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Thread: How do you feel about your country's education system ?

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    Post How do you feel about your country's education system ?



    This is not the first thread about education, but it is an important topic, and one that is particularily interesting to discuss in an international community like ours.

    I have expressed my concerns about the Japanese education system before (e.g. this thread), and I still feel like discussing it as there are high probablities that my future child(ren) will be born in Japan, and possibly also educated there.

    Among the most negative aspects of the Japanese education system are :

    1) too based on memory, and almost complete lack of critical analysis and debate.
    2) no choice of other foreign language than English before university
    3) very poor English teachers (often they couldn't hold a conversation with a native speaker)
    4) teachers lack professional knowledge. One secondary school teacher can teach several unrelated subjects (eg. maths, history and English), which is unheard of where I come from.
    5) too uniformised curriculum. Teachers have no freedom to choose their textbook or create their own syllabus, or to choose what part of the curriculum should be more emphasized.
    6) low level of education in general (eg. now students learn that the circular constant (pi) is 3 instead of 3,1415; students can speak English when they complete highschool; some university students have a 13-year old kanji level...)
    7) poor general knowledge curriculum (little history and geography)

    I hope things change before I have kids and they reach the age of compulsory education.

    Here is how things were when I was at school. I think it is quite representative of the "typical" Western Europen curriculum and system. Please let us know about your own experience in your country/state to compare. Each point is developed in contrast with my complaints about the Japanese education system above. American members, note that "primary school" means "elementary school", and "secondary school" means "(junior & senior) highschool" in British English.

    1) I was taught since primary school that memory was less important than understanding. Tests were usually made in such a way that those who simply memorised without understanding could not answer the questions (especially in secondary school). Typical questions for history would be "read the text and explain why things were like that at the time or what causes these events... In physics or chemistry, we usually had to explain our calculations in margin. A student that reached the right answer to the problem but was not able to explain his/her reasoning would fail a year end exam.

    2) In my school, all students had to take at least 1 modern foreign language for 6 years (4h/week), 1 for 4 years and optionally 1 more for 2 years. Ancient languages (Latin and Greek) could be added to this optionally since the beginning.

    3) Language teachers in Europe normally must have a university degree in the language they teach (even if they speak like native speakers).

    4) Similarily to 3, all teachers must have a university degree directly related to the subject they teach. A mathematician will never be allowed to teach language, arts or even sciences subjects for instance. However a chemist could be allowed to teach physics too, as physics courses are included in studies of chemistry at university.

    5) This is one of the most contrasting point with Japan. Teachers have the freedom not only to choose their textbooks (not from an officially approved list, but from any books), but can also decide not to use textbooks at all, create their own syllabus, or just write on the board and speak without material, like at university. In fact, several of my secondary school teachers (about a third) had also taught at university.

    In primary school, teachers usually write everything on the board, and pupils must copy everything, so as to memorise everything once (which they wouldn't necessarily do if they had a textbook with everything in it). Textbooks are only used for exercices, especially in maths (sometimes the teachers would give photocopied pages instead).

    Teachers are also free to emphasize parts of the government's curriculum and usually add things that are not in the curriculum. Therefore, what students really study depends not only from the school and options, but also of the teachers themselves. And the differences can be huge. For example, teachers usually go faster with a "good class" (more able students), and those students may learn up to half more in a year than students from another class with the same teacher.

    Japanese teachers so not have any of these freedoms.

    6 & 7) In my secondary school, all students had 6 years of compulsory maths, native and foreign language, sciences, history, geography and Phys.Ed. + options (more of some of these subjects + other subjects). From what observations of the Japanese textbooks and classes, the level of maths is a bit lower and that of languages, history and geography is much lower in Japan.

    If you are from Europe, can you identify your (former) school with my description. If you are from outside Europe, how is/was your education system ?

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    I am a public school teacher and quite passionate about the job we do. I can't compare my system to any others because I have little firsthand knowledge about what other countries are doing.

    In the US it is almost required that we gripe about the educational system and say how bad it is. But here in California, we educate the most diverse and exceptional students of any system. In our district alone we have almost 20 different home languages listed. We do a fair job of taking every kid from every background and giving them the opportunity to become doctors and lawyers. We have a broad curriculum that in general seeks to prepare every student for college (and a majority go), and for the workplace. All students are tested and all teachers must be certified in their field and now have to rank as "highly qualified" according to Bush's No Child Left Behind act.

