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Overview Of Education At A Crossroad

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Introduction

Waking up in the morning, packing the backpack, catching an early bus, chatting with friends, sitting through long hours of classes, doing homework, studying for tests. That is a regime that most of us have followed for many years. We go to school to educate ourselves, become bright people with many opportunities waiting for us. We rarely question if this is the best way to become successful or even to learn. Many argue that it is not the case, that there are better alternatives for public schools and that universities are not the only way to reach our carrier goals. Given that education is something that unites all people, it is a topic of great importance. The state of education influences all spheres of public life and therefore the care for its condition is justified. In this paper I would like to prove the thesis that, public primary, secondary education holds a great value and is the most reliable source of education as well as revise the criticism directed towards universities and indicate that it is often invalid. This paper is divided into two parts. First one discusses the topic of primary and secondary education, second one is devoted to higher education. I will start by presenting alternatives for public elementary and secondary education and explaining why they are not a good replacement for traditional educational system. Later I will focus on universities, their role, characteristics, and current condition and how they have been evolving. Each of the parts is finished with a subconclusion.

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Criticism Of Public Education

It is hard to argue that free access to primary and secondary education is a great privilege, but there is also a lot of criticism around it. Current state of public education is in need of improvement. Methods used in school are outdated, school environment is unfriendly to the student, and the result is as stated by Basham and colleagues worst performance by students in public schools than by those who are being home-schooled (as cited in Blok & Karsten, 2011). Studies show that teachers do not want parents to be involved in education of their children, they would rather see them in a role of their supporters (Karlsen Bæck, 2010) Those parents who want to be more active and want to influence what is happening to their children, when they are at school might have trouble communicating with the teachers. That lack of control is one of the reasons that home-schooling is by some regarded as a great alternative for public education, but let’s not forget that it also has multiple downsides.

CRITICISM OF HOME-SCHOOL EDUCATION

Study on 14 European countries (Blok & Karsten, 2011) shows, that there is often lack of control over what and how are kids being taught in a home-school environment. That is worrying, because it enables parents to present the material in very subjective way or purposely not expose their kids with some elements of curriculum that is used in public education institutions. In schools students are taught by multiple teachers. Some of them will infect them with the passion to their subject, other will fail to do that, but nevertheless students are exposed to different teaching methods, perspectives and ways of thinking. I believe that this kind of experience is crucial while formulating individual belief system. It is hard to stay open minded when constantly exposed to the same opinions and being supervised by parents. Home-schooling ignores this part of school experience and on top of that assumes that it is only parents’ responsibility to provide kids with education, when in fact it is responsibility of the whole society (Tilak, 2012). We all benefit from well-educated and prepared for life teenagers, because they are the hope and future of our society. The public educational system is paid for by tax payers and therefore society should have a right to demand that students will be educated in a way that bring benefit to it. State provides children with access to free education that is believed to prepare students to be “good citizens”. Home-schooling system simply ignores the social aspect of education, understood both as being part of the group, learning with and from each other and as an agreement between citizens and understanding education as a privilege and an obligation.

Criticism Of Private Education

Another alternative for public education institutions are private schools. It seems to be middle ground between home-schooling and public school, as it gives parents more control over what and how are their kids being taught and treated by teachers. Children can interact with each other and learn in friendlier environment. There is however one prominent disadvantage of private schools. They often gather members of one religious group. I do understand that religious parents want their kids to be familiar with their belief system and participate in life of religious community, but I think that education and religion should not be tightly connected. Children in public schools interact mostly with kids from their neighbourhood and although does not ensure big variety in terms of religious beliefs or social background, but at least it is not a homogenous group. Parents choosing to send their children to private religious schools might prioritise their comfort over the right for independence of their kids.

Value Of Public Education

Public education, although not perfect has many advantages. First of all it is accessible for everyone and free of charge. That is a characteristic in my opinion significantly more valuable than slight superiority in performance or in results of standardized tests, as it does not divide children into any categories, either based on their parent’s income or qualifications. Another quality of public education is that it enables children to interact with each other and develop practical and highly valued social skills such as ability to compromise and communicate. Functioning in school environment requires acting according to multiple rules and that might be perceived as a disadvantage of public educational system, because it is linked to controlling children’s imagination and creativity, but it also prepares kids for challenges of being an adult that requires following the law and multiple different regulations. The purpose of public education goes far beyond acquisition on knowledge. According to Bárcena, Gil, & Jover: “In today’s world, school has become a context for socialization and transmission of values”. (as cited in Sotés-Elizalde & Urpí, 2015).

