Public education can be said to be education that public institutions offer. Public institutions are the ones that get funds from the local government, the state or the federal government. Education is compulsory for all children who have attained the learning age. This is the reason why government established the concept of public education. In the USA, the age for starting school ranges from 5-7 years. Public education available involves kindergarten, middle school, high school, and college level. National statistics records show that, in the year 2007, over 81 million students enrolled to public schools in the US.
Education in the USA follows a curriculum, which varies from state to state. Moreover, public school curriculum is a bit different from the private and catholic schools’ curriculum. Most private schools have inculcated religious studies into their curriculum, which are not available in public schools. This has been a contentious issue, with some people demanding standardization of the curriculum. However, all schools offer some common subjects such as Mathematics and sciences.
The US Department of Education is in charge of education in the USA. The department’s mission is “to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access to education”. The department also comes up with an administration that will ensure that students gain the best out of the education system. A larger number of students attend public schools as compared to the private schools. This is because the public tuition fees are cheaper and there are scholarships and loans to help students complete their education.
The education department takes up an immense percentage of the US budget. The budget allocation for education this fiscal year is 17.1 percent. The government spends a lot in order to cater for every child’s education, even for those children that have special needs. Education is the key to national development. This explains why the government invests so much in education. Despite the large government spending, education in the US is lagging behind when compared to other developed nations. In fact, it classified as one of the poorest nations education wise among the developed countries. However, most parents think that the government needs to spend more money on education. However, the government’s increased spending has received a constant negative feedback in education.
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The low level of education in the US can be seen in many instances. A research has shown this clearly. For example, in 1994, the National Assessment of Educational Progress found that a third of American seventeen-year-olds pointed out that their teachers did not give them homework on a daily basis. Another indication of poor education is that only one high school junior out of fifty can write well enough. A Washington D.C. teacher said that only one out of five students in her class could locate Washington D. C. on the map, whereas, in college, 25% of students could not locate Russia or name the states in the US correctly. Ignorance levels are high in subjects such as Geography, Sciences, Mathematics and History. A teacher said that most high school students had no idea what Berlin Wall is or whether the sun and earth were part of the solar system. Various statistics have shown the extreme level of dumbness, particularly in the US public schools. This culture of dumbness has existed long enough to the extent that students who try to work hard in school may be called names. Their peers may ridicule them. Parents, on the other hand, are not doing their best in inculcating a learning culture in their children. It is surprising that such a developed nation, a world super power, lags behind in the education sector, yet it spends a lot of money on it.
A commission on academic and learning found out that students spend less than half a day on studying academic stuff. The coursework usually has other non- academic subjects such as self esteem classes, driving lessons, AIDS, family life, gym, and so forth. These non- academic subjects have taken up time that students could have used to learn useful things. People argue that this system helps in bringing up all rounded students. There is no explanation why child do not perform academically well, yet the system seems to run efficiently.
A typical American high school student spends approximately 1460 hours while studying actual academic subjects in his/her four years of school. When compared to France, high school students spend 3280 hours on academics, while, in Japan, they spend 3170 hours. Other developed nations have longer school periods than America. There are fewer school days in the US than in many other countries. US schools are open only 180 days a year, while other countries have their schools open for even up to 240 days a year. Therefore, one does not expect an equal performance. This is a reason for education is lagging behind in the USA. Other countries such as France, Belgium, Spain, and Ireland have fewer school days, but they compensate that by maximizing the school hours. Schools spend most time on academic disciplines. They do not put non-academic disciplines that are not necessary in the school timetable. Japan and West Germany have the highest number of school days, with 243 for Japan and 240-263 for German schools. This is the reason for the distinctive performance of Japan and Germany.
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The Americans use the argument of quality versus quantity to defend their few school days. However, time and learning go hand in hand. One cannot spend little time on education and expect the same results as the one who spends more time. That is a proven fact even by the Americans themselves. This is one of the usual excuses used for almost everything that fails. However, it holds no water for this case. The US public schools enroll a bigger portion of students than the private schools. The facilities are not the best and are not enough for all students. Teachers in public schools teach few academic core subjects. Delivery is also sufficiently demanding and challenging. There are many Grade 8 students who have never memorized their multiplication tables. These are fundamental to any honest grasp of mathematics and should be instinctive. A student should learn as early as in Grade 3.
As compared to students who attend private schools and access all kinds of facilities, particularly the ones used in science related projects, public schools are worse performers. Teachers are the ones who guide students in their path to academic success. However, if those students are constantly failing, then it means that there is something wrong with the teaching methods that teachers use. Teaching is among the worst paid professions in the US; this has translated into poor teaching and low morale, which affects students. When dealing with poor students, tougher measures need to be put in place. However, they do not exist in the US public education sector. Teachers in the US are more lenient than teachers from other countries. Schools use strict disciplines methods on students who fail, disobey their teachers or miss school.
Statistics show that a lot of parents who send their kids to public schools do not care about their children’s education. Parents are busy with their own businesses; they just sent their kids to school and never check up on their performance. Naturally, while in high school or other junior levels, students do not value education; they are still developing, and they have a lot to do which could be more fun than school. If they do not have strict parents, then they will fail in education. Harold Stevenson’s work on American complacency shows that over 40 percent of American mothers feel satisfied with the way their children are performing in schools. This is the reason as to why they send them to public schools. They do not care what the child gets. The same research happened in China and Taiwan. The children did exceptionally well, but only 5 percent of their mothers were contented. They pushed their children to work harder in school. The paradox in Stevenson’s report is the low performance of students and the high satisfaction of parents. This is quite despairing and serious, and that is why America’s public education is still lagging.