    I will give more specifics later.

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    In my opinion, Hong Kongfs educational system is similar to Japanfs. We refer it as a gSpoon-fed Educational Systemh with teachers spoon feed knowledge down the throats of students. Most studentsf learning attitude is pretty passive.

    Wellc in general, the public high schools in Canada is more demanding that those of United States. (I donft have the time to further elaborate though). However, the most intelligent people Ifve met so far are happened to be Americans. Over there, the smarts are very smart and the dumps are very dump. They have some kind of an elite educational system. Even if they canft produce enough genius, itfs okay. American companies have the money and capacity to recruit smart people from all over the world, and theyfre very good at it.

    For post-secondary education, several prestigious universities in North America, especially in the United States, are really kicking ass! Again, I am sorry I donft have time to provide evidence.

    As for learning foreign languages, I think it has to do with the necessity. When some taxi drivers in Europe can speak four languages, therefre so many Chinese, Japanese and English speakers canft even conduct basic conversations in a second language after years and years of learning. It is because they DONfT really NEED to use it to earn a living! There are other nationalistic elements tooc. but I donft have time to talk about them now. Please apply critical thinking over here.

    Hint:

    Why do many people from small countries like Singapore (including a lot of Chinese, but these Chinese are different from those Chinese in China and its SARs), Malaysia (again with a lot of Chinese) and South Korea can learn a second or a third language pretty well?

    Why do Americans, Anglophone Canadians, Chinese and Japanese in *general suck so much at learning a foreign language?

    *I say in general because five years ago Ifd bumped into this American weirdo who wouldnft stop practicing his Mandarin on me, and his pronunciation was better than that of most southern Chinese Ifve known. By the way, he learnt it from U Penn.

    Gotta run. Bye.

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    Korean Education System as I experienced it from 3.5th to 12th grades

    This is quite an extensive list you have here. I have no expert knowledge in education in general, and can only comment on the schools and teachers I've had. All personal and possibly isolated, so please be forewarned not to generalize on a single case. :)
    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    Among the most negative aspects of the Japanese education system are :
    1) too based on memory, and almost complete lack of critical analysis and debate.
    Very few chances to ask questions or to engage in debate. No critical analysis of anything except what's presented in the textbooks/teachers' prepared versions. Thesis writing is non-existent, and using Korean for logical reasoning is non-existent. With the exception of maybe 15 teachers out of about 80 that I had, incapable of instilling much enthusiasm for developing personal views, analyses, or reasoning. There were several excepitonally creative and compentent teachers, thank god!
    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    2) no choice of other foreign language than English before university
    Really, Japan sounds like a 3rd world country from your description???
    I had the choice between German, and Japanese at one high school. At another, the choice was between French and German. Very narrow choice, but even more serious than that is the teaching of Korean itself. Too many incompetent teachers of Korean is really messing up learning in general. I wonder if Japan is any better? Loose sense of academic standards in the native language makes them do anything they want (academically, not curriculum wise) and get away with it which makes me really mad even after 25 yrs. I can never forgive those incompetent teachers of Korean. (Not all, though.)
    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    3) very poor English teachers (often they couldn't hold a conversation with a native speaker)
    I couldn't blame them, they never had a chance. But they were better equipped than my Korean teachers, and at least they tried hard there....:)
    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    4) teachers lack professional knowledge. One secondary school teacher can teach several unrelated subjects (eg. maths, history and English), which is unheard of where I come from.
    Really?? Japan is a bag full of surprises!!! That only happens in the primary schools here, and they can be really good at it if you are attending a good private school or a reputable public school. Starting from junior high, no teacher can teach outside their field of specialization.
    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    5) too uniformised curriculum. Teachers have no freedom to choose their textbook or create their own syllabus, or to choose what part of the curriculum should be more emphasized.
    Texbook-wise, same here. Moved from 1 set of national standardized textbooks to authorized textbooks by Ministry of Education before I went to junior high. But I found the content rather lacking (not much detail), and we have the popular commercial reference books ҍl or test books W for each subject. Some students doing advanced math would even use translations from Japanese study aids, a whole series of amazingly diverse math tests, but I used maybe only 1 or 2.
    The barrenness of education in general is the obvious lack of libraries in many schools, primary, and secondary. It's really maddening when you don't have references to look things up!!!!!
    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    6) low level of education in general (eg. now students learn that the circular constant (pi) is 3 instead of 3,1415; students can speak English when they complete highschool; some university students have a 13-year old kanji level...)
    I don't believe you. That must be for the remedial classes.
    My kid in 7th grade probably used 3.14 since he was in the 4th grade I think.
    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    7) poor general knowledge curriculum (little history and geography)
    I really begin to wonder where the freshman of say Tokyo Empirial University get their knowledge from. Is private tutoring or private institues a flourishing business in Japan? Here it is a major social concern. It can cost the parents anything from 100,000 to 200,000 yen per month to put one child in secondary school through the private lessons. btw this is a national trend, not an excptional case.
    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    I hope things change before I have kids and they reach the age of compulsory education.
    If what you say is true of the typical Japanese school, you might have to take exteme measures to make sure you future child gets a good education wherever that may be.
    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    Here is how things were when I was at school. I think it is quite representative of the "typical" Western Europen curriculum and system. Please let us know about your own experience in your country/state to compare. Each point is developed in contrast with my complaints about the Japanese education system above. American members, note that "primary school" means "elementary school", and "secondary school" means "(junior & senior) highschool" in British English.

