Grissom: Educational reform necessary for a stable future

Megan Grissom

Election day is approaching and with it a number of plans that promise to get the United States back on her feet. Many candidates are focusing on the economic recession, blaming all of our problems on debt and the recession and claiming the way out is someone reorganizing how our citizens are taxed. However, if you take a moment to look at the bigger picture, we might see that there could be another way out of this economic crisis — education reform. We can use the country of Finland as an example.

In the 1960s, Finland was trying to pick up the pieces left behind by the Soviet Union and reassemble themselves into a nation with an independent future. Their education system was in shambles, with very few children even making it past the sixth grade. This was the area in which Finland chose to invest, and their decision to prioritize education paid off. Finland schools are top ranked globally, many percentage points higher than schools in the United States. But the Finland educators do not place such test scores on a pedestal and instead concentrate on actually teaching a student to learn.

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard a teacher or professor say “but you won’t be tested on this.” The U.S. education system seems to rely on the results of standardized testing. A whole week of every elementary and secondary school year of our lives was devoted especially to those tests. Precautions were taken to ensure that we had the optimal testing environment and rewards were given to students who showed improvement or were in the top percentage of national scores. Our scores on the ACTs or SATs determine what colleges we get into or how much scholarship money we are given. All this importance creates a competition between our schools and our students, something that is not seen in Finland.

Finland strove to make education in all schools as equal as possible. Rather than having schools compete for their funding, resources are distributed equally among schools. Finland also has a national curriculum that includes teaching students three languages and even the beginnings of upper level sciences at a younger age. Like us, Finland has many immigrant students who may struggle with the difficulty of their language, but they have solved this problem by hiring professionals that specialize in multicultural education.

The educators in Finland are another reason that the country’s education system has soared. Teachers are required to have a five-year master’s degree and, therefore, are as respected in the community as doctors. They are also highly appreciated and are paid large salaries to show them how important their work is. I believe that this is the area where the United States should begin social reform, not in the schools themselves but in the educating and treatment of those who teach in them.

Our teachers play a large role in shaping the future of our country, so they should receive the highest quality education themselves. They should at least be fluent in one other language, they should have a well rounded knowledge of subject matter and have had extensive coursework in the psychology of learning and practicum. Then, in turn, they should be given a place of high respect in the community and a salary that matches their level of importance.

Once teachers have obtained their education, they should not have to prove their capability in the classroom by subjecting students to annual standardized testing. If standardized testing were removed, teachers could concentrate on instilling a love of learning in their students, not teach to a test. Students would not be as stressed out about school, they could enjoy their education and, hopefully, have the desire to do well.

All politicians can agree something must be done about the United States’s economic situation, but it’s time that we stop investing all of our time and resources into the stock market and start to invest more into creating a solid foundation for our future. This does not mean to add more funding, but to go back to the basics — to better educate our teachers and treat them with a higher regard and to start teaching for the sake of learning, not to take a test.