Politicisation of Education

International Evidence shows the Politicisation of Education has failed

Recently I reviewed a number of articles on education in different national newspapers. The last was “ California should end social promotion” which appeared recently in the San Diego Union/Tribune. It did not contain one international comparison. If we are to obtain a proper perspective on what is happening in education in the USA, it is crucial we examine what is happening in other countries. We can then research what teaching practices and policies are successful and what are failing.

This article examines recent research carried out by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The first study, published April 2004, measured mainly reading literacy but also included science and math tests. The second study, published December 2004, measured the ability of 15-year-olds to solve real-life math problems. Both studies provide information regarding student achievement in countries around the world. Two countries whose students outperform US students and which spend far less per capita on education are Finland and New Zealand. We shall examine education in these countries to see if such an examination can provide valuable indicators as far as student achievement and success are concerned.

It is important that we learn and learn quickly and change policies so that our children can eventually compete successfully in the global economy. We find that the USA spends more per student than any other country yet is now in the bottom third as far as student achievement is concerned in the crucial area of mathematics problem solving. The United States has the highest number of teaching hours per school year in the primary and high school grades, and the second highest for middle-school students. The curriculum is also test driven more than any other country in the developed world and it follows that it also tests children more than the countries that outperform the USA.

Finland whose students come out top as far as performance in problem solving and near the top in nearly every category has rejected the whole idea of standardized testing for all ages except school leavers. New Zealand students who also out-perform those of the USA previously did not test pre-high school children at all.

Imagine a country where:
1. expenditure per student is well under half of the USA 
2. schools are community based and run as a cooperative venture between teachers and parents
3. the vast bulk of education expenditure goes directly to schools
4. school districts do not exist 
5. schools hire consultants and advisers directly on a needs-to basis 
6. no testing occurs for pre-high school students 
7. teachers are free to teach what and how they want. The Ministry of Education issues guidelines but schools are free and independent 
8. arts and music are regarded as crucial for the neurological development of children 
9. students out-perform those of the USA 
10. students move, according to age, from one grade to another 
11. generally, there are many applicants for each teaching post as teaching is a popular profession and attracts good or excellent graduates 
This is not Utopia but New Zealand, a country where children enjoy their childhood and perform well in international tests outperforming US students. Education has been freed from the shackles of central and local bureaucracy.

Imagine a country where: 
1. children do not start school until the are seven 
2. expenditure per student is under two thirds of the USA 
3. your teenagers are the best readers in the world 
4. your teenagers excel in science and mathematics 
5. although a core national curriculum exists teachers are free to teach what and how they want 
6. teachers choose their textbooks or can ditch them altogether; they can teach indoors or outdoors, cluster children in small or large groups 
7. no testing occurs for pre-sixteen school students 
8. the only national exams are the school-leaving ones at eighteen 
9. all students are required to take seven years of music coursework 
10. music is regarded as essential for the neurological development of children 
11. its capital, a city well under half the size of San Diego, is the home of five symphony orchestras. Nationwide (and this is in a country only a third bigger than San Diego County) there exist twenty-six symphony orchestras and twelve opera companies 
12. students move, according to age, from one grade to another 
13. outperforms the USA economically 
This is not Utopia but Finland, a country where children enjoy their childhood and perform well in international tests outperforming US students. Education has been freed from the shackles of central and local bureaucracy.

Will education policy-makers examine such data? If my experience in San Diego is anything to go by they will not. Such or similar data has been provided three times since 1998 to the Superintendent and School Board Members of the San Diego City Schools with only one response. They continue to implement policies that fail our children. They continue to implement policies that are, in essence, the greatest socialization of education that has ever occurred in the developed world. These policies have been supported continually by the San Diego Union/Tribune. In a country that prides itself on freedom it is an illusion to believe that freedom exists in education or in the local press because it does not.

The USA, and certainly California, is obsessed with testing students of all ages. Finland and New Zealand have quite a different approach to monitoring students’ progress. For example the New Zealand Ministry of Education fully appreciates that learning patterns can be different, “Successful outcomes for all students require a range of learning pathways. One size does not fit all. Children arrive at school with different early childhood experiences and different levels of development. How students learn, the pace at which they learn and their interests vary between individuals. These differences are recognized, to an extent, through the current system. This gives teachers and schools responsibility for organizational and teaching decisions and through provision for immersion learning and designated character schools. However, the current system needs to continually look for ways to provide flexible pathways, especially for learners with diverse needs.” Sadly, I have never seen a similar statement by an education policy maker in San Diego, California or the USA.

The OECD April 2004 report makes interesting reading. Over 250,000 15-year-olds in 41 countries were tested. Finland ranked number one in science and reading and second only to Hong Kong in maths. New Zealand ranked joint second in the reading literacy rankings. The OECD December 2004 report measured the ability of 15-year-olds to solve real-life math problems. The survey was conducted in 2003 among a nationally representative sample of more than 5,456 students in 262 U.S. schools, and more than 250,000 students worldwide. The results suggest that, at the secondary-school level, the learning gap between the United States and its competitors in Europe and Asia is widening and that U.S. students continue to lag behind students elsewhere in basic math skills.

