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Education (an Economic Issue)


Introduction

In order to survive in our world, we need to learn many different things. Unlike many other animals, we humans do not have as many built in instincts to help us survive. Although we do start out more vulnerable and dependent on others, we have a much larger capacity for learning and adapting to our environment than other animals, which is what has given us an advantage over most other creatures.

With our ever increasingly complex and technological society, getting a good education is growing more and more important. Not only do we need to continue to learn more in order to survive, but we need to keep learning ever greater amounts of information in order to prosper. Of course, with the greater amounts of knowledge that our civilization has accumulated, we now have the opportunity for greater prosperity than our ancestors had.

Over a lifetime, an average person today needs to learn more than one of our average ancestors did. Not only do we need to learn more, but we now need to keep learning throughout our lives. In the past, our civilization and its technology were changing much more slowly than they are today, so older people back then could more easily get by with what they had learned when they were young. Today, things are changing much faster, so we need to keep learning in order to keep up with all the changes.

Starting School

With more to learn over our lifetimes, it would make sense for us to get started learning as soon as possible. Instead of waiting to start school at some set age, it would be better to allow children to start learning in school as soon as they are ready. In many instances this may be at a younger age than many children start today.

One big hindrance to letting a child start school as soon as he or she is ready, is the fact that most schools only start classes once a year. For instance, if a child shows that he or she is ready sometime just after the school year has already started, then that child would currently have to wait until the start of the next school year. Therefore, we need to change our school schedules so that children can start at different times during the year.

Quarters

Even though it would be really nice if a child could start school at any time during the year, or at least once every month, a more realistic approach may be to start classes once every quarter. In order to do this, the school calendar would need to be stretched out so that it is year round. Instead of one long summer break, there would be shorter breaks after each quarter. Even with a few holidays thrown in each quarter, a 180 day (36 week) school year could still allow a 3 or 4 week vacation break between each quarter.

Along with the benefit of being able to start school at almost any time during the school year, there are many other benefits that would or could come with breaking up the school year into quarters. For instance, with a year round school year, students would retain more of what they had leaned over the shorter quarterly breaks as opposed to a longer summer break, so less time would be lost getting back up to speed when they returned to class. In addition, people who would prefer to take a vacation in the fall, winter or spring instead of the summer would now have that opportunity.

In addition, classes could be broken up into different lengths depending on how much there was to learn in each unit of material. Some classes might only last one quarter, other classes might need to be taught over two or three quarters, while other classes might need four or more quarters to be properly taught and learned.

As children get older or become more mature, they could gain greater control over their class schedules and could make more adjustments to them based on their individual needs and goals. Each quarter, students might take different course loads depending on what classes they were taking, how fast they wanted to progress or what extracurricular activities, like sports, work or travel, they were involved in.

If for some reason, a student needed to miss a lot of school and could not catch up. Quarters would make it much easier for the student to start back up the next quarter rather than needing to wait for the start of the next school year. Losing a quarter is far less disruptive than losing an entire year. With some flexibility in class loads, it would also be much easier for a student to catch up to where he or she would have been if they had not missed some school time.

Advancement

With quarters and more flexible class scheduling, students could advance in different subjects at different speeds depending on their individual abilities. Many classes could still be associated with a given “grade” level, but students could take them when they were ready and not when they reached a certain grade level. Some students may want to progress faster in some subjects that they really enjoy or are really good at than in other subjects. By advancing faster in a given subject, a student might then be able to take some additional optional classes in that subject later on.

With our current system of grade levels, there can be a problem with students that fail in one or more classes while doing well in others. If the student takes summer classes, they may be able make up the work and still advance to the next grade. Of course, some students are advanced to the next grade even when they are not ready. If a student is held back, they may be able to pass the classes they previously failed, but they may be forced to retake classes that they had already done well in, which may stifle some of their enthusiasm for those subjects.

Retaking a failed class is much easier with quarters and flexible class scheduling. If a student fails in one class or more classes, they would need to retake those classes, but they could still advance in other subjects. Therefore, students can advance at a pace that best suits their abilities in each subject.

