US Schools: Why they’re different and How they practice innovation
“If you want your child to get good education, send him to USA.” Said every relative ever.
“If you want your child to get good placements, send him to USA.” Said every neighbor ever.
“If you want your child to have a good life, send him to USA.” Said every person ever.
Hearing that persistent praise for USA, over and over again, from family, friends and the random person you met at the grocery store, don’t you ever jump beyond the convention and try to figure out why people everywhere are in love with the US schools anyway? If so, then this article is the right place to find an answer. And if not, go ahead and read nevertheless, because sooner or later that person you’re talking to in a party after an year is going to force you to send your kid to a US school anyway.
“Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.” –Bobby Unser
Kindergarten: Alphabets. Numbers. Play.
Junior School: Stories. Math. Hindi. Environmental Studies. Play.
Middle School: English. Hindi. Science. Social Studies. Play.
High School: Science. Commerce. Humanities. No Play.
That’s how things work in India. Parents enroll their kids to schools, the kids are told by the teachers what they’re supposed to do, and as they grow up, they follow the curriculum that the school provides them, and accept it for what it is.
Here’s where schools like SAMI (Science and Math Institute) do things better and why our education system can learn from it.
While we’re pushing our kids into a forced education system, they give them the opportunity to choose what they want to do. Most high schools in USA let children chose their own subjects from Junior School itself. They don’t force them to study geography when they’re already in love with math. Having that choice from an early age helps their brain to develop and understand their interest areas in their childhood, so that they can build them up, and not sleep on the last bench while a subject they hate is being taught.
The US also gives an opportunity to involve in a club based system. If a geeky Video Editing kid does not have a subject that teaches Video Editing, he can go ahead and form a club for it, collecting a bunch of kids and together learning video editing techniques. But in India, we have 5 extracurricular activities to choose from, 3 of which are about mainstream sports and other 2 about mainstream art. So the future brilliant Video Editor of an Indian School will never be able to build his talent.
Okay, I know you’re just the School Principal or the School teacher and it isn’t in your power to change the entire education system of our country. But hey, you can still make a difference. You can give your students a chance to do what they really want during the extra periods, and you can provide them at least some resources to help them build their interest areas. Your support and encouragement for the passion of your children will help them achieve a lot more than you think it would- plus, you’ll have one less child sleeping on the back bench!
“Creative thinking inspires ideas. Ideas inspire change.” –Barbara Januszkiewicz
If you get good marks, people will respect you. If you get great marks, you’ll make it to a good college. If you get the best marks, you’ll be the kid who’d be portrayed as an example in every Indian House by every Indian mother out there. So, how can students get marks? Simple, attend all the classes at school, rattafy everything your teachers tells you to and revise as much as you can. Or in even more simple words, kill all of your creativity and learn the curriculum you’re forced into. Say hello to the system of standardized testing. It’s the easiest way to force the next Michael Jackson of the class into becoming an engineer.
And now, you’re about to read how the US schools nourish their Michael Jackson while you’re busy forcing him to learn that mathematical equation you never yourself did in your childhood.
In 2015, the Obama Administration called on the schools to stop “over testing” children from K-12 and engage only 2% of the classroom time in testing. When the popular academies of the US, like the Seattle Academy, enforced this measure, the result was fascinating. This measure stopped killing the child’s innovation, and instead encouraged it. Instead of forced rote learning of a topic, the child was allowed to think beyond- and come up with ideas. They could also take out the time to engage in activities of personal interests, and explore new things.
Yes, I know. You’re not Obama and you may not be Narendra Modi. You won’t make laws for the country. But you still have the best job in the world- you’re a teacher. You still have the power to limit the number of tests from 10 to 5. And in limiting the number of tests, you’re buying these kids the most precious thing in the world- Time!
Instead of watching kids put together in a classroom and locked like prisoners, giving an examination they have absolutely no clue about (some of them are trying to keep their eyes open, some are looking at the classroom ceiling for inspiration, and the others are trying new strategies to look at the sheet of the class topper), you can engage them in an activity that really interests them- and improve their creativity. They’ll be active and relieved of being released from the prison- and end up learning new things.
“Individuality is freedom lived.” – John Dos Passos
Remember your time back to High School (It’s embarrassing, I know, but still do it). Remember the faces of those you studied with. Where are they now? Some of them may have ended up becoming lawyers, some might have ended up becoming artists, and some may be entrepreneurs today. But in all the different lives you lead today- you were once sitting in the same classroom, studying the same things.
The same is true for the kids you teach today. They’re all different, and they’ll end up in different paths. But our schools fall the last in line when it comes to respecting individuality.
“Get a good percentage in 12th, and you’ll end up perfectly in life.”
This line becomes the defining principle of the lives of our kids, and the reason why our country does not produce the best actors, the best dancers, or the best photographers.
Because acting, dancing and photography are not the subjects taught at school- and they do not end up deciding your percentage.
But this approach is not adopted in the John Stanford School- which is one the most renowned schools of the US. In these schools, children are given the chance to earn College credit during High School years, by taking advanced classes they love. So by the time they reach college, they’ve already accomplished a lot in the field they have to pursue ultimately. In fact, most US colleges see the students applying to their universities as separate individuals rather than just a score.
You, as a teacher, may not be able to teach a kid in your batch who loves math high level calculus, but you can start respecting their individuality. You can encourage them to chase what they believe in, and move beyond the syllabus they are forced to study.
So, by now you’ll have a fair idea as to why the US education system offers their students something more than what we do- and how it is in our power to give them the same by our efforts. These efforts will not just mould these kids, but they’ll mould the very future of our country.