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‘The American complacency’ is experienced not only in the academic sector. Most Americans feel satisfied with their jobs. They say they are happy with their work. Asians are hard working and Europeans are described as buoyant, while the Americans feel satisfied. Older generations have passed on this culture to younger generations, who just go to school for the sake of going and not because they have ambitions of becoming successful people in the future.
Public school funding come from the government, and the government spends a lot of money on the education. However, once this money is in the education department, schools redirect it to other extracurricular activities and other things. Infrastructure, teacher salary increments, buildings, and sports take up too much of the education fund, which should be used for class room activities. Public schools insist on developing their infrastructure, such as on building various structures and sports facilities. However, is there a need to build so many classrooms and labs if teachers have no time to teach students or have students who do not want to learn?
Sports are an inherent part of education, but we cannot forego education for the sake of sports. In public schools, students who do well in sports are rarely in class. Cheerleading is another popular culture related to sports that consumes students’ time. Those who participate in it benefit in no other way than the physical fitness part. However, the activity still consumes the school money. They focus too much energy on sports and forget school. Most students in public schools have sport personalities as their role models; the part they forget to emulate about their role models is the excellent class performance. Teachers have done little to discourage this habit. In fact, schools allocate more funds to sports teams than to academic clubs such as Science and Mathematics clubs.
The American education system particularly in the public sector has like the worst curriculum in the world. Subjects such as religion, drivers’ lessons, and home economics are prioritized much more than the crucial academic subjects. A lot of money goes to these secondary subjects at the expense of the academic subjects. This problem is more prevalent in the public school because it is government that funds it. This tends to make stakeholders complacent. Moreover, most parents hardly follow up academic matters. This is a serious matter that has affected the public education. Students will do well in subjects that will not help them and neglect the other academic subjects because they find them hard. There is no need to include irrelevant subjects in class curriculum.
Students go to school to learn. They do not attend school to waste time doing things that will not add any value to their C.V. This is one aspect that needs to be addressed urgently by those who formulate the curriculum. The curriculum in the US is not exam oriented. The curriculum bases grades on continuous assessment tests and research. This does not encourage students to work hard, because they know exams are not the tools used to grade them. School curriculum also differs according to states; this has led to weak performance of public schools in some states where there are no strict policies.
The American society is very diverse; it incorporates people of different races. In public schools, such problems as stereotyping, racism, and bullying are so big that it affects the performance of other students. There are extreme cases where some students bully other students until they commit suicide. If such a thing can happen, then it means the bullying affects academic performance of students. For example, if a black kid goes to a school with many whites, whites may victimize him/her and associate him or her with some behavior. If the student does not have bigger self esteem, then his/her academic performance will come down. This problem is common in the US public schools, especially those in poor neighborhoods where level of ignorance is still high.
Talking of stereotyping, in places occupied by the most people of African American descent, the rate of school drop outs is very high. The children lack excellent role models, and they fancy the hip hop people, the fellow black athletes or thugs in the neighborhood. Such kids end up joining some gangs, abusing drugs, and being a nuisance to the public. This may be because their parents raised them up in a bad neighborhood.
Aptitude is a component of competency that refers to the ability to do something exceptionally well. Attitude, on the other hand, refers to the set of mind that should be adopted in order to achieve something. There is a little emphasis on hard work. This is the reason why there is poor performance in aptitude tests. Naturally, school should be a competitive place where students struggle for academic excellence; and when that aspect is lacking, then the education in that country will fail despite the large amount of money that government channels towards education. This is an immense loss. This money should be productive.
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There was conducted a research among the 15 first world countries for the student achievement in algebra, calculus, and geometry subjects for students in 12th grade. The US came as number 14 for algebra and number 12 for calculus and geometry. Hong Kong, Japan, and Finland registered impressive performance. This aptitude test showed a weak aptitude in American schools. This is due to the poor curriculum. Moreover, a study by Stevenson showed that the Americans placed more emphasis on differences in innate ability as the basis for variations in achievement. It has come to a point that the American students give excuses for failing. They say they are not naturally born smart, which is a lame excuse for not doing well in school; it is because they hate working hard. There is a different attitude adopted by the Chinese and the Japanese. They believe that they can do anything they set their minds to achieve. If the American public schools adopted such an attitude, they would be doing well.
A common trend seen in the American society today is that the gap between the rich and the poor also leads to differences in education. The American elite take their children to private schools where they get all the facilities they need to excel. Parental motivation also works wonders in helping children to perform. Statistics show that most poor and middle class parents do not care about their children’s education, and that is why they end doing badly in education, and the cyclic poverty trap continues. Public schools need to borrow a leaf from the private schools. They should ask themselves why the rich work so hard and the poor continue to fail; yet it should be the other way round.
In conclusion, too many school programs demonstrate the political and social agenda that people have neglected the real value of education. The American society has been very lenient and receptive towards this culture of poor education in the public schools, or how else would we explain this continuous saddening phenomenon of academic failure? If stakeholders fail to adopt sweeping reforms, the already felt impacts of poor education such as low qualified workforce and ailing economy will continue to affect the nation. Poor education in public school is a cause of sociological problem. Poor education leads to ignorance, unemployment, and other vices such as crime. The public education system needs a total overhaul, which should involve the school, parents, students, and the government. There should be a shift in attitude towards education; because one can excel in everything he or she does provided one has the right attitude. If this does not happen, the US education will remain inferior among the developed nations.
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