With students advancing at different rates in different subjects, they could end up taking classes at many different levels. For instance, one student many be taking higher level Math classes, while struggling in a lower level English class. Another student may be behind in Math, but be way ahead in English. There could also be big differences in what level a student is in his or her classes for History, Science and other subjects.

Progress

With students not being tied to taking specific classes when they are at specific grade levels, they would not be advancing from grade to grade in the same way that they would now. Therefore, we would need a new method of judging progress. For instance, if we assumed that a given number of hours or units of specific classes are needed to be successfully passed in order to graduate, then we could use a percentage of what is completed as our measure of a student’s progress towards final graduation.

Instead of having grades 1 through 12. We might break things down based on each 10 percent completed and have a few graduation ceremonies thrown in at specific percentages of completion. Obviously, we would have a final graduation ceremony when a student had completed 100% of the required classes, but other intermediate graduations could be held at a few other specific milestones. For instance, having one at 50 percent might be a really good idea, and maybe having ones at something like 25 percent and 75 percent. An alternative might be to have them after a third and two thirds of the work is done.

We must also consider some other consequences of students progressing at different rates. The first thing is that many classes may have students that are younger or older than most. Although some children will start school at a younger age than others, there may not be much of a difference in ages in the classes with the younger children. This will change as the children get older and some progress faster than others. Of course, this can be a good thing, since it will allow students to get used to being around and working with people of different ages.

We would also have some students being able to graduate at much younger ages with a flexible schedule of quarters than they would have with our current system of yearly grade levels. By graduating early, these students would have the option to move more quickly onto getting a higher education in college or trade school.

On the other hand, some students may take longer to graduate. For some older students this may be a problem, since they may be eager to get out of school and will drop out. With flexible schedules this may actually be less of a problem. Since students would only fall behind a quarter in a given subject instead of a year in all subjects, it would be easier to catch back up later. In addition, older students would be able to continue taking a few needed classes even if they started working more.

Work

With the growing need for lifelong learning, it also makes a lot of sense to get used to a life of both working and learning as soon as possible. For instance, there are many jobs that students could do at their school. They could do custodial work, or could work in the cafeteria or office. For classes that they have already taken, they could help tutor those classes’ new students or they could assist those classes’ teachers with setting up the class or helping to grade papers.

By working, a student gets an opportunity to learn a number of things that they would not get from academics alone. First, they would be able to learn about work ethics. They can also get an appreciation for the worth of a good education. Although these early jobs may not pay that much, they could be used to help teach the students a little about money management with what money they do earn. They would also get some needed work experience for when they do go out to get a job on their own.

If a student was required to do a certain minimum amount of work as part of their education, then the school could get by with paying little or nothing for this work. This would help the school to keep down their costs. With the savings, the school could devote more of their budget towards more important academic and extracurricular activities.

In later years, students could get other jobs out in the real world where they could earn more and get a wider range of work experience. Some of their extra earning could be saved for college or trade school. Some additional work experience could also help a student decide on a future carrier or profession.

Independent Study

In addition to regular classes, a school could also have a number of independent study courses that students could take. With independent study, we can add some additional flexibility to a student’s class schedule. Some students might be able to complete a given independent study course in a few weeks, while others may need several months or more. When ready, the student would simply have to hand in any appropriate assignments and take any appropriate final exam.

These independent study classes might include reading some material in books or online, watching some video lectures, or working through an online training course. They might also involve some travel where the student visits historical sites, research facilities or foreign countries.

Another type of independent study class might more closely resemble a project that someone might be assigned on a job. In this case, a student would be given an assignment where they would need to learn the material, do the appropriate research or experiment, and then turn in some type of report or make a presentation by a certain predefined date in addition to taking an appropriate final exam.

Video Access

The answer is to allow a student to remotely access the class through video. This student could attend the class via a live telecast or could watch a recording of the class later. During or right after the class, a student could IM (Instant Message) their teacher with questions. Even students who attended the class would be able to go back and watch a portion of a class lecture or demonstration in order to get a better understanding of something.