    1) I was taught since primary school that memory was less important than understanding. Tests were usually made in such a way that those who simply memorised without understanding could not answer the questions (especially in secondary school). Typical questions for history would be "read the text and explain why things were like that at the time or what causes these events... In physics or chemistry, we usually had to explain our calculations in margin. A student that reached the right answer to the problem but was not able to explain his/her reasoning would fail a year end exam.
    Too many subjects tested on memorizing ability, which isn't all bad, but really takes away the joy of learning in general. But memorizing was fun too, if I could get it right. Too bad we didn't get much stimulus in that kind of independent, critical thinking. Some exceptional teachers were capable of doing it right, and gave encouragement when they could. I had a really good chemistry teacher who gave us a good basis in chemistry and even gave us a detailed understanding of chemical bond theory. My physics teacher was terrible. Didn't know a thing about the principles of physics. Much depended on the individual teacher.
    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    2) In my school, all students had to take at least 1 modern foreign language for 6 years (4h/week), 1 for 4 years and optionally 1 more for 2 years. Ancient languages (Latin and Greek) could be added to this optionally since the beginning.
    Starting from junior high, I had 6 yrs of English; in senior high school 1/2 yr of German, and 2 1/2 yrs of French, but no option for Latin of Greek, unfotunately. The 3 yrs of classical Chinese I had in junior high was a total waste of time because the language (Korean) he used was archaic; didn't make any sense to me.
    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    3) Language teachers in Europe normally must have a university degree in the language they teach (even if they speak like native speakers).
    I was not aware of my teachers' qualifications. They are not made public out of "respect" for the revered teacher=NeoConfucian! But I normally understand that teachers have a college degree in education of subject.
    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    4) Similarily to 3, all teachers must have a university degree directly related to the subject they teach. A mathematician will never be allowed to teach language, arts or even sciences subjects for instance. However a chemist could be allowed to teach physics too, as physics courses are included in studies of chemistry at university.
    We seemed to have enough paperwise qualified teachers so that was not a problem per se.
    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    5) This is one of the most contrasting point with Japan. Teachers have the freedom not only to choose their textbooks (not from an officially approved list, but from any books), but can also decide not to use textbooks at all, create their own syllabus, or just write on the board and speak without material, like at university. In fact, several of my secondary school teachers (about a third) had also taught at university.
    I don't know who made the decisions, but the school seemed to decide on which textbooks to use depending on the teachers' preference. But the teacher could never have his/her own curriculum widhout a textbook. That kind of freedom is only allowed in colleges and universities, not in high schools here.
    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    In primary school, teachers usually write everything on the board, and pupils must copy everything, so as to memorise everything once (which they wouldn't necessarily do if they had a textbook with everything in it). Textbooks are only used for exercices, especially in maths (sometimes the teachers would give photocopied pages instead).
    That approach is actually good in a way even if you have a textbook. It's not the book that matters. It important that the content passes thru the students brain, right? It's interesting Korea shares that with the European schools. Doesn't Japan, too?
    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    Teachers are also free to emphasize parts of the government's curriculum and usually add things that are not in the curriculum. Therefore, what students really study depends not only from the school and options, but also of the teachers themselves. And the differences can be huge. For example, teachers usually go faster with a "good class" (more able students), and those students may learn up to half more in a year than students from another class with the same teacher.
    There has been the sickening education policy called "leveling of education," ͈畽 which turned out to be the education version of communism. It all started with the sickeningly feeble and incompetent son of President Park of the 3rd Republic. The previously prestigious junior high schools which were extremely difficult to get in were all leveled. What disaster he has wrought!! Nope, this Korean version of Civil Rights literally bastardized the nation's education system. I rant about it every chance I get. The teachers labor union has democratized the school administration; nevetheless it too has been criticized for creating pro-communist textbooks in history. The ideological content itself is not the problem; but taking sides with either the fascist or the socialists exclusively without giving a balanced view is going against the principles of historical teaching which should be rightfully aimed at cultivating reasoning.
    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    Japanese teachers so not have any of these freedoms.
    6 & 7) In my secondary school, all students had 6 years of compulsory maths, native and foreign language, sciences, history, geography and Phys.Ed. + options (more of some of these subjects + other subjects). From what observations of the Japanese textbooks and classes, the level of maths is a bit lower and that of languages, history and geography is much lower in Japan.
    I think Korean schools are doing okay in comparison. Actually too well educated individuals has turned this country into a Warring States within a state. What Korea needs to do is to reverse the leveling and start creating prestigious schools so that we don't have too many sohomorons running around causing disrruption. Another thing I seriously miss in Korean education is the scientific attitude towards reading, writing, and communiction capability in the 12 yr curriculum. It is a skill that can be learned and cultivated to a high level. I do not believe in equality of performance. Education should reflect performance, not only equal opportunity, which has caused great pain for the students and monetary loss for the parents for the past 35 yrs.

