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Education: Quality not Quantity

As one who has been attending classes every semester since kindergarten (and hopes to teach until death), the topic of education interests me greatly. While I am especially interested in working out theological issues related to education, the following story caught my attention and is relevant to education in general.

Apparently, President Obama has suggested that American children should be spending more time in school if they’re to keep up with children in other countries. Recollecting this fact and others, an article from the AP clarifies an important issue:

While it is true that kids in many other countries have more school days, it’s not true they all spend more time in school.

Kids in the U.S. spend more hours in school (1,146 instructional hours per year) than do kids in the Asian countries that persistently outscore the U.S. on math and science tests – Singapore (903), Taiwan (1,050), Japan (1,005) and Hong Kong (1,013). That is despite the fact that Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong have longer school years (190 to 201 days) than does the U.S. (180 days).

Now I’m not suggesting adding school hours is a bad idea. I recognize the advantages and disadvantages on both sides of the argument. I think the major obstacle in public schools (as one who attended K-12th grade in a public school and soon after spent 5 years ministering to mostly public school youth) is the social priorities of adolescents. Complex social factors in the lives of children and teenagers definitely affect the impact of the education they receive. The intense social pressures in many public schools often become the primary focus for students.

I also worry that we are expecting too much from public schools and not enough from parents. Parents must continue to educate their own children in the home and help their children understand the role of the public education they receive (if they attend a public school). I suspect that many students show up to school distracted by social pressures they face and with little incentive for getting the most out each day. If this is true, more of the same will not help. Quality is what we need.

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