The answer is to allow a student to remotely access the class through video. This student could attend the class via a live telecast or could watch a recording of the class later. During or right after the class, a student could IM their teacher with questions. Even students who attended the class would be able to go back and watch a portion of a class lecture or demonstration in order to get a better understanding of something.

In addition to students, these videos may be of benefit to a number of other people as well. To give everyone access to all the information needed, there should be at least two cameras in each classroom. One camera would show the front of the classroom with the teacher and the blackboard or whiteboard. The other camera would keep an eye on all the students in the classroom. Access to these videos would be limited to authorized users and a log would be kept of who accessed what.

School administrators could use the videos to watch samples of the teacher’s classes in order to help evaluate their performance. With a sampling from many classes on different days, an administrator could get a better idea of a teacher’s performance than they would from sitting in on a class. The administrator could also use the videos to check on any complaints against a student or teacher. Cameras in the hallways would also help in case of a problem there.

Teachers could use the videos to evaluate their own performance. They could also use them to check for cheating on exams or to show parents how their children are behaving in class. Parents may also find it useful to look in on their children at certain times.

Physical Fitness

It is important to stay physically fit at any age. Therefore, it is important to learn how to get and to stay physically fit at an early age. This means that we need to include some appropriate physical fitness training as part of each student’s schedule.

Some fitness classes should be included in what is required for graduation, but a physical fitness class or sports participation should, in most cases, be required for each quarter that a student is in school. Part of the lesson that we want to teach is that physical fitness is something that must be continuously worked at in order to remain healthy.

Sports

Without students being in specific grades, we also need to change the way we determine what sports a student is eligible to participate in. Given that some students are held back and some children develop at different rates, there has always been a problem with them being mismatched in size and physical development. For instance, high school sports usually includes students from about 14 to 18, where the older teenagers are often much bigger than the younger ones.

The answer is to switch to a system of using both age and physical development as the determining factors in what sport’s league a student could participate in. By looking at the normal growth rates for children, the age ranges for each sport’s league could be determined by trying to set each age range so that the children should all be fairly close in physical development. In each sport, each league would start with the appropriate age range, but factor in a child’s actual physical development.

For instance, if a child has developed somewhat normally for his or her age, then their participation in a sport’s league could be determined by the child’s age. If a child was exceptionally big for his or her age, then the child would be able to start in or be required to switch to the next league at a somewhat younger age. If a child was exceptionally small for his or her age, then the child would not be able to start in or to switch to the next league until they were a little older.

Discipline

A certain minimum level of discipline is needed in school in order to provide an environment conducive to learning. Students that disrupt classes or bully other students need to learn better behavior. Students that are subjected to bad behavior or bullying need to learn how to handle the bad behavior of others in a constructive way. In addition, the video surveillance of the classes and the other areas of the school that I previously mentioned could help to prevent some problems and could make it easier to investigate the problems that do occur.

All students should attend some classes that would teach them what was appropriate behavior and how to handle people who do not behave appropriately. These classes should also give students a clear idea of what the consequences would be for not behaving in an appropriate manner, and how to take responsibility for their actions. At appropriate intervals, students would attend refresher classes where they would learn what new freedoms they had earned and what additional punishments they could now receive for their bad behavior.

Students that repeatedly demonstrate bad behavior would need to be removed from the school environment until they had matured enough to behave appropriately. Although suspending students from school will make things better for the other students, it would not help the offending students to learn to behave and could cause them to fall behind in their school work. A better idea would be to segregate them in a place where they could get some needed counseling and be able to watch videos of the classes that they could not attend.

Dress Code

Most, if not all, schools have some sort of dress code. These dress codes may go anywhere from being fairly loose to requiring students to wear a prescribed school uniform. With a loose dress code, students have the freedom to wear just about whatever they are most comfortable and best able to learn in. On the other hand, having everyone wear a uniform can remove many clothing related distractions and foster a better sense of student unity and safety.

