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Why Education System Fails To Challenge Students At School

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2011-06-04 01:39:24     
Article by Michael Simmons

The problem of low high school students’ proficiency is much discussed these days. Contrary to the recent belief, it is not students being excessively overloaded with home assignments, but the "dog eat dog" school environment that causes such decrease and discourages students to study in a proper way.

Teachers are all at sea: despite a great deal of effort over the past 20 years, academic achievement among high school students continues to lag behind. In their attempt to improve school results, the educators are trying to find roots of poor academic achievement of high school students.

Some point the finger at the outrageous homework loads students are snowed under. Supporters of this idea argue that students are overburdened with academic demands of questionable value and, as a result, end up indifferent to studies, exhausted, and worn out. Probably, there is some grain of truth in this claim. However, recent investigations have rebutted these suggestions…

The recent Pew Research Centre poll has produced unprecedented results: it's not high pressure, but low expectations that are bringing the American students down!

This claim was corroborated by Denise Clark Pope, a Stanford University lecturer who has written about the effects of stress on students. The research she conducted in comfortable San Francisco Bay Area communities proves that the reason of poor level of knowledge is not the heavy workload students are exposed to but the lack of challenge in the school environment.

Thus, it gets straight that the problem of low academic proficiency lies with what – rather than how much – students are asked to do. And now, the main contributing factors that lead to low learning proficiency of high school students are wrong approach to assessments, incoherent assessment tasks, teachers’ and parents’ indifference. Unfortunately, this list is rather long…

1. Incomprehension of the Studying Purpose

The main reason why so many students don’t feel interested in what they are doing at school is the incomprehension of their studying routine. In fact, a vast majority of teachers are even not bothered to explain to their students what the learning outcomes are, why they need to achieve them and how they will be assessed.

Thus, students read stacks of books, write hundreds of essays having no idea of the initial purpose of all this hassle and bustle. They accomplish their tasks by command which needs to be bluntly carried out. Studies become a real must, a dreadful duty, which results in lack of interest, reluctance to study and show initiative.

2. Wrong Assessment Approach

Another contributing factor to the downward knowledge proficiency is the wrong approach of assessment. The matter is that assessment is often wrongly intended by teachers as punishment for students, or traps to catch them out. Grades seem to exist in order to show students’ errors, mistakes and drawbacks in the study area, rather than to give students reasonable chance of demonstrating their achievements of specific learning goals.

Needless to say, such attitude creates a fearful attitude of students towards assessment. They are learning not for acquiring some knew exciting facts, but for getting a "pass." Education comes to grades rather than knowledge.

3. Incoherent Assessment Tasks

It is deplorable that the everyday practice of most teachers is to set numerous, time-consuming and unrelated tasks that ask for a great deal of work to be done in the shortest time period. Consequently, this approach makes students adopt surface approaches to learning by clutching at facts and memorising them as best as they can in order to pass.

Things would have changed, if teachers built the unrelated assessment tasks into a coherent whole. This way, students would be able to work on coherent projects, gain systematic and profound knowledge in the subject area. Moreover, they would be more challenged to do their own research, show initiative, and be proactive.

4. Lack of Personal Approach

With mass classes consisting of more than 20 children, many students feel deprived of the due attention on their teacher’s part. They are placed among the great lot of students without their personal interests, and problems with studying being taken into account.

As a result, students don’t feel cared about, lose their identity, become indifferent to studies and lose faith in the brighter future. It is a problem of a great lot of students.

5. Parents’ Attitude

Unfortunately, a great number of parents also contribute to the problem of low interest in studies. Many of them have a "performance orientation," which emphasises results such as students’ grades, rather than whether they master the material. On top of that, they are reluctant to weigh-in and help their children with home tasks for the fear of being unable to answer a question and lose children’s respect.

However, these fears are unjustified. This way parents mislead their confused children, refuse to give them a helping hand with studies and aggravate the existing problems.

Thus, it gets clear that children are wrongly aimed at quantity of knowledge rather than quality. As Denise Clark Pope has put it, "There is too much content-and-coverage stress. It should be about challenging and engaging students on multiple levels." And if radical steps aren’t taken in the nearest future, the situation is likely to be aggravated.

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