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Classroom Learning - The Future?

How will the way students learn change over the next 10 or 20 years as new technology is introduced in schools? Will parents and teachers endorse significant technological innovations challenging existing methodologies of learning? These are just two questions that are confronting key stakeholders involved in making decisions about the future of school education.  

In order to investigate these two questions it is necessary to identify what will be some of the new technological innovations that will become commonplace at some point in the future.  To assist with this process, Professor Neil Selwyn a prominent futurist from from the Faculty of Education at Monash University, recently gave a presentation about the way student learning will change within the next ten years due to technology innovations on the horizon. He identified nine significant and exciting developments, some of them that are already becoming evident in their infancy in primary and high school classrooms.


1)Virtual assimilation 

In the near future learning will incorporate augmented reality and become more immersive as schools copy military-style or commercial pilot training assimilation. Teachers will be able to recreate a 3D version of The Great Pyramid of Giza or the ancient city of Pompeii in a history lesson, or turn the classroom into a real-life theatre for aspiring surgeons. This type of technology has the capability of recreating any famous historical event and allowing participant interaction.

Overlaying the physical environment such as a normal classroom with digital information will also become a new teaching innovation. Teachers will be able take students into ‘digital’ rainforests or polar-regions where they can interact and get information about nature and animals by pointing their tablet at a tree or an ice-body.

2) Smart drugs

There will come a time in the future where it may be common place for students to take a cocktail of cognition drugs in the
 morning as part of their breakfast to enhance their brain, promote short and long term memory, increase creativity and sustain concentration at optimum levels for long periods of time. Furthermore, students at recess or lunch time may take an additional sampling of smart cognition drugs to prepare for a challenging or difficult upcoming lesson.  

“Pharmaceutical technology is advancing which will bring about moral and ethical debates about the use of these so-called smart drugs,” says Professor Selwyn. These debates will run parallel alongside existing debates currently occurring regarding performance enhancing drugs taken by some professional and amateur athletes.

3) A human hard-drive for memory

Advances in biotechnology and neuroscience will create a situation whereby it will be possible at some point in the future to physically connect a human brain to a machine. Taking the concept further in terms of educating students, futurists are talking about the benefits of using a hard drive that you would attach externally on your head to download information into it for enhancing memory capacity. Using such hard drive devices could potentially improving your memory a billionth fold!

4) Haptic technology

Haptic technology is already becoming commonplace for medical students. Trainee doctors and dentists periodically learn on a tactile digital body instead of a real body. This type of tactile technology allows tertiary students to learn by trial and error and train faster to complete complicate surgical procedures. In schools, haptic technology is particularly attractive to enhancing scientific knowledge, for example, students could dissect a digital frog or sheep to learn as part of a biology lesson. 

5) 3D digbooks

3D digibooks will fully replace hardcopy textbooks in the future.  These digibooks will present information to students using 3D imaging and also have audio sound bites and interactive capability.  Imagine the excited a student would have by being able to see a 3D image of Harry Potter and discussing him with how he eventually defeated Lord Voldemort and other villains!

6) Robotic teachers

Teachers and robots will both share the role of teaching students in the future.  Already in Japan the realistic-looking Saya robot is being used in schools to teach students. As robots gain a greater capacity for artificial intelligence and creative thinking processes, the role of the traditional teacher will move from being the primary deliverer of information to a role of managing a team of robots who will assume the role of being the primary deliverer of information and answering questions. 

7) Virtual lessons

Virtual lessons are already becoming more commonplace, particularly for students living in rural or isolated communities.  Schools won’t be 8.30 am – 3.00 pm anymore - students will be able to take lessons at a time of their own choice selecting from an almost limitless range of subjects which will be delivered by presenters from numerous countries. 

8) Modifiable schools

The futuristic, adventurous and flexible MODUPOD school features different modular pods or hubs that can be added on or taken off like blocks of Lego depending on the school’s needs. MODUPOD schools can fit on road, river or road transport. It is configurable and can be set up or moved in a matter of weeks and less expensively than building and designing an entire new school. The concept will be especially useful in isolation communities, mining exploration communities and in cities where various suburbs are expanding rapidly and land becomes more and more precious.

9) Gestural interfaces

More and more, children will use their hands and eyes instead of fingers on the tablet to gesture like you do on the Wii. Handwriting will be replaced by digi pens and keyboards could become redundant too. Current skills such as handwriting and keyboarding will essentially become outdated and no longer taught in schools. 

So are we ready to accept a student learning scenario where primary school-aged Kai or Amelie start the day by taking a cocktail of cognitive drugs with their breakfast cereal, are driven to school in a driverless car, enter a MODUPOD building, attach their human hard-drive onto their heads, attend their first lesson in a virtual assimilation classroom resembling the Sahara desert team taught by two robots that involves them dissecting a camel following instructions in their 3D biology digibook and presenting a 3D image report using gesture technology? 