High school students in Hong Kong, Finland and South Korea do best in mathematics among those in 40 surveyed countrieswhile students in the United States finished in the bottom half. It ranked 28th of 40 countries in math and 18th in reading. Even Czech Republic students, with one third per capita expenditure of US students, outperform US students.

Where United States does come top is in per capita education expenditure. The United States was also cited as having the poorest outcomes per dollar spent on education. As (former) Education Secretary Rod Paige said on seeing the latest report, “If we are less competitive educationally, we will soon become less competitive economically. That’s just a cruel fact.” The results from these studies indicate that, at the secondary-school level, the learning gap between the United States and its competitors in Europe and Asia is widening. As countries as diverse as Finland and New Zealand show what happens in the education of elementary school children will determine how such students perform at high school level and in adult life.

Desperate measures are needed if our students are to achieve at the same level as Finland, Hong Kong, South Korea, Czech Republic and New Zealand. Sadly it would appear that policy makers are obsessed with their present socialist policies even though international research provides evidence that very different policies are needed. Tragically, it is our children who suffer most from this mismanagement in education.

You can negotiate to information on student achievement amongst countries in the developed world from this page (see OECD study: Knowledge and Skills for Life PISA – Programme for International Student Assessment). The information is made available in different formats. For example, in a Special Report (detailed information); in a Newsletter that contains a lesson; in an article (for publication in newspapers and magazines etc.); and in a letter that can be sent to interested parties.


Mission Statement

The Mollet Learning Academy (MLA) exists for the benefit of teachers, parents and educators who wish to bring about the best possible education for our children. There are two main objectives of the MLA.

The first is to give teachers, based on the latest research, free detailed lesson plans so that they can devote their time in customizing content and methodology so that it relates in the most efficient way to the students’ progress and wellbeing. As well as providing free lessons MLA will produce a Quarterly Newsletter (Click here for latest copy). Part of the contents of the Newsletter will be information on countries that have different administrative educational systems and whose students out-perform those of the USA. Click here to go to the page providing the links to this information or click on any Links button.

In the latest issue of the Newsletter we examine a OECD study: Knowledge and Skills for Life PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) published on Tuesday 6 April 2004. We find two countries whose students out-perform those of the USA possess quite different education administrative structures to those of the USA. In fact, we find that nationally and state-wide the USA has been moving for some considerable time in the opposite direction to those of Finland and New Zealand.

The second is to bring change to the education administrative structure. 

The objective of MLA is to give students, based on the latest research:
1. content and lessons in different subject areas;
2. methodology that is relevant to any given age at elementary level;
3. a sensitive but thorough monitoring of progress;
4. education that relates to their experience of life;
5. the enhancement and the development of all different skills;
6. an environment in which they enjoy learning.

Provide teachers with necessary resources and material, based on the latest research, to enable students to:
1. develop literacy through different content areas;
2. reach their unique potential;
3. remember their schooling with affection;
4. desire the same type of schooling for their children.

Why you should fund this project.

1. Because children and their minds are our most precious possessions.

2. Any parent or teacher will tell you that their child/children has unique faculties and attributes that they bring to this world.

3. Education helps or hinders each child’s “destiny”. This project, based on research and experience, will create lessons and classroom structure to accentuate and develop each child’s unique potential.

4. Research validates the lesson structures used for this project.

5. Education should consist of two elements. Firstly, the drawing out from the child’s experience. The USA educational system largely ignores this dynamic. Secondly, the teaching of our accumulated knowledge that relates to the mindset of children. The system only relates to this mindset in a haphazard and fragmented way.

6. Therefore what should education be based on? Proven research indicates that education can be divided into three.
a) How children develop. Teachers need a theory of child development to practice their craft efficiently – “Why is it taught?” State education provides a simplistic answer to this question and the human mind is not simple.
b) Content or curriculum – “What is taught?” Mainstream education obsession with testing children results in teaching that revolves around the content that is going to be in the tests; this is particularly harmful to young children.
c) Interaction between teachers and children or Methodology of Teaching – “How is it taught?” Mainstream education does not examine this area. To examine a model for teaching click here

7. Information and lessons can be made available to teachers on a worldwide basis by way of the internet. They will be free and relate to existing frameworks. Appropriate acknowledgment to sponsors will be included.

8. Teachers will want these lessons. In a pilot program of ten e-newsletters with lessons, 2,100 teachers subscribed within six weeks and without any advertising. Demand was too great to satisfy.

9. Demand can be satisfied on an ongoing basis by finding appropriate donors. Initial task to provide around 300 free e-lessons that can be downloaded together with video clips showing rational behind and supporting content. 

