I really like Chinese food. Whenever I find myself hankering for some wonton soup and shrimp fried rice, I always to to a Chinese restaurant, because it only makes sense to me to do so.
Having been an educator for more than 40 years, I would also look to schools for the education of children, nothing more and nothing less. However, that is not the case as schools are being pressed to take over more and more of what should be done at home including the care and feeding of children.
I recently read a very interesting piece by Thomas L. Friedman who writes for The New York Times regarding education in Shanghai, China. In part, he was trying to find out why Shanghai’s public secondary schools topped the world charts in the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) exams that measure the ability of 15-year-olds in 65 countries to apply what they’ve learned in math, science and reading. This should be of high interest to those of us in the U.S. in that we have been trying to increase student performance in those areas since the National Defense Education Act was passed in the 1950s as a result of the Russia pulling ahead in the space race with Sputnik.
Friedman visited Shanghai’s Qiangwei Primary School, with 754 students — grades one through five — and 59 teachers. He found one of the answers he was seeking in simple student to teacher ratio. The school he visited has an average of less than 13 students per teacher. Class sizes are routinely double that in America’s public schools, especially in the wake of recent budget cuts in just about every state in the nation.
In addition, the following conditions are found throughout the school:
-A relentless focus on all the basics that have been found in any high-performing schools:
-A deep commitment to teacher training, peer-to-peer learning and constant professional development.
-A deep involvement of parents in their children’s learning.
-An insistence by the school’s leadership on the highest standards.
-A culture that prizes education and respects teachers.
Two factors jump off the page in those findings. Parents have to be involved in the education of their children and the education process, itself, and teachers are respected. One might say that in Chinese culture these are revered.
In the school studied, the principal reported that teachers spent 70 percent of their time teaching and 30 percent planning and participating in professional development. They are not monitoring lunch room, covering study halls or reviewing bicycle safety with kids (parents do that at home.)
Additionally, teachers report that part of their job is “parent training.” Parents come to the school three to five times per semester to develop computer skills so they can better help their children with homework and follow lessons online. Another teacher reported that she tries to chat either by phone or online with the parents of each student two or three times a week to keep them abreast of their child’s progress.
Schools will never be able to do it alone. They were not created nor are they now prepared to raise children. That should be left to parents. Schools are in place to educate children and teachers are trained to do that.
No reasonable person would go to into a Chinese restaurant and expect to get Italian food. It also seems that no one in China will go into a school and expect to find parenting being done there. That is done at home.
Dr. John Metallo is a retired teacher and administrator. Among the positions he has held are principal of Albany High School and adjunct instructor at the University at Albany and SUNY Plattsburgh. He lives in Slingerlands and can be reached at 577-7530.