Main Reference

http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/parenting/how-will-schools-look-in-10-years-time/story-fngqim8m-1226570063587

 

 

 

 

What Makes the Finnish Education System a Model for Excellence?

One of the interesting features of Finnish education is that children do not start school until they are aged 7. This contrasts with almost all other education systems where the usual starting age is around 5 or 6 years old. Finland is always at or near the top of the international rankings for educational systems. How is this achieved?  What are the special characteristics of the Finnish education system? It is of particular interest that in 2016 the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture will release a new basic education core curriculum where the focus is based on the conception that positive emotional experiences, collaborative learning, active engagement, social sharing and creativity. There is no mention of tests and examinations, a huge distinction with almost all other educational systems.

 A quick appraisal of the Finnish education environment reveals the following features.

 

  1. Students are not measured or assessed at all for the first six years of their education.

  2. There is only one mandatory standardised school assessment exam in Finland, taken when children graduate from high school.

  3. All students are taught in non-streamed classes.

  4. Finland spends around 30% less per student than the United States and considerably less than many other European countries.

  5. About 30% of Finnish students receive extra help during their first nine years of school.

  6. 66% of Finnish students go to university or poly-technical colleges.

  7. Science classes are capped at 16 students so that they may perform practical experiments during most class.

  8. 43% of Finnish high-school graduates go onto vocational institutions rather than university or directly entering the workforce.

  9. Elementary Finnish school students get 75 minutes of recess a day as compared to an average of 27 minutes in the United States.

  10. The Finnish school system is 100% funded using contributions from the federal government and local suburban councils.

  11. All teachers in Finland must have a masters degree, which is fully subsidized.

  12. The national curriculum contains only broad guidelines.

  13. Teachers are selected from the top 10% of graduates.

  14. There is no merit pay for teachers.

  15. Teachers are given the same status as doctors and lawyers.

It is clear that there are strong principles that underpin the foundation of the Finnish education system. By identifying and exploring these principles, other less successful educational systems can address their own weaknesses and move towards developing more inclusive, economical, harmonious and globally orientated systems, where the central focus is on preparing students for a rapidly changing world and being balanced and confident citizens with highly developed critical thinking skills, as opposed to narrowly focusing on students achieving high formal assessment results that is so evident in many other systems of education. Anecdotal evidence also reveals that Finnish children generally appear to be amongst the happiest, most balanced, well-adjusted and socially successful in the world.

Presented below are many of the principles, characteristics and traits of the Finnish education system that ensures its continual success, on-going sustainability and evolution responding to the requirements of the work place.

 

1. Education is free at all levels.

In Finland education is free at all levels from pre-primary to higher education. In pre-primary and basic education, the textbooks, daily meal and transportation for students living further away from the school are free for the parents. At secondary level and in higher education the students themselves or their parents purchase their own books. Also at the secondary level the students have the right to a free meal and in higher education meals are subsidised by the state. There are only a few private fee paying schools in Finland, a significant contrast to countries such as England Australia where approximately 25% of schools are private fee paying institutions.

 

Adult education is the only form of education that may require payment. To promote opportunities to study there is a well-developed system of study grants and loans. Financial aid for students from low income homes is regularly awarded for full-time study in an upper secondary school, vocational institution or institution of higher education.

 

2. The potential of every individual should be maximised.

Finnish schools strongly endorse the principle that the potential of each pupil should be maximised.  Extensive guidance and counselling provision is available and aims to support, help and guide students so that they can all perform as well as possible in their studies and be able to make appropriate decisions concerning their education and careers. Guidance and counselling is seen as the work of all education personnel working in schools rather than highly trained specialists.  

 

3. Special needs education is generally provided in conjunction with mainstream education.

In Finland special needs education primarily occurs in mainstream classrooms.  If a student cannot be taught in a regular teaching group, he or she must be admitted to and receive educational support. The aim is to prevent existing problems from becoming more serious. If students cannot adequately cope with mainstream education in spite of general or intensified provision of support, rather than be left behind, they must be given additional special support from highly trained specialists. The main purpose of additional special support is to provide pupils with systematic help so that they can complete compulsory education and be eligible for upper secondary education. This is a basic and common right for all Finnish students.

 

Special needs support is also provided in upper secondary and vocational education and training. For students in need they are provided with a detailed individual education plan developed by their teachers. This plan is collaboratively designed and must set out details of the qualification to be completed, the requirements observed and support measures provided for the student.

 

4. Efforts are made for supporting language minorities and migrants.

Finland has two official languages, Finnish and Swedish. Approximately five per cent of students in basic and upper secondary education attend a school where Swedish is the language of instruction. Both language groups have their own institutions at the higher education level. Furthermore, there are educational institutions where all or at least some instruction is provided in a foreign language, most commonly in English. Local authorities are also required to organize education in the Sami language in the Samis speaking areas of Lapland. Care is taken to ensure educational opportunities for Roma and other minorities such as Syrian and Iraqi refugees, as well as for people who use sign language.

