The American School System Is Doing It All Wrong

Cassidy Lo, Staff Writer

 It is no secret that the American school system has failed each of us at one time or another. However, we may not have even realized it until researching the school systems and practices of other countries. 

  Japan, one of the top ranking countries in education, emphasizes moral education in the early years of elementary school. Children are taught respect for others and the environment, to understand the importance of life, to respect the rules of society, and to develop self-control. This builds a solid foundation for each child’s role in society as a respectful citizen. 

  Japan’s graduation rate for upper secondary school– equivalent to American high school– is 94 percent, while the United States’ is only 85 percent. 

  One of the highest ranked school systems in the world is that of Switzerland. The Swiss system is unique, as it offers a diverse option of paths for students after completing lower secondary secondary school– equivalent to American middle school. 

  Teenage students in Switzerland get to choose from vocational educational training (VET), Baccalaureate, or Upper secondary specialized school based on their interests and strengths. This prepares them for their future careers while also gauging their strongest suits. 

  However, (arguably) the best education system belongs to Finland. Not only does school begin from age seven, but preschool and child care is a guaranteed right to every child in Finland. Although Finnish citizens pay much higher taxes, services such as preschool are practically free. This starts every child on an even playing field, regardless of their family’s economic status. Whereas in America, those living in poverty are destined to receive a poor education.

  In addition, only the top 10 percent of graduates are qualified to become educators. The small teacher to student ratio allows for personalized lessons and bonding between each student and teacher. The national standard is a student to teacher ratio of 14:1 where classes in the U.S. can have up to 35 children. 

  Starting school from the age of seven allows for proper brain development to absorb the information traditionally taught in American kindergarten. For example, reading is not a required skill until the first grade in Finland. Personalized instruction allows for students to learn skills, such as reading, when they are ready, as every child develops at a different pace.

    Instead, in the U.S., standardized testing for kindergarteners is required with a reading portion. This requirement forces students to learn prematurely and can take a blow on their self confidence. Many may not be mentally ready to learn, but are forced to and can easily fall behind. Those who have trouble reading often grow up thinking they are “stupid” when, in reality, the school system is stupid.

  Studies completed by Sebastian Suggate, a former Ph.D. candidate at New Zealand’s University of Otago studying educational psychology, showed that students in New Zealand and those in Finland were at the same reading level by the age of 11 despite the two to three year head start New Zealand students had on Finnish students. This proves that there is little to no advantage of teaching complex skills early.

  It would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to change the U.S. school system enough to match the caliber of Swiss and Finnish systems. However, as Albert Einstein said, “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”