The education system in many schools is not working hard to give students their best future. Within many schools and boards of education, the administrators and teachers are failing to do their best. There is a failure to understand what is being taught and why, and then to share that understanding with students. There is failure in understanding how best to teach, and in exploring to new methods. There is failure to set high standards and expectations, and then achieve them. Schools often seem resigned to mediocrity or worse, and we are not achieving our potential at all.
Many educators treat their work as just a job, not a dream to be passionate about. They put their heads down, and try to get through the day without thinking about it and avoiding as much conflict as possible. That also means avoiding growth and responsibility. Some educators are afraid to challenge peers and the system in order to improve it, because they are afraid to cause trouble. In either case, the educators lose because they feel that they are not doing a job which is worthwhile and successful. More importantly, the students lose because their future is being limited by the adults around them.
Every student has a lot of potential, but when the school fails to encourage the willpower and desire to learn, students become disengaged. When the school fails to encourage personal leadership and self control, the students behave badly. When the school fails to show students that what they are studying is important and why, the students won’t learn. When the school fails to encourage students to believe in themselves, the students give up on themselves.
Second language education is an area that’s really under-achieving in many schools. These subjects cannot be removed from the rest of the school system, and in order to improve them, we must improve the systems they are a part of. Currently, schools are stagnating. The culture of the school as a whole system must improve in order to encourage growth and development. Only then can we focus effectively on individual subjects.
In regards to second language education itself, I think that educators are ignoring a huge fundamental part of the language – Reading. Students rarely, maybe never, learn to read. For example, in Asia, students memorize English words like kanji characters. That’s inefficient. Students must be taught how to read and make the sounds for any word, even if it is new to them. This needs to happen at the same time we teach their first words. Students must be given free access to books.
Why use books? The grammar in a book is often perfect, unlike spoken words. Native language speach is about 100 words per minute. Yet a good reader can do 400 words per minute. By reading, students get far more correct exposure to a language, and quickly improve vocabulary and grammar. They want to understand it, because the material in fiction is much more interesting than textbook examples. People love stories. By introducing books, you’re actually showing students where a foreign language exists, and giving them a reason to understand it. Native children’s books must be introduced into second language classes from the earliest lessons, with both reading aloud from the teacher, and reading alone. Without learning to read, and without having a reason to learn, students will never do any better than they do now.
I also encourage educators to implement far more conversation in classes. Few people enjoy studying textbooks, but they do enjoy speaking to each other, and this native learning style is very popular. Include character building in lessons to make them more relevant and engaging. Don’t move on to new material until students understand old material at a high level. Use old material when introducing new material, so they don’t forget it. Encourage students to teach each other. Use long recitation exercises with recordings of native speakers to improve pronunciation.
Challenge students and show them that you have high expectations for them and that you believe they can achieve those goals. When you have students who want to learn, give them the means to do so on their own. Don’t let them get bored while you’re focused on those who need more help. Make administrators, teachers and parents far more responsible for results.
Education is the foundation of society. It’s the most important system we have. The years we spend as children are precious and shape who we will be for decades as adults. How we teach is often more important than what we’re teaching. We need to stop taking school for granted and realize that those years should be teaching us far more than reading and writing. They should be teaching us how to become the best people we can be, and encouraging our natural desire to become that. When that happens, students Want to learn the reading and writing parts.
If we want to improve society, improve quality of life, improve our ability to not just survive as a community, but thrive as a leading member of the global community, we must have a deep desire to constantly improve our education system. That desire must be stronger than our laziness and our fear. It must conquer our xenophobia. We must engage the very qualities we wish to inspire in our youth.
It’s all possible. More than that, it’s the best way forward. We can do this.