 

Education providers can apply for additional funding for organising instruction in the official national languages for Roma, Sami and migrant children and for instruction in the pupil’s mother tongue. Education providers also organise preparatory education for immigrants to enable them to enter basic or upper secondary education.

 

5. Life-long learning in promoted.

Finland views education as a life-long process where opportunities are regularly provided for adult and elderly citizens to pursue educational opportunities. The participation rate is very high when compared with most other countries.

 

Educational institutions organise courses and training intended for adults of all abilities and previous history of education. Efforts have been made to make the provision as flexible as possible in order to enable adults to study whilst undertaking fulltime or part-time work.  There are also comprehensive training opportunities available for unemployed citizens.

 

6. Liberal non-formal educational tradition.

Liberal education offers non-formal studies for people to pursue.  It promotes personal growth, health and well-being by offering courses relating to citizenship skills and society and in different crafts and subjects on a recreational basis. Finland has a long tradition of promoting traditional arts and crafts and they are widely popular amongst elderly citizens.

 

7.  Most education is publicly funded.

Most institutions providing basic and upper secondary level education are maintained by local authorities or joint municipal boards. Responsibility for educational funding is divided between the State and the local authorities. Most private institutions do not differ from those that are publicly maintained. They follow the national core curricula and qualification requirements. They also receive public funding. Pre-primary and basic education is part of the municipal basic services that receive statutory government transfers. The statutory government transfer is based on the number of 6–15 year olds living in the municipality and the special conditions of the municipality. This funding is not ear-marked and the municipality can decide for itself how it allocates this funding.

 

The funding for upper secondary education and vocational education and training is based on the number of students reported by the school to the Ministry of Education and Culture.

 

For the funding of poly-technics the State allocates resources in the form of core funding, which is based on unit costs per student, project funding and performance-based funding. For example, completed degrees are part of performance-based funding. Poly-technics also have external sources of funding. Both in vocational training and in the funding of polytechnics the education providers are encouraged to improve their results through performance based funding.

 

Finnish universities are independent corporations under public law or foundations under private law. Each university and the Ministry of Education and Culture set operational and qualitative targets for the university and determine the resources required every three years. The agreement also defines how these targets are monitored and evaluated. Universities receive funding from the state but they are also expected to raise external funding.

 

8. Local administration and educational institutions play a key role.

The national education administration is organised at two levels. Education policy is the responsibility of the Ministry of Education and Culture. A national agency, the Finnish National Board of Education, is responsible for the implementation of the policy aims. It works with the Ministry to develop educational objectives, content and methods for early childhood, pre-primary, basic, upper secondary and adult education. Local administration is the responsibility of local authorities, most commonly municipalities or joint municipal authorities. These make the decisions on allocation of funding, local curricula, recruitment of personnel. The municipalities have also the autonomy to delegate the decision-making power to the schools. Usually principals recruit the staff of their schools and placement is a highly competitive process with many highly qualified applicants applying for a smallish pool of available positions.

 

9. Educational autonomy is high at all levels.

Education providers are responsible for practical teaching arrangements as well as the effectiveness and quality of its education. There are no regulations governing class size and education providers and schools are free to determine how to group students. Local authorities determine how much autonomy is passed on to schools. The schools have the right to provide educational services according to their own administrative arrangements and visions, as long as the basic functions, determined by law, are carried out. In many cases the budget management, acquisitions and recruitment is the responsibility of the schools.

 

Teachers have complete pedagogical autonomy. They can decide themselves the methods of teaching as well as textbooks and materials.

 

Poly-technics and universities also enjoy extensive autonomy.  They organise their own administration, decide on student admission and design the contents of degree outlines.

 

10. Quality assurance is based on trust instead of controlling.

In Finland school inspections were abolished in the early 1990s. The current system relies on the proficiency of teachers and other personnel. There is strong focus on both self-evaluation of schools. This system demonstrates that teachers are highly respected and are in the best position to ensure quality assurance in their own schools rather than relying on an outside inspection process.

 

11.  Early childhood education supports children’s development and learning.

Early childhood education comprises care, education and teaching to support children’s balanced growth, development and learning. Every child has a right to attend early childhood education if their parents wish. It can take place at kindergartens or smaller family day-care groups in private homes. The fees are moderate and are based on parental income. Pre-primary education is compulsory for children of the age of six, although this may comprise of children attending a pre-primary provider for just a few hours each week. Pre-primary is provided both in day-care centres and in schools. At pre-primary children the focus is on promoting social skills rather than an early literacy and numeracy academic focus.

 

12. Basic education is provided within a single structure.

Basic education starts in the year when a child turns seven and lasts nine years. Local authorities assign a school place to each child close to their homes, but parents are generally free to choose the comprehensive school of their preference. Basic education is provided within a single structure, that is, there is no division into primary and lower secondary education. Instruction is usually given by the same class teacher in most subjects in the first six year-classes and by subject specialists in the last three years.