Although I think school uniforms have many advantages over letting students have too much freedom to wear just about anything they want, they can be too expensive for some people. A better approach would be to impose more of a business casual look. While in school, we would want students to present a professional appearance, just as they should if they were to work in an office. As needed, students could change for things like shop class and after school activities.

Vouchers

Many communities are now providing vouchers so that students can attend a private school. The idea is that if the public school is unable to provide an adequate education, a student should be able to attend a private school where they can get a better education. For the student that gets the voucher, this can potentially be a good thing, although it may mean more time traveling to a school that is farther away. For the students that must stay in the public school, it can actually make things worse.

Larger schools should have larger budgets, which would give them the flexibility to offer their students a larger array of academic and extracurricular activities than smaller schools could offer. If too many students get vouchers, it could drain a lot of the school’s budget, which could leave it without enough funds to support some of their academic and extracurricular options. This could make the public school even less capable of providing an adequate education, which could cause more parents to want vouchers.

Improvements

Instead of resorting to vouchers, we should be working to improve the public schools. First off, actions need to be taken to ensure all schools have sufficient funding to provide an adequate education for all their students. The state should audit the school budget to ensure it is not wasting money. The various economic changes that I have outlined should ensure that the citizens of each school district would be able to afford to support their schools adequately. Until these economic changes take place, the state could help out financially where needed.

The next step would be to ensure that the public school facilities are up to the job. Our school buildings and grounds need to be kept clean and safe, and there needs to be adequate space for classrooms, offices, etc. for all the students, teachers and staff. The state should do mandatory inspections to ensure that all the schools are kept up to standards.

The next step would be to ensure that our teachers are doing a good job and being adequately paid. In most cases, they probably are doing a good job, but we should strive to get and to keep the best teachers possible. That also means paying the better teachers more. School administrators can do part of the job by observing their teachers’ classroom work and reviewing the assignments and exams they give. A state education board can help out by comparing the performance of teachers at different schools.

Parents and students should also be able to provide some feedback. Administrators could get students to fill out evaluations and check with parents to see if they had any input. Whenever possible, we could give parents and students an opportunity to vote on which teacher they want to teach a given class, but this would need to be done carefully so that students simply do not vote for whichever teacher would give less homework or higher grades.

Higher Education

With some number of students progressing at different rates in different subjects, some students may be ready for college level classes in some subjects while trying to finish off classes in other subjects. Therefore, it would be good for schools to provide some entry level college courses that would be taught by college professors and would earn a student college credit. This would give students who may not otherwise be ready for college an easy way to get started on a college education. The same could be done for trade school classes.

Colleges and trade schools should also transition from using a class schedule with semesters to using one with quarters. This would help by giving students the flexibility to start college or trade school classes every quarter instead of waiting for the next semester to start.

We also want to keep the same level of classes going year round instead of only offering a few summer classes. This would give students more flexibility in scheduling more classes to graduate sooner or having a lighter class load so that they could work more. If a student wanted or needed to take a quarter off, it could be any appropriate quarter and not necessarily the one at summer time.

Today, there are many jobs going unfilled, because we do not have enough workers with the right skills. To help fix this situation, we could add some additional financial incentive for students to learn the skills needed for these jobs. We could track what jobs needed more workers and what jobs had too many workers.

Students taking classes to fill jobs that needed workers could get reduced tuition, but students taking classes to fill jobs were there were already too many skilled workers would have to pay a higher tuition. Of course, if a student did not get an appropriate job to match what they learned, they should be required to reimburse the school for any reduced tuition.

Continuing Education

The current rapid pace of technological change is causing big changes in the type of work that businesses need to have done. In some professions, workers need to learn new ways of doing their current work. In addition, the need for many types of jobs is being reduced or eliminated, and many entirely new jobs are being created. These changes are driving a need for many people to learn new skills and an increasing need for continuing education.

One of the best ways for a business get the skilled workers they need, is to have their current best employees learn them. They could learn new skills to become more productive in their current job, or to learn the skills needed to move into a better job. To do this, businesses need to adjust their work schedules and provide financial assistance so that their employees have time to continue their education. Of course, businesses would want to provide financial aid on the condition that employees stay at their jobs for some minimum amount of time.