    I've heard Germany had a good system of guiding young students in the most fitting direction which is the wise thing to do. By the 6th grade, they pretty much know what they want to do with life? Is that true? I wish we had that system!
    Last edited by lexico; 16-02-05 at 21:00.

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    We have many of the same problems in the US: Textbooks lacking in content, holes in the curriculum, teachers who are not enthusiastic, comparatively low test scores. We also have crowding, underfunding, staff turn over, gangs, drugs, sex and violence to deal with. Although we emphasize critical thinking over rote memorization, I am certain the curriculum could be more challenging and rigorous.

    Somehow the job still gets done. I wish we could do better.

    I work in a poor neighborhood with "at risk" kids, with learning disabilities. The majority graduate from high school, many go on beyond that, and most seem to be fairly productive members of society.

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    I don't know where you from Maciamo, but your education system looks like the french one

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    2) In my school, all students had to take at least 1 modern foreign language for 6 years (4h/week), 1 for 4 years and optionally 1 more for 2 years. Ancient languages (Latin and Greek) could be added to this optionally since the beginning.
    Inf rance ist a modern foreign language for 7 years (6eme to terminal), and a second one for 5 years (4 eme to terminal)

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    3) Language teachers in Europe normally must have a university degree in the language they teach (even if they speak like native speakers).
    In france ANY teachers must have a university degree to teach anything

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    In primary school, teachers usually write everything on the board, and pupils must copy everything, so as to memorise everything once (which they wouldn't necessarily do if they had a textbook with everything in it). Textbooks are only used for exercices, especially in maths (sometimes the teachers would give photocopied pages instead).
    same here
    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    6) low level of education in general (eg. now students learn that the circular constant (pi) is 3 instead of 3,1415
    our teacher made us memorize a sentence for pi: que j'aime faire connatre ce nombre utile aux sages...

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    I must say that I'm very pround of the education I got from my public school. It was one of the few that looked at the world view, and not the US view. I'm a history major so you have to be pretty objective and open minded about history, and theorize on new ideas. All my history instructors through public school education were very clear on this and taugh history in a perpective that made me respect people from other countries. We would even go into the point of view of other nations on how they feel on a certain historical event, and then based on the facts draw out different speculations on what really happened. My US History professor was really great in the regard that when we talked about America, we didn't just talk about all the "good" qualities in America. We went on all the bad too, including scandles, illegial actions, etc.

    We even went into the history of England and other countries to explain the relationship between the US and it's allies. I really did enjoy learning the world view, and not be stuck in the view of just America. Like I said we studied other points of view with an objective mind set, leaving all expectations and American influence out the door. The same has happened in the college I am at. The college professors can't stress enough the importance of listening and respecting to people's point of view from other countries. I really am greatful with education that I have received so far. :)

    Doc

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    Quote Originally Posted by sabro
    I am a public school teacher and quite passionate about the job we do. I can't compare my system to any others because I have little firsthand knowledge about what other countries are doing.
    Are American teachers free to choose any textbook they want, or only among an official list, or is it imposed (by the school or gov.) ?

