View Full Version : Education: deteriorating student results

22nd February 2016, 08:35
Every now and then we hear of studies and reports in which measured, comparative analysis of student results. Comparative over years, for example: from one decade/decades to another (1990-2000). Or over the borders: which country scores best for math, English, etc.

Generally, we can see that there are increasing difficulties of all sorts for students.
What I wonder is - from all the possible causes pointed out in the analysis - why we rarely question the other side? The teacher for example? The indecisiveness of the Education Minister to finally decide on which education model to use for a representative enough time (I hear the Netherlands have problems with too much experimenting in education)? And why not the whole Ministry of Education? Think about it, we appoint as Minister of Education the same person we appointed the year before as Minister of Traffic or Taxis, and before that as Minister of Environment, and then also they become Minister of Pensions, and a great lot of which (it is politics after all) in origin law students. How can education be taken serious like that?

The last Minister of Education who actually taught in secondary schools herself and accumulated almost two decades of experience, dates from 12 years ago.

Example of some student-related causes I can recall off the top of my head:

- lack of motivation (as inspired by local current events)
- excessive use of social media
- attention deficits
- family related problems (divorce, foreign parents, drug abuse,...)

Example of teacher/teaching system/minister-related causes:

I'll honestly say, I can't readily recall any, at least not for Europe. Maybe because there is just not enough focus on it. The teacher is not infallible, and though this will sound logical to many, that position is not sufficiently scrutinized, much to the disadvantage of current schoolgoers.

And I don't accept the idea that kids are simply becoming "dumber".
It takes skills to get the best out of students.

22nd February 2016, 10:25
From my perspective as a parent of an 11 yr old due to take his SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test or Scholastic Assessment Test) before summer I would lay the blame solely at the door of govt.

Just this weekend I went through an example paper, (English grammar), and achieved a score of 53%. In 1981 I sat and passed the exam for entrance to MENSA, now in 2016 I cannot pass a SAT test designed to measure the aptitude of 11 yr olds. I don't believe I have got dumber in the intervening 30 odd years.

A lot of the questions were about things I was never taught at school and, perhaps more importantly, nobody felt it was necessary to know. In my opinion the children are getting bogged down in rules and terms and actual learning by use and practice is getting neglected.

Some of the unfamiliar terms I saw were 'Subordinating connectives' and 'Auxillary verb'. You don't need to know these terms in order to learn how to read and write, how to use your language. Time enough to study that when you begin to take command of a language.

What everyone understands (- Statement, Question, Command) has been replaced by clumsy terminologies (- Declarative sentence, Interrogative statement, Imperative statement).

Leaving it there, just noticed I'm going to be late for an appointment... :(

Edit: And I'm back. So, to continue..

My son has learning difficulties, as in it is literally quite difficult for him to learn. It is a slower process for him and concepts can elude him for some time. Even on grasping something there must be constant re-inforcement or he is apt to forget and have to learn anew.

So instead of teaching him, and thousands of others like him, how to just use the language they have to get bogged down in rules and structure of grammar. It does not and cannot help.

It has to be said modern technology does not help and the idea of picking up a book to these kids is a strange concept when one could as easily pick up a phone or tablet. I managed to get the TV pretty much disconnected, I would fare less well with wi-fi as my wife is the biggest addict in the house.

22nd February 2016, 18:33
All by design. The controllers want dumb factory workers, not critical thinkers.

24th February 2016, 09:32
Thanks for your time, Ewan.

You're right about overformalising terminology with no apparent practical goal, especially at that age. Let alone, if a child has learning disabilities, a subject that I am familiar with.

Teacher training prepares the teacher for the classroom. Here we have two types of teacher training, one on a higher education level and one on university level. I know university is also higher education but we have what we call hogescholen (lit. high schools, but not high schools really (wow how much clearer can it get) because they are not secondary schools, we call those 'middelbare scholen'). Now, typical about hogescholen is a more vocational approach whereas university focuses more on (developing) theories.