10. Please see business plan at http://molletlearningacademy.com/corporate/MLABusinessPlan.pdf for outline ov various stages of development.

11. Commitment by Dr. David L Mollet to this unique project will be full-time. His children are adults and “gone” and he wishes to make a further contribution to education however challenging this may be. He would prefer appropriate remuneration but he is willing to administer the project gratis if necessary. His main difficulty has been to find support, monetary and social, for his analysis of what needs improving or changing in education particularly in  the countries that he has lived and worked in, namely UK, USA and New Zealand. The people he has met in the last 23 years, and who agree with him, have usually left education. Those who are still in education say it is impossible to bring about the necessary changes. However, he still believes it is possible to bring about these changes even if it takes many years and the bottom line, he believes, is that we are selling our children short if we do not make every effort to do so.

Arnold Toynbee, a famous historian, said, “Civilizations decline, not so much because of invasions or other external forces, but because of an internal hardening of ideas.” Those existing in state education in California and the majority of the rest of the USA are based on inflexible and rigid ideas. What can only be termed the socialization of educational ideas is occurring nationwide.

A few years ago in a survey taken by pollster Mark Mellman  40% of likely California voters named elementary and secondary education as the biggest problem facing the state. That is more than the total for the next four issues – crime and drugs, health care, immigration and taxes. Evidence on the preceding pages indicate a real problem and the people who are really hurting are our children. Tragically it need not be happening but the consequences of politicising education are disastrous. It is obvious that one of the main determinants, if not the main one, is the extent to which the workforce has been educated.

The UK and USA are now both in steep decline and it isn’t rocket science to work out why! We shall not succeed in our task in our lifetimes but we do seek to sow the seeds for future generations. Initially, we aim to make available gratis to teachers hundreds of e-lessons. A study of these lessons will indicate that they are in many ways unique.

What do we believe in? 

1. The MLA approach to education believes in developing the creative and imaginative side of the student in harmony with the intellectual and cognitive. To achieve this, MLA Teaching Packs make stories and drama an integral part of the lessons and involve students through storytelling, art, simulations, drama, craft, discussion and creation of a personal record.

There are MLA Teaching Packs for teaching a) Ancient Civilizations/World History, b) History of California and c) Mathematics (Fractions and Multiplication Tables)

2. Click on any of these links ChinaEgyptGreece, IndiaIsraelitesKushMesopotamiaPrehistory or Rome to take you to the appropriate WER Unit.

3. Click here if you wish to access free lesson on papyrus (enter Papyrus in Subject line – any information you supply is treated in complete confidence).

4. Click here for Mollet Learning Academy (MLA) Teaching Packs.

5. Click here to find out about Kush. Kush is Africa’s oldest interior civilization. Do your students, particularly African-American, have the opportunity to study this part of their cultural heritage?

6. Click here for articles and research reports.

7. Click here to check out evaluations of pilots carried out in schools in San Diego and to read what teachers think about our lessons/newsletters.

“These resource packs contain unbound, ready-to-use reproducible masters, that are varied, simple, and appealing to students. The interactive strategies suggested are suitable for independent, small-group, and whole-class assignments.”
(Grade 6 Course Models – California State Department of Education)

8. Click here to check out evaluation of WER Unit Kush by USA leading authority.

9. Information on workshops/presentations for introducing the MLA approach into public schools available at https://molletacademy.com/mla-workshops/

10. For an explanation of the philosophy behind the writing of these packs click https://molletacademy.com/mla-pedagogy/

11. Click https://molletacademy.com/sdsu-courses/ for details of on-line courses accredited by San Diego State University.

Dr. David Mollet davidmetis@gmail.com
NZ: h 09-555-2021 m 022-101-1741, 41 Hilling St, Titirangi, Auckland 0604 
USA: 619-463-1270, 6656 Reservoir Lane, San Diego, CA 92115 (Skype waldorfedu)

1) The material was initially written for New Zealand teachers but on request from USA teachers, monitoring and assessment procedures were added. To view this material please visit https://molletacademy.com/
WideHorizon Education Resources (WER) https://molletacademy.com/widehorizon-2/ Waldorf Education Resources (WER) https://molletacademy.com/waldorf/
2) MLA is also involved in researching on an international basis, what works and what doesn’t work. Most of the research results can be seen at https://molletacademy.com/research-reports/ while a draft of a book The Task for New Zealand Education is at https://molletacademy.com/the-task-for-nz-education/
3) Blogs at http://www.molletlearningacademy.blogspot.co.nz/
4) Business Plan at http://molletlearningacademy.com/corporate/MLABusinessPlan.pdf
5) Papyrus https://molletacademy.com/papyrus/

If you wish to subscribe to MLA Newsletter please do so at https://molletacademy.com/ Thanks and take care, David


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