as likely as those who went to four-year college to say that money was a very significant factor. Most students (78%) express a willingness to take on loans in order to pay for college. While most parents (72%) support the idea of their children incurring debt to finance college, fewer (59%) are willing themselves to take on education loans for their children. Although most students and parents report that they will need significant financial aid to pay for college, some do not believe that they will qualify for scholarships or grants to help pay for college. Parents who did not go to college and parents of General/Voc Prep track students are more likely than others to believe that saving for their child’s college education would jeopardize the family’s eligibility for financial aid.Students who are proactive in college planning and those who have parents who are actively involved are at a distinct advantage in terms of fulfilling their postsecondary education goals. Many students and parents, however, appear to be approaching the post-high school planning process passively, waiting for schools or others to prompt their planning efforts and for information to come to them. Another key implication of these findings is that first-generation college families are in need of particular attention and resources. Students without a parent or sibling who has gone to college face great challenges in forming college aspirations and in navigating the college planning process. Every first-generation student who successfully moves on to college represents a family no longer facing this barrier in the future, so resources invested in this area are likely to reap great rewards. Some students appear to have experiences in high school that are very encouraging and supportive of their postsecondary education goals. These experiences combine a high level of proactive involvement in both school and planning by the students themselves and their parents with effective programs and resources provided by the school.Broaden the notion of “college” and promote the idea that college is for everyone, not just a select few. College planning activities at school should include all the postsecondary education options in order to improve educators’, students’ and parents’ knowledge of and access to information about two-year colleges and technical college programs. Where feasible, separate the responsibility for postsecondary education planning from other functions in high school guidance offices to help them better assist students at all levels with post-high school planning. Provide more structure and more options for post-high school planning: incorporate planning into class time, assign students to a teacher who acts as an advisor throughout high school and schedule regular meetings, and make some planning activities mandatory. Improve post-high school planning and expectations for all students, particularly those in the College Prep and General/Voc Prep academic tracks: start planning earlier-no later than ninth grade, individualize planning activities, and include parents in the process. Help parents and students to understand the importance of being proactively involved and to identify the concrete steps they can take to stay on course.Creating an environment of support for postsecondary education is critical. Schools, families, community members, and employers can all play important roles.- Schools and families can send and reinforce the message that college is for everyone.
– Community members and businesses can serve as mentors, open their doors to interns, and help to coordinate service-learning projects.
– Employers can provide information and resources for college and financial planning, and provide employees with time off to attend guidance counselor meetings and visit college campuses.
– Colleges and universities can expand outreach in their local communities and invite students and parents to campus to provide as a hands-on introduction to college rather than as a recruiting tool.Finally, better information and resources are needed to effectively address families’ concerns about the cost and affordability of college. Our analysis points to three specific steps that could make a positive difference.- Demystify the system of college financial aid and correct some parents’ misperceptions. In particular, some parents expressed the belief that saving for college limits a family’s eligibility for financial aid. The government and colleges should make the rules they use to determine financial aid eligibility more transparent.
– Improve knowledge about student loan programs and borrowing options for parents. Families may not be sufficiently aware of available loan subsidies, and may need advice about “safe” borrowing levels for students.
– Make more need-based scholarships and financial aid available. We heard concern from students that they will not qualify for scholarships or other financial aid. Only a very small proportion of students can be at the top of any given class. Broadening the availability of scholarships will provide a practical resource to more students who need financial help while reinforcing the critical message that college is attainable and appropriate for them.Given that a person with a college degree earns over $1 million more in his or her lifetime than a person with a high school diploma, the economic benefits to the state of improving the college-going rate are tangible.While boosting the proportion of adults with college degrees will also require improving college retention and promoting continuing education for the adult workforce, there are several concrete steps that can be taken. Students and parents readily acknowledge their responsibility for planning, but many- particularly those who are the first in their family to attend college-do not appear prepared to do this on their own. Here are our suggestions:- Capitalize on the key role guidance counselors play in postsecondary education planning. Where feasible, separate post-high school planning from other responsibilities in high school guidance offices.
– To create more opportunities for parental involvement in planning, develop alternate schedules that would include evening office hours for some guidance counselors.
– Expand post-high school planning efforts to include high school faculty, not just the guidance office. More individual attention and more time devoted to planning is part of the consistent oversight and input that students say that they want and acknowledge that they need.
– Encourage parents’ employers to participate.
– Enlist the support of local businesses. Businesses can give students much-needed opportunities to conduct career exploration.