 

13. School year is the same everywhere but timetables are local.

The school year comprises 190 days between mid-August and the beginning of June. Schools are open five days a week, and the minimum number of lessons per week varies from 19 to 30, depending on the level and number of optional subjects taken. Daily and weekly timetables are decided in the schools. In addition, there is local autonomy concerning extra holidays.

 

14. National core curriculum leaves room for local variations.

The national core curriculum for basic education is determined by the Finnish National Board of Education. It formulates the objectives and core contents of different subjects, as well as the principles of pupil assessment, special needs education and pupil welfare. The common goals of a good learning environment, working approaches as well as the key concepts of learning are also addressed in the core curriculum. The national core curriculum is renewed approximately every ten years. Individual schools draw up their own curricula within the framework of the national core curriculum and there is considerable freedom for local or regional differentiation. All local curricula must, however, define the values, underlying principles, as well as general educational and teaching objectives. Also questions such as the language programme and the local lesson-hour distribution must be addressed. Further, cooperation with homes and instruction of pupils requiring special support or belonging to different language and cultural groups should be defined.

 

15. Assessment is part of daily schoolwork.

In Finland the main type of student assessment is continuous assessment during the course of studies.  Continuous assessment guides and helps students in their learning process. Each student receives a report at least once every school year. There are no national tests for students in basic education in Finland. Instead, teachers are responsible for the assessment in their respective subjects on the basis of the objectives written into the curriculum. Grades in the basic education certificate, the final certificate given at the end of year 9, are given by the teachers. 

 

16. Most students continue their studies after basic education.

Students who have successfully completed compulsory education are eligible for general and vocational upper secondary education and training. Student selection to upper secondary schools is mainly based on the students’ grades in their basic education certificate. The selection criteria used by vocational institutions often includes work experience. General and vocational pathways at upper secondary may also involve students completing an entrance or aptitude test. Completion of upper secondary education, both general and vocational, gives students eligibility to continue to higher education.

 

17. General upper secondary education is flexibly organised.

The syllabus of general upper secondary education is designed to last three years, but students may complete it in 2 to 4 years depending on their academic abilities. Instruction is organised in modular form not tied to year classes and students can decide on their individual study schedules. Each course is assessed on completion and when a student has completed the required number of courses, which include compulsory and elective studies, he or she receives a general upper secondary school certificate.

 

The Finnish National Board of Education decides on the objectives and learning outcomes of the different subjects and study modules for general upper secondary education. Based on the national core curriculum, each education provider then prepares the local curriculum. Due to the modular structure of upper secondary education, students may combine studies from both general education and vocational education and training.

 

18. First national examination at the end of general upper secondary education.

General upper secondary education ends with a national matriculation examination, which comprises four compulsory tests: mother tongue and, according to each candidate’s choice, three of the following: the second national language, a foreign language, mathematics or one subject in general studies, such as humanities and natural sciences. Having completed the matriculation examination and the entire upper secondary school syllabus, students are awarded a separate certificate that shows details of the examinations passed and the levels and grades achieved.

 

19. Vocational education and training in cooperation with the world of work.

Vocational education and training covers eight fields of education and there are over fifty vocational qualifications. The duration of a vocational qualifications is usually three years of study and each qualification includes at least half a year of on-the-job learning in workplaces. Vocational education and training can be completed in the form of school-based training or apprenticeship training.

 

The national qualification requirements have been based on a learning-outcome approach from the early 1990s. Consequently, close co-operation with employers has been essential. This is done in order to ensure that the qualifications support flexible and efficient transition into the labour market as well as occupational development and career change. In addition to the needs of the ever changing world of work due to technological innovations, development of vocational education and training and qualifications takes into account the consolidation of lifelong learning skills as well as the individuals’ needs and opportunities to complete qualifications flexibly to suit their own circumstances. The studies are based on individual study plans, comprising both compulsory and optional study modules. The students’ learning and competences acquired are assessed throughout the period of study. The assessment is based on criteria defined in the national qualification requirements. One of the main assessment methods is vocational skills demonstrations.

 

20. Competence-based qualifications offer a way to demonstrate prior learning.

Competence-based qualifications provide adults a flexible way to enhance and maintain their vocational skills. A specific benefit of this system is that it makes it possible to recognise an individual’s vocational competences regardless of whether they have been acquired through work experience, studies or other activities. Representatives of the world of work play an important role in planning, implementing and assessing these competence-based qualifications.

 

An individual study plan is prepared for each student taking a competence-based qualification. The candidates demonstrate their skills in competence tests, which are assessed by training experts and representatives from enterprises together with the candidates themselves.

 

21. Vocational studies take into account individual needs and circumstances.

Higher education is offered by universities and poly-technics. Universities emphasise scientific research and instruction. Poly-technics, also known as universities of applied sciences, adopt a more practical approach. There is restricted entry to all fields of study. As applicant volumes outweigh the number of places available, universities and poly-technics use different kinds of student selection criteria. Most commonly these include success in matriculation examination and entrance tests.