    Is it more usual to write everything on the board, read from the book, or just speak and expect the student to take note by themselves the way they want. In my experience, the teachers never read from the book. In primary and early secondary, they usually write everything or most on the board, then from the 9th grade, students are expected to be mature enough to take notes by themselves from what the teacher says (in preparation for university). In any of these cases, if someone is absent one day, they'll have to borrow a friend's notes (or more than one), and hope they didn't forget anything important (thence the necessity to borrow from more than one person), because there is just no textbook or what is in the textbook just doesn't matter, compared to wha the teacher says. In Japan, you can even sleep in class or not come to school - it's no problem as everything is in the officially approved book (the same for all the country) and the teacher doesn't have the power to alter, add or remove data from the curriculum.


    Btw, what grade(s) do you teach ?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sally_Hawn
    Over there, the smarts are very smart and the dumps are very dump.
    That was also my impression. Interestingly, that's the opposite in Japan. Everybody seems to be similarily intelligent, with few very dumb and few very smart. In Europe I'd say it's in between, with the very smart, quite smart, average, quite dumb and desperatly dumb, and it's pretty well proportioned (no excess in any category).

    Why do many people from small countries like Singapore (including a lot of Chinese, but these Chinese are different from those Chinese in China and its SARs), Malaysia (again with a lot of Chinese) and South Korea can learn a second or a third language pretty well?
    Same phenomenon in Europe. People from Nordic and Benelux countries, as well as Switzerland or Austria tend to speak more foreign languages than those from the UK, France, Spain or Italy.

    Why do Americans, Anglophone Canadians, Chinese and Japanese in *general suck so much at learning a foreign language?
    several reasons:
    1) these countries are usually big (in size, never mind the density), so same as explained above
    2) these countries are quite isolated (few direct neighbours, or little daily contact with them)
    3) English speakers think that everybody can or should speak English (the French used to be like that with French until recently, and some still do)
    4) In Japan it is mostly because the English classes at school suck.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Doc
    We would even go into the point of view of other nations on how they feel on a certain historical event, and then based on the facts draw out different speculations on what really happened.
    Funny that you should say that your school was an exception in the US. All European schools that I know of teach how historical events are perceived in other countries. This is especially important to understand WWI and WWII, get over past animosities, and create a peaceful EU where everyone can respect their neighbours.

    My US History professor was really great in the regard that when we talked about America, we didn't just talk about all the "good" qualities in America. We went on all the bad too, including scandles, illegial actions, etc.
    I have rarely been taught about my country's "good qualities" at school. At best we are taught about the system (political, health insurance, rights & duties, etc.) but that includes good and bad aspects. Teachers do not hesitate to criticise (sometimes harshly) the system (eg. bureaucracy) or the misbehaviours or stupidity of our own politicians. I think this is common everywhere in Western Europe (though probably not in former communist countries of the East, as they were not free to openly criticise the system). That is why I am usually surprised that so many Americans react so violently to people (foreign or local) that criticise their "country" (government or system). Sometimes I feel that many Americans were instilled the same extreme patriotic values as in communist countries, where it is "bad" and "unpatriotic" to criticise one's country/government. This sentiment has only increased since GW Bush. I don't mind people criticising my country as long as it is done rationally and based on facts. I think most Europeans are used to self-criticism, which again lacks in the US and also Japan (but in a very different way).

    We even went into the history of England and other countries to explain the relationship between the US and it's allies.
    Wow, that sounds heavily politicized ! "The US and its allies" ! What does it mean ? Any cuntry can be an ally, neutral or an enemy at any time of history. Look at Britain and Russia; the one's hereditary enemies (18th and late 20th century, respectively) are now some of the US' main allies. That is what history is supposed to teach. People in power now are not the same are people 50 or 200 years ago.

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    I teach 9th grade.

    In my program: We usually either tell the kids or show the kids what to write in their notes because if we don't, they won't write anything. (This might have to do with the fact that they are "at risk.") They need to show 15 pages of Cornell style notes each week.

