School Reform: Pros and Cons
Levanova, 512 AE
REFORM: PROS AND CONS
Suddenly the whole society
realized the necessity of a school reform. We clasped our hands with great
surprise and exclaimed: “Why, but we have to change it!” There's no smoke
without fire. If we inspect the issue more profoundly it will be clear that the
idea emerged not so accidentally.
Investigations prove that almost
90% of school students have developed health problems or are now behind the
norm of their age in mental and physical maturity. The reason for that can be
found not only in poor economy of the state and hostile environment, but also
in the conditions at school in which students spend ten years. The load of new
subjects and the growing depth of learning are the basic reasons for health
Striving for a prestigious status
of gymnasiums or lyceums some schools introduce new subjects, include them into
their curriculum and make them compulsory. They may teach logic, psychology,
and culture of thought, ecology, economics and what not! Frequently it is done
at the cost of a reduced number of hours intended for such disciplines as
physics, biology, literature, history and others. The norms, standards and
demands remain on the same level though school children lack the time necessary
to learn the subjects successfully. At the same time they normally spend over
six hours at school and over four hours doing their homework. Hence the
workweek of a regular high-school student is sixty hours!
Specialized schools, which put
special emphasis on humanities or sciences or languages, are reputed to be
highly professional. They double the number of hours of specific subjects thus
aiming at the quality of students’ knowledge. The result is two faceted. On the
one hand the volume of acquired knowledge is overly increased together with the
load of intensified process of learning, on the other hand we face a
catastrophic fall in the condition of students’ bodies and minds.
One more nerve-wrecking factor is
an independent examination commission. Specialized schools introduced exams at
each year beginning with the fifth grade. School students strain every nerve to
please the commission to simply pass from one grade to another and then find
themselves in breakdowns. There’s no ground for that. Final control testing is
proved to be sufficient except for graduate years.
Transformations will be first of
all done in the educational standards and the curriculum. It is necessary to
create new standards, to give expertise and to discuss and criticize them.
Those teachers who are really interested in their students’ performance and
health should participate in this discussion.
If we assess the whole
educational system of Russia critically, successes of the past were linked to
the skill requirements of a planned economy, not to the demands of an unplanned
labor market and an open society. Capital investments in education have been
declining for the last decades. Buildings have deteriorated, libraries are
antiquated, and laboratory equipment is becoming unusable.
curricular traditions are ill-suited for an economy where problem-solving
ability and occupational flexibility are of great importance. Soviet curriculum
tended to emphasize the acquisition of factual material and to underemphasize
the skills necessary for applying this material to unfamiliar circumstances in
other words, problem-solving skills.
staff constitutes one more task for the government. There is hardly any teacher
in Russia who would be satisfied with his or her salary and working condition.
Therefore not so many people, young girls mostly, are willing to acquire this
profession. Experienced school teachers say that today teaching is based on
pure enthusiasm. Only those who feel their natural predisposition to teaching
are still loyal to the profession. Teaching is neither well-paid nor
problems we may come to the corollary that Russian educational system has so
many burning issues that it is hard to imagine how this system still manages to
survive. The bundle of problems seems to be tightly knitted. The much discussed
school reform should deal not only with twelve-year education and curricular
changes but also with financing as well as legislation. The budgeting process
should be revised accordingly. The number of issues is immense but we have to
bear in mind that our future depends on education of the young generation who
is the future of the country.