 

22. Most university students aim for a Master’s degree.

The Finnish Matriculation Examination provides general eligibility for higher education.  Universities may also admit applicants, who are otherwise considered to have the necessary skills and knowledge to complete the studies. At universities students can study for Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees and scientific or artistic postgraduate degrees, which are known as Licentiate and Doctorate degrees. Students first complete a Bachelor’s degree, after which they may go for a Master’s degree. Most students are admitted to study for the Master’s degree. The target time for taking a Master’s degree is generally 5 years. The average time for taking a Master’s degree in Finland is, however, six years.

 

23. Polytechnic degrees provide students with practical professional skills.

The general requirement for admission to poly-technics is completion of general upper secondary education or vocational education and training. Student selection to poly-technics is mainly based on entrance examinations, school achievement and work experience. Poly-technics may also admit applicants who are otherwise considered to have the necessary skills and knowledge to complete poly-technic studies. Degree studies at poly-technics give a higher education qualification and practical professional skills. They comprise core and professional studies, elective studies and a final project. All degree studies include practical on-the-job learning. The duration of poly-technic degree studies is 3 to 4 years of full-time study. It is further possible to take a poly-technic Master’s degree after acquiring a minimum of three years’ work experience. The poly-technic Master’s takes 1.5–2 years, and is equivalent to a university Master’s degree.

 

24. The most common pre-service requirement to work as a teacher is a Master’s degree.

Teaching is an attractive career choice in Finland. Thus the teacher education institutions can select the applicants most suitable for the teaching profession. For example, the intake into class teacher education is about 10 per cent of all applicants. In subject teacher education the intake varies from 10 to 50 per cent depending on the subject. In vocational teacher education the intake is about 30 per cent of the applicants.

 

25. Continuing teacher education is encouraged.

At most levels of education teachers are required to participate in in-service training every year as part of their agreement on salaries. Finnish teachers consider in-service training as a privilege and therefore participate actively. The State also provides in-service training programmes, primarily in areas important for implementing education policy and reforms. The education providers can also apply for funding to improve the professional competence of their teaching personnel. Teachers are recognised as keys to quality in education.

 

References

1 Finnish Education System in a Nutshell http://www.cimo.fi/services/publications/finnish_education_in_a_nutshell

2) Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture http://www.minedu.fi/OPM/?lang=en

 

Teenage Social Pressures and Depression: What You Need to Know

On December 23rd, Anna Weinstein updated a very well written and researched extract on Education.Com www.education.com

World Schools Review would like to acknowledge Anna Weinstein for providing it readership with important insight towards understanding social pressures and depression symptoms that affect some teenagers and for outlining strategies that parents, teachers and friends can initiative if placed into a situation of interacting with a needy teenager.

With minor editing, Anna’s extract is outlined below. It is succinct and powerful.

Worrying about a teenage child is par for the course. It’s hard not to worry when teenagers’ moods swing dramatically from one day to the next, when slamming doors is a daily occurrence, and when alcohol is very possibly in the picture.

Like it or not, these are common realities for most teenagers. So what kind of behavior is cause for concern?

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) lists the following signs of depression:

  • Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” feelings
  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
  • Insomnia, early–morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • Overeating, or appetite loss
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
  • Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment

Of course, most teens experience some of these symptoms on a regular basis. According to NIMH, depression in adolescence frequently co-occurs with other disorders such as anxiety, disruptive behaviors, eating disorders, or substance abuse.

But Michael Carr-Gregg, Ph.D., a psychologist specializing in adolescent mental health and author of four books, including Surviving Adolescents, says the very best thing parents can do is look for changes in their child’s normal behavior. To find out more about Dr. Carr-Gregg, review his website: www.michaelcarr-gregg.com.au

Normal behavior is different for every child. What might be normal behavior for your older child is likely not normal for your younger child, and vice versa. The key is to know the norm and to notice changes. As Carr-Gregg says, “Be the world expert on your kid.”

Depression can occur for any number of reasons as a response to any number of factors. Some adolescents have a difficult time adjusting to the typical changes and pressures that come with the transition from childhood to adulthood. This depends on the specific circumstances and the adolescent's natural inclinations. Are teens more at risk for depression today than in years past? Possibly, says Carr-Gregg. “It’s very hard to say whether the actual incidence of the illness is increasing, or whether we are getting better at picking it up,” he says. “I suspect a bit of both.”

Factors behind depression in teens can include early childhood adversity, cumulative adverse experiences, non-supportive school or familial environments, and parental depression.  Carr-Gregg says the adversity young people experience increases dramatically during mid- to late adolescence, especially for girls. In fact, according to NIMH, by age 15, girls are twice as likely as boys to have experience a “major depressive episode.”

Carrie Silver-Stock, MSW, LCSW, a licensed mental health counselor and author of the new book, Secrets Girls Keep: What Girls Hide (& Why) and How to Break the Silence, says social pressure and hormones can be a major cause of distress for adolescents. “There’s tremendous pressure to fit in and be liked,” she says. “It can be a very hard time because they’re learning how to make decisions independently, and they have changes in their hormones—physiological changes going on in their bodies.”

