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Ideal Educational System

Ideal Educational System

8 September, 2016

Education is one of the most important things for a society to prosper and be safe. It forms the character and intelligence of individuals. But how should governments structure their educational system to educate their country’s children in an optimum way?
There are remarkable differences in the content and the way things are taught in schools around the world, and even in the so-called developed countries. But one sure thing is that no country possesses a perfect education system, and IMO, the education level has been decreasing, while children and teenagers have alongside become more difficult and better protected by their parents than before. As a result, school becomes less strict and less efficient.

Europe vs Japan’s Educational System

Comparing the purpose of education in Japan and Europe, I realized that the main difference was that European go to school to learn and graduate with an expected amount of knowledge and reasoning skills (analysis, logic, critical skills, skepticism, etc.). The Japanese system teaches more how to behave in society, interact with people in a group and some factual knowledge based especially on memory.
There isn’t one right system, for what one has, the other lacks. Japanese stress the importance of harmony over intelligence for itself. That is why it is extremely rare for a pupil/student to fail a year, while it happens in almost every class in Europe. I understand that in a society based on group harmony and not distinguishing oneself, it would be very traumatizing for a Japanese to be the only one to fail, and feel completely excluded from the group. As a result, nobody fails! That seems too easy, but it certainly has the advantage of releasing the pressure and avoiding children to develop psychological problems or anti-social behavior (as often happens with repeaters in the West).
The Western mentality insists that anybody who doesn’t reach the expected knowledge or reasoning skill level should be punished and fail. The advantage is that students fear losing a year of their life (+ consequences to find a job later) and try harder to assimilate the knowledge and theoretically obey better the teacher for fear of failing because of misbehavior (a serious weapon teacher have on students).
Furthermore, harmony in a strongly individualistic society where difference and originality is valued (like in most of Western countries) can only be achieved among like-minded people. So the only way to increase harmony and increase socialization is by grouping similar people together, as I will explain below.
Combining the two aspects: the ideal system
So, shall we promote a stable psychology and socialization (Japan), or high intellectual exigency and the pressure that goes with it (Europe)?
I believe the ideal system is a combination of both, but including 2 important new factors that are usually not presents in most schools in Europe and Japan.
Firstly, classes should be divided by ability. The advantage is that it is more efficient, as good student are more motivated and don’t feel slowed down by the rest, and less good students can spend more time on weaker subjects until they understand them. As of course most people have strong and weak subjects (some are good at everything or bad at everything, but they are few), each subject should have about 3 levels (strong, average, weak), and students should join according to their performance in each of them. So, if some is very good at math, average at history and weak at languages, then they should join the appropriate class level for each subject.
But should the year-end exams be the same for all levels? There are 2 possibilities:
1) Different exams for each level, leading to different certifications at the end. Completing one education cycle (3 or 6 years), the students would get a certification mentioning which level course they have followed (and passed the exam) for each subject. That has the other advantage that employers would know immediately the real strength and weakness of the person they recruit, and for students to choose more easily their college/university orientation and the carrier that best fit their capabilities.
2) Same exams, but different number of hours depending on the ability. Good students would have less hours to study the same thing, so more free time, either to study weaker subjects, or if there aren’t any, just to relax or go back home earlier. That is an excellent motivation for people to take the most difficult course and concentrate hard, so that they have to spend less time at school. But not everybody is able to, and teachers should direct the students to classes matching their ability if they can’t realize it by themselves.
The point of both systems is to release pressure on too difficult subjects and give the opportunity to learn more in what one is good at. Students could be allowed to change class level within the year, if they realized it is too easy or too difficult. That would also reduce dramatically the failure rate at school, and improve social relationships, as students would be with other people of similar intelligence, abilities and interest. This would be reinforced by my second point hereinafter.
Secondly, schools should give a wide range of options to the students, with a minimum requirement in each subject. For this the government’s curriculum has to be flexible enough and not to complete. It is usually ok in Europe, but the Japanese Ministry of Education is notorious for deciding the exact content of everything and limiting the use of school books to only a few government-approved ones. In comparison, European teachers (maybe not everywhere?), have the freedom to use any book they want, approved or not, decide more or less what they teach and even create their own materials (most of my teachers distributed photocopies of documents that they had written themselves or didn’t use any book at all, which would only get the teachers fired and have serious problems in Japan, have I been told).
The idea is to give the students the opportunity to learn what they like best, or at least to have more hours of their favorite subjects. This system is already the norm in most English-speaking countries, but is much less developed in continental Europe, where all students must learn all subjects, and can usually only choose to have a few more or less hours a week of some subjects (like math, sciences or languages). But they are almost always allowed to choose at least their foreign languages (the number of choices vary depending on the school itself) and some options not in the curriculum (e.g. psychology, economy. arts, electricity…).
I think the best system should have a minimum requirement for important subjects such as math, one’s mother tongue, history, geography, sciences and maybe even some economy (e.g. like how to manage one’s money or how to pay one’s taxes) or psychology (e.g. how to study more effectively or analyze one’s personality). In addition, people should select some options or more hours of the mandatory subjects. That is the best way of motivating students, and not have them fall asleep in class or feel school is useless.
The ideal school system should divide students by abilities, give them the possibility to change class level according to how they follow, so as to reduce the failure rate and increase socialization, but also be able to choose options quite early based on their interest so as to stimulate their motivation, and further increase socialization. The government should give enough freedom to schools and teachers to achieve this, while keeping a minimum curriculum for important subjects.