Is it time for The U.S School System to Change?
The U.S school system, in my opinion, is in dire need of change. Our school system adds lots of anxiety and extra stress on kids. A lot of this anxiety comes from the extensive amount of homework and pressure to do well on tests, either from parents or teachers and sometimes both.
There are many ways that we could fix the U.S school system. One way is to incorporate some of the methods that the Finnish school system uses. There are some very BIG differences between the U.S. and Finland’s educational systems. In Finland, they receive very little homework, compared to the hours of homework kids in the U.S receive. The average high schooler in the U.S gets about 2 hours of homework a night. In Finland, Teens get about 2 hours per week. Even more surprising is the U.S the average school day is around 7 hours. In Finland, they have on average 3 hours and 45 minutes of school a day. So why is Finland's education system consistently ranked as one of the best in the world?
Finland has an entirely different outlook on education. Teachers are highly respected and paid very well. They are treated with almost the same regard as physicians. This carries over into the classroom and is one of the reasons Finnish children do so well in school. Their philosophy on homework and testing is also vastly different than the U.S. Finland gives students less than two hours a week of homework and there are no standardized tests. A typical school day in Finland begins between 8 am and 9 am and finishes around 1 pm or 2 pm in the afternoon. They have several breaks within the day. They also serve free (and healthy!) lunch daily.
One might look at the differences between the two systems and think there are some changes that are easy to make. They are in fact, not. The main reason the U.S. education system is essentially stuck in a paradigm that does not benefit many kids is that the U.S funds schools by property taxes. So communities with a bigger tax base get better resources while poorer areas get much less. Finland funds their schools nationally so kids get equal access to quality education no matter where they live.
One strategy that could potentially be implemented in the U.S would be to decrease the number of standardized tests administered to students. Standardized tests cause teachers to “teach the test” instead of teaching kids something interesting and useful that the kids would actually benefit from. Most tests only teach Math, English, and Science. That leaves out history, art, and other topics a teen might be more interested in. Standardized tests also favor kids who have wealthier families. Test companies (a multi-billion dollar a year industry) not only manufacture the tests, but they also manufacture the courses and programs that can be taken to “prepare for the test.” These test prep programs can cost hundreds to almost a thousand dollars to take. Not everyone can afford these test prep programs. These tests also put a great deal of stress on kids. Kids may be sitting there not being able to answer the questions because they are anxious and stressed out. Standardized testing doesn’t actually show students true ability, but more likely just shows how much the student has memorized.
Standardized tests do, however, provide data crucial to highlighting the achievement gap in many communities, but non-standardized tests can likely show the same gap while fitting the test to the student instead of teaching to the test.
Another big stressor for kids in the U.S is the extensive amount of homework they have each night. Honestly, a lot of homework that kids get is busy work that doesn’t benefit them at all. Kids still stress over how much they have and how little time they have to finish it, thus, affecting their social life. This can cause them to miss out on hanging out with friends and participating in extracurriculars. It also decreases the amount of time you have to spend with your family. Personally, the number of hours spent doing homework instead of doing something I choose is the biggest contributor to my overall anxiety. This combined with the academic pressure to “do well” to get into college makes the impact even greater. Kids just need time to do things they enjoy without having to stress about school. Homework is not bad when it is in small amounts but really has no benefit overall to many U.S. students.
In my opinion, there are many things that we can’t change about our system because of funding, but there are also things we can change. We can give students less homework, so they aren’t spending countless hours each night doing it, which will give them more free time. This would take a lot of pressure off of a lot of kids shoulders. I witness kids at school who stay up almost all night doing homework and studying. This causes them to have a hard time focusing in class and usually leads to falling asleep in class. This honestly does not help kids be successful in school. Finally, we can give less standardized tests to kids, and more individual knowledge tests. Just by fixing these things, students anxiety levels will go down, and they will be able to focus better.