Subconclusion

I believe that, due to a lack of strict supervision and exposure to contact with peers home-schooling is not a trustworthy alternative for public education. I do understands some reasons why parents don’t want their children to attend public school. I do think that methods used currently in public schools should be improved and adjusted to the modern times, but in my opinion the value of public educations lays not only in providing students with information, but also in interaction with other children, getting familiar with rules and values acceptable by a society and being exposed to different opinions and beliefs. Based on the last argument I also deny private schools as suitable alternative for public schools. I conclude that public primary and secondary education does not have a reliable replacement that would not ignore key factors that make up for the values of this experience.

Criticism Of Current Satate Of Higher Education

Primary and secondary education institutions are not the only ones that are being criticised. Universities have to frequently face the allegation of not being suited for modern times. An opinion supported by Chanphirun Sam and Peter van der Sijde is that the job market is changing so rapidly, that the Universities are simply unable to respond to all the novelties and that the students are graduating, while being unprepared for challenges that they will have to face in the future (2014). The most disapproval is directed toward courses of studies directly linked to the newest technology, as that field is changing the fastest. Private lessons and online courses are presented as more compatible with technological innovations and changes in the labour market.

There are also issues involving current state of universities that are not linked to not being able to prepare students for the labour market. Research shows that there is a decline of trust and confidence in universities as institution (Patel, 2004). This to me is a very serious danger. I recognise that as a true crisis of higher education institutions and therefore a crisis of objectivity and truth. It is undesirable for the society that the universities will lose the status of reliable source of information. Way of reasoning and proving acceptable in academia requires precision, consideration and striving for objectivity. If the scientific research will be carried out of the universities and funded by private investors there is a danger that it will be more subjective and the results will be adjusted to the advantage of the investor. University can be defined as “community of scholars teaching, learning and pursuing scholarly inquires that spring from curiosity”(Chan, 2017). The fact that the impulse, even if only in the idealized scenario, comes from curiosity and not desire for profit or personal appreciation proves the superiority of universities. Higher education institutions just as everything around us are changing, but the quality of those adjustments is worrisome. There are some tendencies in how universities evolve. The disturbing aspect is that they seem to become more profit-oriented (Tilak, 2015).

Sternghts Of Universities

One of the biggest strengths of higher education institutions is that the information presented has to come from highly reliable source and this is linked to the time it takes to change the curriculum. That longer response time is not a big disadvantage in most fields of studies. The expectation that higher education institutions should be trustworthy, modern, embedded in tradition and responsive to the slightest changes in the labour market, all at once, is simply unrealistic. In some ways universities are above the changes that occur in the world, because one of their roles is to transmit truths and values that are timeless. On the other hand higher education’s institutions also are meant to prepare young people for future work. From that perspective universities are only trying to catch up with the modern world. University degree might not always be the greatest confirmation of skills, but for some professions it is a crucial way of proving that someone has legitimate knowledge and can be trusted while making decisions that involve high risk. No one can become a doctor, lawyer or civil engineer without completing higher education.

It is important to notice that it is not the case, that universities are not related and not responsible for the innovations in modern world. Scientific research at universities has for centuries been and still is a source of technological innovations and ideas that have a power to transform lives of people all over the world (Chan, 2017). Universities are said to be in a state of crisis, the value of higher education is being questioned. That might create an impression that spending few years in a college is an ineffective way of preparing for the future and does not guarantee success. That depends on how success is defined. Examples of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are often being mentioned while discussing the efficiency of higher education. I believe that this argument has multiple weak points. First and for most an example in not a proof, the fact that there are people who have achieved financial success without graduating from university, does not mean that universities are useless. Secondly not every person dreams of earning huge sums of money in extremely responsible position as the head and founder of tech company. University is definitely not a perfect formula for financial success and fulfilment, but I also do not think that they should strive to become such a place. The value of universities lays in my opinion mostly in the ideas they promote and seriousness and passion in scientific research. I perceive universities as a place of self-growth and forming a worldview and even exclusively for these reasons they will stay relevant for many years to come as.

Subconculsion

I believe that the allegation that universities are not adapted to the modern times I valid only for the small group of specialisations. The true risk is however the lack of trust in universities and emphasis put on generating profit. Role of universities is to cultivate values such as passion for research and knowledge or striving for the truth and objectivity and creating an environment that enables young people to develop their opinions and mind-set. As long higher education institutions stay dedicated to this mission, they can be trusted as providers of education.

Conclusion

Going to primary and secondary school and later to a university means more than just knowledge acquisitions. These all are experiences that shape us and help developing our individual opinions. It is reasonable and understandable that students want to leave school prepared for the challenges of labour market and this is why I don’t judge those choosing to refrain from higher education and deciding to educate themselves outside of higher education institutions. The decision to study at the university should be well informed and made having in mind individuals life goals. I do not think that everyone should attend university. However the value and importance of primary and secondary education in public school, makes me believe that it is the most trustworthy way of gaining useful basic knowledge as well as learning social skills and forming individual worldview.

18 May 2020

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