Silver-Stock, who founded Girls With Dreams, www.girlswithdreams.com, an online learning community for adolescent girls to learn from and share with one another in a supportive environment, agrees that parents can be most effective by knowing their children well and paying attention—by being good detectives, she says. “Girls especially try to put on this act of having it all together, and sometimes they might not even realize they’re depressed,” Silver-Stock cautions.  

Carr-Gregg explains that in addition to social pressure and hormones, poor interpersonal skills coupled with negative thought processes can create difficulties for adolescents negotiating changing relationships with peers and families. Tweens and teens are searching for autonomy while at the same time trying to fit in—and it can be challenging to manage these tasks while simultaneously trying to succeed in a competitive academic and social environment.

The bottom line is that children are pressured by both peers and adults to grow up faster than they should. Why? Carr-Gregg points to driving factors such as the following: early puberty and sexualization, a higher incidence of parental separation, a decline in ritual (both tradition and spirituality), the 24/7 nature of peer communication, bullying, and disconnected communities.

“My clients are under pressure to have a great body, be very fit, to binge drink, have multiple sexual partners, and compete academically both at school and at university,” Carr-Gregg says.

How to Help

  • Be an expert on your child. Watch for changes in behavior
  • Make your home a safe place to share feelings and concerns
  • Recognize and applaud your adolescent’s strengths

Carr-Gregg and Silver-Stock both agree that extracurricular activities, or “islands of competence,” can serve as protective factors against depression. According to Carr-Gregg, adolescents who have identified islands of competence, such as art, music, sports, dance, or drama, seem to do better than adolescents without.

“Activities can really help to build self-esteem and confidence and give kids another peer network,” Silver-Stock says.

Identifying areas in which adolescents have competence also helps with identity formation, and it gives structure, meaning, and purpose to children’s lives, Carr-Gregg says.

Experts caution, however, not to overextend adolescents with too many extracurricular activities. There is a point at which these activities leave little room for downtime and reflection and only serve as an additional pressure.

It can be challenging to determine whether a teenager’s behavior is worthy of worry. If you are concerned about your teenager’s mental or emotional health, talk to your family doctor.

Is Your Country in the Top 20 Ranked Education Systems for 2015?

Each year several organizations produce ranking systems of educational systems comparing different countries. Two educational organisations - MD JED and Pearson, produce quarterly and/or  annual ranking lists and reports of the top 20 ranked education systems in the world. The statistical data is compiled from a variety of sources including  – the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the United Nation’s Economic and Social Council (UNESOC), The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and Progress in International Reading Study (PIRLS). In addition polls are taken sourcing opinions from teachers, students, parents. There is a heavy emphasis on reviewing annual educational budget allocations within each country. Standardised test results also are an important factor for determining the rankings.

Whilst there will always be controversy over the formulation of such ranking lists, there is merit analyzing and comparing the data findings of MD JED and Pearson in order to reach conclusions regarding what constitutes successful policies and initiatives adopted by the higher ranking countries for countries outside the top 20 could adopt.

ME JED Rankings

Pearson Rankings

1.      South Korea

1.      South Korea

2.      Japan

2.      Japan

3.      Singapore

3.      Singapore

4.      Finland

4.      Hong Kong

5.      United Kingdom

5.      Finland

6.      Hong Kong

6.      United Kingdom

7.      Netherlands

7.      Canada

8.      Canada

8.      Netherlands

9.      Denmark

9.      Ireland

10.  Germany

10.  Poland

11.  Ireland

11.  Denmark

12.  Russia

12.  Germany

13.  New Zealand

13.  Russia

14.  Poland

14.  United States

15.  Switzerland

15.  Australia

16.  Israel

16.  New Zealand

17.  Australia

17.  Israel

18.  USA

18.  Belgium

19.  China

19.  Czech Republic

20.  Belgium

20.  Switzerland

According to the data the world’s three best education educational systems are from East Asian countries: South Korea is 1st, Japan is 2nd and Singapore is 3rd.

NJ MED lists the United Kingdom as 4th and Finland as 5th, whereas Pearson has Hong Kong as 4th with Finland 5th.

Comparing the data reveals a high level of similarity in both lists. The one obvious difference is that NJ MED listed China as 19th whereas Pearson does not include China in its top 20.

NJ MED’s methodology for determining their top 20 ranking schools is transparent and easy to follow. The ranking system is based on five educational levels: early-childhood enrollment rates, Elementary Mathematics, Science and Reading scores, Middle-School Mathematics, Science and Reading scores, High School Graduation rates, and College Graduation rates. Each level consists of ranking the top 20 countries by giving a country 20 points for a first place rank, 19 for a second place rank, and so on down to 1 point for a twenty rank. The data is then used to produce the nation’s ranking from a statistical average based on a combined score from all 5 levels.