With regard to the teacher training my experience shows me that teachers who received this training at a hogeschool (and are sometimes looked down upon by their colleagues graduated from university) seem more familiar with a classroom, and seem more at ease in the midst of students. This needs almost be logical because their actual training hours in a classroom significantly exceeds the university colleagues'. Potentially (every teacher is different) leading to a more formal approach, with the latter group, having had less direct student contact in classroom settings.

Another element, fixed contracts (hot potato). Starting teachers get conditional contracts that are renewed every school year after evaluation by the headmaster/-mistress. There are three years of consecutive evaluation. If all three years were positively evaluated, the teacher can file an application that will eventually (if successfull, and the details of which I won't bore you with) lead to a fixed position. A general, and often reiterated, observation is that once teachers obtain their fixed position they start behaving like they entered a zone of diplomatic immunity. And in part so, because it is hard to remove such a teacher when there are anomalies. Of course there are limits, but I doubt overformalising grammar terms is part of those, whereas it would've been if he/she had been a beginning teacher.

Then, during evaluation it might be said that the language of the teacher is not adapted to the pupils, and they might get some mark deduction for that.

So, that all plays a role.

For me personally, some things I would like to see changing; indeed a profound, more vocational training, class is doing. When you deal with people you're not an observer sitting at a desk creating theories about social behaviour, you're part of it.

Also, very important, insecurity in beginning teachers. This insecurity can be coupled directly to the lack of vocational focus. When the teachers are familiar with the classroom, they will gain more self-confidence.

I'm an observer myself, I've watched the scene, the people, and some things are more intuitive because I don't know the individuals. I see eyes with lack of confidence (sometimes also fear of difficult/agressive students/situation, fear of loss of face) but also lack of passion, empathy. Sometimes even it's like a robot guiding, going through a checklist. Check, check...Things get motoric, the tonality in the voice,....If we would overlap them in audio software, I bet we could see a pattern there.

And some teachers will also blunty state that they only became teachers so that they could combine the holidays with their family, it matches. No need to look for day care every time. That's handy.

Then there are special needs. A very real subject. Going back to the teacher training: little to no mentioning of this ( not in the ca. 2000 version), let alone how to deal with such students. So, we will see that teachers enter a heterogeneous scene that requires very specific knowledge, which they don't (always) have, and misinterpret situations and behaviour, again, to the disadvantage of schoolgoers. For instance, an ADHD pupil has a high risk of being labeled impolite, impatient and agressive. It will cost him/her marks and credibility.

We can't expect teachers, to be psychologists, to be doctors, etc. but we can expect cooperation of expertise fields when required and I am happy to see that starting already, in my children's school for example. This is a method school, it's small scale, so there is still a long way to go. Alleviating teachers from this pressure (they are under pressure, let's not underestimate) will create more room for healthy interaction.

Another problem in the health topic area. Overdoing it. We see an increase in students who, by their schools are suggested to a learning disability. They are sent to logopaedicians/speech therapists for math exercises for instance. I've lived times that we knew such therapists to be for people who had problems with their -r or -s. Things are changing. So, when pupils are slower at math they are sent there. I'm still looking at this topic because it's not very clear to me just what is going on exactly.
I can also see that a growing group of migrant children are systematically sent to speech therapists and I don't know if this is solely language related. I do assume that the therapist will always profoundly test the situation before starting therapy. And if a test does not confirm a learning disability refer the pupil back to school, and school being responsible for providing extra help with whatever has not been well attained in class.

I know, from when I was little that even though you can master a language, that is not your home language, you can still find difficulties in understanding what exactly an assignment is asking from you. I've more than once had trouble with this in math, for example, where eventually, I would realise that I knew the answer but I thought they were asking something else. Not suggesting in any way that I'm a math wizz :cat: but I think that it might have affected the way teachers looked at my performance.

Whether speech therapists are the right persons to deal with these things, I don't know:

Speech-language pathology is a field of expertise practiced by a clinician known as a Speech-language pathologist (SLP), also called speech and language therapist,[1] or speech therapist, who specializes in the evaluation and treatment of communication disorders and swallowing disorders. (wiki)