In order to support all the needed continuing education, colleges and trade schools need to provide more classes at times when working individuals can attend. For those classes that teach the skills that are needed for the jobs that are currently in demand, we also need to provide lower tuitions so that we can encourage more people to lean these skills and to switch to the needed carriers and professions.

One thing that will help with all this continuing education is the concept of spreading out the work that I talked about in the previous subsection on Jobs. With work being spread out, not only will more people have work and taxes will be lower, but people will have more free time to continue their education. In turn, the continuing education will allow people to continue advancing in their carriers and professions, which in turn will help our economy stay strong and help us all prosper.

Tuition Control

The problems of high tuition costs and student loan debt have been increasing. High tuitions puts a college and university educations out of the reach of many students. Other students, need to take out a lot of student loan debt, which may take them decades to pay off.

In some cases, costs are rising due to our ever increasing technology. Schools need to spend more to buy all the technology that students will need to learn how to use and to make in order to get the jobs that use that technology. This really cannot be avoided, but the cost should be paid for by the students that need to learn how to use to make this technology and not all the students that do not need it.

One of the main reasons for higher education costs is that colleges and universities are adding more non-education related amenities. These include simple things like new food courts, and walking and biking paths, to such extravagant things as a free movie theater, a 25 person hot tub and spa, a lazy river ride and whirlpool, a leisure pool with biometric hand scanners for secure entry, and a 50 foot climbing wall. Colleges and universities are increasingly adding these in order to attract more students.

However, colleges and universities should not be raising tuitions or student fees for everyone to pay for their extra amenities. Each student should be given the option to choose and to pay for just what they want. In fact, it would be best if a college did not add these amenities themselves, but to allow or to encourage private investment in these types of amenities. That way, students and others could join and go to these places when they choose and could afford to go.

Another reason that some college tuitions are rising is the cost of sports programs. Although there are a few colleges and universities that make money or at least break even on them, most lose money, which must be recovered via higher tuitions and student fees. Schools may say that their sports programs are an integral part of student life, but that really should be left up to the individual student to decide if they want to pay to support a sports program that they do not take part in.

There has been a lot of talk recently about having the government subside or pay for a college education. However, this does nothing to address the real problem, and only shifts the costs of college educations onto other people. In fact, if the government pays for a student's education, there would be no incentive for colleges to reduce their costs or for students to shop around for the best education value for their dollar. In fact, without cost being a determining factor in a student's choice, colleges would have even more incentive to add expensive amenities in an effort to attract students, which would raise costs for all of us who would end up paying for these college and university educations.

Another way to make it easier for students to pay for a college or university degree, would be to work for it. I for one worked a part time or full time job during most of the time that I attended a number of colleges and universities part time, and only went to school full time during my last semester at the university where I earned my Bachelor of Arts degree. I only had one student loan when I first started school, and I paid that off right away.

Working full time and going to school part time worked for me and may work for some others, but it may not work for everyone. The same could be said for going to school full time and not working. It may work for some people who can afford it, but a better approach for most people may be splitting their time between school and work. This could work something like continuing education, but could be much more.

When a student first enters a college or university, some may not really know what type of work they want to do. They may have some ideas, but they have not committed to a given profession or carrier. In this case, they could enter a program where they would start taking classes while working part time at various jobs related to the professions and carriers that they thought they might be interested in. In time, they could hopefully help them make a much more informed decision about what work they wanted to do.

Once a student knew what they wanted to do, they would enter into a program in order to lean that profession or carrier. The idea would be to have a formal program where the student would go to school part time, and then work in a job related to their desired profession or carrier. Nearby businesses would have positions for these part time students. The student could then earn enough to pay for all or part of their education, while also being able to apply and reinforce what they were learning in school in their job. The businesses could benefit by being able to mold these students into the workers that they would need, and by having access to the latest ideas being taught at the time.

Next Section

Overpopulation - Reducing our Overpopulation so that our lives can be richer.

Last Updated:
Sunday, November 26, 2017
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