Pearson’s collation of data placed a greater emphasis on adult literacy rate, primary school and secondary school enrolment rates and women’s average years in school.

A notable observation is that there are no South American, Central American, African, Islamic including Gulf Arabian countries or Oceanic countries amongst the top 20 ranking countries.

Characteristics of the top six ranking countries

South Korea:  Population = 50,423,955. To compete in today’s global economy nations must invest in education and few countries are more invested than in this department than South Korea; whose parents spend 15% of their annual income on education, tutoring and supplemental education materials. South Korea’s return on their investment is bearing fruit, by improving their early-childhood enrollment rates so that they are now slightly ahead of Japan. South Korea faces legitimate questions about how their students can maintain such a rigorous pace, with their high primary education test scores in mathematics, reading and science; an excellent secondary graduation rate and the world’s highest post-secondary completion rate at 66%. South Korea is going 100% digital in 2016 that will include having textbooks in all of their schools accessible from a computer, tablet or phone. This will be a world first and put them way ahead of most other countries. Rates of juvenile depression and suicide have risen during the past decade causing alarm amongst groups of parents who worry about the psychological pressure placed on vulnerable students.

Japan:  Population = 127,070,000. Two years ago Japan occupied first place in the rankings and has recently dropped to number two, although this really is not an indicator of falling standards, rather it is an indication of the rapid improvement of South Korea. In 2016 Japan will increase investment in early-childhood education. Despite displaying top performances in proficiency, reading, mathematics and science in primary and secondary levels and having the world’s second highest college graduation rate (59%), Japan’s high school graduation rates are lower than could be expected -  ranked 7th in the world using data from NJ MED. Even though it’s highly unlikely Japan will drop further down future ranking lists, Japan will need to invest additional monies in early childhood education and address what may be deemed disappointing high school graduation rates.

Finland:  Population = 5,472,421. Although Finland is now listed as being behind the East Asian powerhouses of South Korea and Japan, it would be a wrong to assume their education system has declined. Their education quality may have dropped at all, but the extremely high emphasis of other nation’s education systems that focus on taking tests and achieving outstanding examination results has made Finland results appear worse than they really are. Finland’s system   radically differs from those of East Asian countries. Examples include:teachers spending fewer hours in classrooms than East Asian teachers;  teachers using the extra time to build curriculums in collaborative forums and comprehensively assessing their students with a wide variety of non-testing instruments; children spending far more time playing outside, even in the depths of winter; homework is minimal; compulsory schooling does not begin until age 7.  There is a high emphasis placed on inquiry based learning and there are no formal standardised examinations until the age of 13.

The United Kingdom: Population = 64,105,654. During the past decade governments have significantly increased investment in education that has led to the UK occupying a top five ranking. Despite this impressive achievement some of the country’s top education leaders are concerned that after years of improvement, data reveals that secondary student levels are beginning to decline. The Country’s Department of Education plan to recruit 17,500 new mathematics and physics teachers over the next five years to increase standards. A worrying factor is that many young teachers drop out of the profession due to work related pressure.  For the UK to advance in the rankings, they need improve their secondary graduation levels.

Singapore:  Population = 5,469,700: Singapore continues to show they’re a force at the primary and secondary education levels, and possess the capability of rising in the rankings. The country has increased their early-childhood enrollments and high school graduation rates.  Singapore is a small country and they spent approximately 4% of their GDP on education which compared to other countries in the top 20 is relatively low. This leads to the conclusion that if additional monies are spent of education, Singapore could challenge South Korea and Japan for the honour of being ranked as the best educational system in the world.

Hong Kong:  Population = 7,234,800: Their primary and secondary results show their teachers and school’s capabilities and like in South Korea, Japan and Singapore, their students work very hard and parents invest additional monies creating a thriving tuition industry for examination prepping. If the Government’s new educational philosophies can find a happy medium between the demands of liberal Hong Kong educators and the overriding reach of mainland Chinese authorities trying to hall in wayward thinking, Hong Kong will remain an elite educational system.

Reference Sources

World Top 20 Project: http://worldtop20.org/south-korea-capture-world-title-best-educated-country

MBC Times: http://www.mbctimes.com/english/20-best-education-systems-world

 

Homeschooling Considerations

Families who are considering homeschooling are faced by a range of issues: legality, curriculum, funding, subject expertise, post school options and life after homeschooling.

1.  Legalities

Is homeschooling legal? In most countries the answer is most certainly yes!  Having stated this, the legal status varies tremendously from countries and indeed, within state and provincial regions within a country. For example in the USA, all fifty states recognize some method of educating children at home.  Some states offer free public school online, others recognize religious or family run schools.  These circumstances are similar in many other countries, particularly those in Europe.

Foremost, if you are considering homeschooling, your initial fieldwork is to check with your state or provincial Department of Education and see what the regulations are for pulling a child from their existing traditional education institution and placing them in a homeschool environment.  If the child has not attended traditional school in the past, it may require a different set of notifications.  Homeschooling is legal in many countries, but it is extremely important that each family be in full compliance with their local regulatory homeschooling laws and be thoroughly ware that laws and requirements differ tremendously.

