School Reform: Pros and Cons
Svetlana Levanova, 512 AE
SCHOOL REFORM: PROS AND CONS
Suddenly the whole society realized the necessity of a school reform.
We clasped our hands with great surprise and exclaimed: “Why, but we have
to change it!” There's no smoke without fire. If we inspect the issue more
profoundly it will be clear that the idea emerged not so accidentally.
Investigations prove that almost 90% of school students have
developed health problems or are now behind the norm of their age in mental
and physical maturity. The reason for that can be found not only in poor
economy of the state and hostile environment, but also in the conditions at
school in which students spend ten years. The load of new subjects and the
growing depth of learning are the basic reasons for health problems.
Striving for a prestigious status of gymnasiums or lyceums some
schools introduce new subjects, include them into their curriculum and make
them compulsory. They may teach logic, psychology, and culture of thought,
ecology, economics and what not! Frequently it is done at the cost of a
reduced number of hours intended for such disciplines as physics, biology,
literature, history and others. The norms, standards and demands remain on
the same level though school children lack the time necessary to learn the
subjects successfully. At the same time they normally spend over six hours
at school and over four hours doing their homework. Hence the workweek of a
regular high-school student is sixty hours!
Specialized schools, which put special emphasis on humanities or
sciences or languages, are reputed to be highly professional. They double
the number of hours of specific subjects thus aiming at the quality of
students’ knowledge. The result is two faceted. On the one hand the volume
of acquired knowledge is overly increased together with the load of
intensified process of learning, on the other hand we face a catastrophic
fall in the condition of students’ bodies and minds.
One more nerve-wrecking factor is an independent examination
commission. Specialized schools introduced exams at each year beginning
with the fifth grade. School students strain every nerve to please the
commission to simply pass from one grade to another and then find
themselves in breakdowns. There’s no ground for that. Final control testing
is proved to be sufficient except for graduate years.
Transformations will be first of all done in the educational
standards and the curriculum. It is necessary to create new standards, to
give expertise and to discuss and criticize them. Those teachers who are
really interested in their students’ performance and health should
participate in this discussion.
If we assess the whole educational system of Russia critically,
successes of the past were linked to the skill requirements of a planned
economy, not to the demands of an unplanned labor market and an open
society. Capital investments in education have been declining for the last
decades. Buildings have deteriorated, libraries are antiquated, and
laboratory equipment is becoming unusable.
Russia's curricular traditions are ill-suited for an economy where
problem-solving ability and occupational flexibility are of great
importance. Soviet curriculum tended to emphasize the acquisition of
factual material and to underemphasize the skills necessary for applying
this material to unfamiliar circumstances in other words, problem-solving
Teachers’ staff constitutes one more task for the government. There is
hardly any teacher in Russia who would be satisfied with his or her salary
and working condition. Therefore not so many people, young girls mostly,
are willing to acquire this profession. Experienced school teachers say
that today teaching is based on pure enthusiasm. Only those who feel their
natural predisposition to teaching are still loyal to the profession.
Teaching is neither well-paid nor prestigious.
Defining the problems we may come to the corollary that Russian
educational system has so many burning issues that it is hard to imagine
how this system still manages to survive. The bundle of problems seems to
be tightly knitted. The much discussed school reform should deal not only
with twelve-year education and curricular changes but also with financing
as well as legislation. The budgeting process should be revised
accordingly. The number of issues is immense but we have to bear in mind
that our future depends on education of the young generation who is the
future of the country.