– Encourage community members who can provide resources – whether it’s sharing their experiences with college preparation, providing financial planning expertise, or offering to serve as mentors – to contact local high schools to offer that help.
– Get local colleges involved. These experiences provide students with a more tangible sense of what college is like and an opportunity to see themselves as college students.
– Those with resources to provide or support scholarships – individuals or corporations.
– Colleges and governmental agencies should continue efforts to clarify and publicize financial aid eligibility criteria as well as information about student and parental education loans. High schools and community/business resources can help provide the kind of individual attention that is needed by students and parents in navigating the world of financial aid. This kind of support is particularly critical for first-generation college students.
It’s January, and that means the start of a new school year in South Africa. In less than a week, students (or learners, as they’re called in South Africa) and teachers will fill classrooms, hoping to embark on a new year of learning, enlightenment, and growth. It’s a good time for students to ride the momentum gained with last year’s record-breaking high school pass rate. For those of us in the United States, Canada, and other Western countries, it’s a good time to learn about the educational experiences that our young South African friends will have this year.Primary education is mandatory in South Africa. According to the country’s Constitution, South Africa has an obligation to make education available and accessible. All South Africans have the right to a basic education, including adult basic education and further education.School in South Africa begins in grade 0, or grade R. It’s the equivalent of our kindergarten, a time of school preparation and early childhood socialization. Grades 0 to 9 make up General Education and Training, followed by Further Education and Training (FET) from grades 10 to 12. Students either stay in high school during this time, or enter more specialized FET institutions with an emphasis on career-oriented education and training. After passing the nationally-administered Senior Certificate Examination, or “matric,” some students will continue their education at the tertiary level, working towards degrees up to the doctoral level. Over a million students are enrolled in South Africa’s 24 state-funded colleges and universities.With a solid educational structure in place, South Africa continues the long and arduous process of overcoming the discriminatory legacy left behind by 40 years of apartheid education. Under that system, white South African children received a quality schooling virtually for free. Black students, on the other hand, had access only to “Bantu education”, a system based on the unjust philosophy that there was no place in South African society for black Africans “above certain forms of labor” (a quote attributed to HF Verwoerd, the architect of the Bantu Education Act of 1953). In the 1970s, government spending on black education was one-tenth of spending on whites. By the 1980s, teacher to pupil ratios in primary schools averaged 1:18 in white schools and 1:39 in black schools. Even the standards for education were different between black and while schools: while 96 percent of all teachers in white schools had teaching certificates, only 15 percent of teachers in black schools were certified. Not surprisingly during apartheid, high school graduation rates for black students were less than half the rate for whites.Bantu education was abolished with the end of apartheid in 1994. Nevertheless, South Africa continues to struggle with inequality and educational disparities. Seventeen years after the end of apartheid, the vast majority of poor black children are denied a quality education at severely deprived public schools. Over three-quarters of these schools do not have libraries, and even more do not have a computer. Around 90 percent of public schools have no science laboratory, and more than half of all pupils either have no text books or have to share them. Over a quarter of public schools do not even having running water.More affluent South Africans (read: White South Africans, along with a small but growing contingent from the black middle class) can afford to send their children to so-called former “Model C” schools, publicly funded schools that were previously allowed only for white students. These schools charge extra school fees to supplement teachers’ salaries and buy extra resources. Not surprisingly, these former white-only schools have far superior facilities and quality of education.School outcomes tell the story of South Africa’s educational inequalities. In 2009 just over half of black students passed the high school final exam, compared with 99 percent of whites. Of the South African population over 20 years old, 65 percent of those who are white and only 14 percent of those who are black have a high school degree or higher. The disparities remain at the university level. Although black Africans account for 80 percent of the whole South African population, they make up less than half of all university students. Less than one in 20 black South Africans ends up with a degree, compared with almost half of all whites.Poor and orphaned children, such as those at St. Vincent Children’s Home, are particularly vulnerable to the discrepancies evident in South African education. It is impossible for these children to access the quality of education available to more advantaged students. Despite high aspirations and exceptional potential, they simply cannot afford to attend schools outside of those in the crowded black townships or poor rural areas where they reside. Without a quality education, they are unable to escape their lives of poverty, allowing these inequalities to continue generation after generation. The need for outside assistance, such as that offered by the Khanyisela Scholarship, is critical. So what will the next South African school year bring besides learning, enlightenment, and growth? Equality and justice, thanks to you and your support of the Khanyisela Scholarship.