2.  Curriculum

There are several options for finding a suitable homeschool curriculum.  Perhaps the best way is to ask other homeschooling families or homeschooling associations. Each will have their own favorite curriculum or combination of different curricula. Some families go to homeschool conferences where curriculum vendors market their product.  Other families search the internet for their instructional material.  One popular curriculum is the British National Curriculum: https://www.gov.uk/national-curriculum/overview and the NSW Board of Studies: http://www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/

Many states and provinces in various countries where a free, online public education is offered, the department of education often provide books, materials, even use of a computer.  Libraries are a great source of educational material, especially where literature and history are concerned.  For early elementary students there are many sources for basic mathematics, literacy, humanities and science. One tremendous website for homeschoolers to use is Edhelper: http://www.edhelper.com/

 

3. Expense

Homeschooling does not have to be expensive.  Sources of educational material are wide-spread.  For families unwilling or unable to spend a lot of money, there are free and low cost curricula to be found online, such as those mentioned previously. The other end of the spectrum are the all-in-one box curricula which may be quite costly, however they do offer many services including lesson planning and grading as well as record-keeping and an interface with the department of education.  Essentially, homeschooling can be as cost effective or as expensive as a family chooses.  There are many options between the two extremes that will accommodate families in all economic circumstances.

4. Expertise

Not every parent will feel comfortable teaching every subject. While most parents will feel comfortable teaching the basics to younger students, when it comes to advanced fields of study such as literature analysis, mathematics, physics, chemistry and economics, many parents feel like they are not qualified to teach their students. Other courses such as foreign languages or music instruction often require more teaching than a parent might feel comfortable with.  The answer to this dilemma is to out-source.  The idea that a parent does all the teaching in a homeschooling situation is usually a fallacy.

Good advice is to check with local homeschool support groups to see if there are group classes.  Local libraries may offer courses.  Many times post-schooling students earn money through tutoring so check with your closest college or university to see if tutors are available.  Often checking with fellow homeschoolers will show a need and you might join with other families to fund a course. Additionally, some students in a homeschool environment also attend mainstream classes at a school for certain subjects, thus creating a unique blending of homeschooling and traditional schooling – in some cases being the best of both worlds.

5. Higher Education

In the past, higher institutions of education (colleges, universities and technical training centres) might have been hesitant to accept homeschoolers because they were unsure of the amount of scholarship abilities of a homeschooler.  However, that has changed for the most part, particularly in countries where homeschooling is rapidly growing, for example in Australia, England and Canada.  Higher educational institutions find that homeschoolers are generally well prepared for applied courses, performing better on standardized tests and required less remedial work than traditionally educated students.  Higher educational institutions also find that homeschool high school students often take dual credit courses which provide both high school and post-schooling credit.  Homeschool students tend to be self-starters and are accustomed to studying and preparing projects.  In fact, many institutions of higher learning seek out homeschool students because they find that homeschooled students measure up very competitively with other students.

6. Post Homeschool Planning

Planning is part of any successful homeschool operation. When you are trying to figure out how to prepare your student for higher education, there are a number of important questions to consider.

1.      Does the current curriculum have high school coursework available?

2.      Does your child know what they might want to do when they grow up?

3.      What are the admission requirements for a college or university that has programs in the area your student would want to study?

7. Testing

If you live in a region that requires routine standardized tests then your student will be exposed to them throughout their educational experience. Some regions do not require testing or reporting at all, while others list it as an optional practice. It is important to prepare your student for standardised tests if he or she intends to attend a higher educational institution.

There are several ways to help your homeschooled student prepare for these admission tests.

1.      Attend a tutoring college that offers specialised test taking classes.

2.      Ultilise test preparation guidelines.  They usually contain past test papers with attached answers.

3.      Practice tests. It is possible to incorporate practice tests in the test prep.

It is important to find out the target scores required for the standardized tests in terms of acceptance into an identified course offered at a higher educational institution. Check with the higher institution of education to which your student intends to submit applications. Generally the more data you have, the clearer the picture becomes about entry requirements, thus allowing you to design an appropriate plan to ensure success.

8. Records

Since homeschooled students generally do not have a school keeping maintaining their high school transcripts, this will be the homeschooling parents’ responsibility. Important features to include in the student’s transcript is the course title, the material source, the basic course outline, and the student’s scores in the courses.

Other important records to keep for your homeschooled high school student are records of field trips, work-study experiences, outside course participation, volunteer and charity participation, club participation, and records of independent study projects. You might also consider compiling a student portfolio that includes samples of the student’s work. This would be of particular importance if your student is an artist, writer, or music.

It is realistic and worthy to homeschool high school aged students in many cases. In most cases where proper planning is evident and the considerations raised in this article are addressed,  as a parent  you can expect your child (student) to excel at a higher institution of learning.  

 

 

 

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