October 23, 2004

Comparing Education

One of my colleagues at school is also from the States. She taught there for five or six years before moving to the UK. We were talking yesterday and I asked her to compare the experience of teaching in the two countries.

The first thing she commented on was the amount of admin. Teachers in the US don't know how easy they have it, apparently. I've known American teachers to complain about paperwork and how it has grown over the years, but it would seem that for all the complaints the US gets about Kyoto, at least when it come to education, it is the more environmentally sound. I somehow knew that we were unconscionably burdened in England, but it is good to hear it from someone who has clear perspective.

I realise your mileage may very from state to state and even school district to district, but the general principles of education adminstration are roughly the same throughout the US.

The other contrast between countries was the level of resources. I think I may have mentioned this before, but students in this country for the most part do not have their own textbooks. I have classes where there is one set of books for all the classes of that year group. Sometimes they have to share two to a book. My colleague is an English teacher and in one case she has four copies of a textbook for the entire class.

Now before you start thinking lots of textbooks = lots of trees, let me introduce one word. Photocopies. The paper and reprographic industries are making a killing in British schools. Yesterday I was sorting through the mountain of paper on my desk and I filled up several large plastic trays with all of the copies that I had made for students that they didn't take with them as they were supposed to do. Every day I fill my rubbish bin with paperwork received from various sources.

But back to textbooks... It would involve much less paper to just issue them with textbooks. One reason they don't might be that the school would never get them back and if they did they might not be reuseable. British kids have absolutely no respect for property. Might be something to do with post-war socialism.

That lack of respect for property extends to my own supplies. Even though I taught every day during my training year, I was using someone else's equipment and supplies. Now that I have to manage my own resources, I have learned in the first half-term just how tightly I have to control access to supplies, especially marker pens. If they can get them, they will steal them.

Historically, I would have said that a British state education is superior an American one. Because students receive a qualification in each subject, they tend to have more expertise in those subjects. Because they specialise in three or four subjects between the ages of 16 and 18 and because this is not part of cumpulsory education, the education in these subjects is equavalent to at least the first year of an American university education.

Now the standards have been lowered and lowered and everyone is considered university material. The Government is now planning to change the current system to a single diploma. This will mean that everyone will need basic literacy, numeracy, and computer skills, but not much else.

Posted by david at October 23, 2004 12:27 AM | TrackBack

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Posted by: Florida Mortgage at November 9, 2004 05:06 AM
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