    Instruction is varied with very little lecture. We do read to them, break them into groups and have them read together, read alone, use powerpoint, students read out loud or whatever works that day. We used to be able to pick whatever books and textbooks (from an approved list) that we wanted, but now we have State standards, and every kid in the district reads the same plays, novels, and poems. Our textbooks are chosen for us from state lists by the districts and we have worked out a scope and sequence of instruction so that everything on the state tests will be covered. So they tell us what to teach, but we can decide how to teach it.

    Especially in science and history, the teacher must go way beyond the textbooks to cover the subject matter completely.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sabro
    They need to show 15 pages of Cornell style notes each week.
    Doesn't it depend on each person's writing ? If we had to write an essay or something, we were told how many words , and not how many pages to write, as 1 page written small and compressed can be the equivalent of 3 or even 5 pages with a larger and more ampled writing.

    Instruction is varied with very little lecture. We do read to them, break them into groups and have them read together, read alone, use powerpoint, students read out loud or whatever works that day. We used to be able to pick whatever books and textbooks (from an approved list) that we wanted, but now we have State standards, and every kid in the district reads the same plays, novels, and poems. Our textbooks are chosen for us from state lists by the districts and we have worked out a scope and sequence of instruction so that everything on the state tests will be covered. So they tell us what to teach, but we can decide how to teach it.

    Especially in science and history, the teacher must go way beyond the textbooks to cover the subject matter completely.
    Thanks for the explanation. That sounds like an intermediary system halfway between the Japanese and European one. US Teachers definitely have more freedom to choose the way they teach and extend the content than Japanese ones, but still do not have complete freedom about the books. I think that the European curriculum (quite standardized for all EU countries now) is also more like a guideline and is very flexible, especially for literary subjects (including history).

    For example, in 12th grade in our mother-tongue class, in addition to literature, I had some philosophy (from Plato to Sartre via Kant, Descartes, etc.). For the same teacher, we also had to attend 10 cultural events (theatre, art exhibitions, classical music concerts, etc.) by ourselves (it means outside school, usually with one parent, friend or alone), write a report for each of them to submit to the teacher at the end of the year. We would be asked to discuss these events at the year-end exam too, in addition to the "official content", to a 5 or 6 books we had to read at home, and to questions related to philosophy. We had to pick up a paper from a box with the 2 questions on it. It could be anything from talking about one of the books we had to read to explaining the meaning of "Plato's cave" or the concept of "Sartre's existentialism". We also had to write several critical essays (usually about 5 printed pages, with a strict structure of introduction, arguments, counter-arguments and conclusion) during the year that we taken into account for the final mark.

    All this would only account for 4 out of 32 hours/week for all subjects. Failing a single major subject (i.e. more than 3h/week) would mean not graduating from secondary school (or having to repeat that grade). All subjects (except Phys. Ed.) had such high requirements in my school (but not all schools even in my city). For example, we were expected to read novels (for native speakers, about 300p) in 2 of our foreign languages. Japanese student can't already read a short 50 pages book in easy English in their 12th grade. Japanese students don't write essays, don't have to attend cultural events and don't learn philosophy in their "Kokugo" (mother-tongue) classes.

    The cultural events and philosophy were personal additions from the teacher, because he wanted to (felt it was necessary by his standards), although that was not in the curriculum (wel, maybe some philiosophy, but not as much as we learnt with him). Of course, he had taught at university and was stricter than average (one had better not open try to chat or exchange messages during the lesson if they wanted to have a chance to pass the year end oral examination), but many teachers take these kinds of liberties to add "quite a lot" of content they feel is necessary for their students to know and that is not in the official curriculum.

    Just wondering how that is in the US.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    Wow, that sounds heavily politicized ! "The US and its allies" ! What does it mean ? Any cuntry can be an ally, neutral or an enemy at any time of history. Look at Britain and Russia; the one's hereditary enemies (18th and late 20th century, respectively) are now some of the US' main allies. That is what history is supposed to teach. People in power now are not the same are people 50 or 200 years ago.
    I meant for WWI and WWII. Actually when it comes to those wars there's nothing but extreme critism on the US actually being in both wars, specially WWI. In all honesty when I was in high school the moral majority of my senior class wasn't very into the whole "let's be patriotic and kick the world's ass" type mentality after 9/11. If anything it only got nothing but extreme critism from students. For today's generation of Americans it seems patriotism is not in the same context as it was 60 years ago. To most young people, it seems patriotism means to hold a high regard for your country and to be proud of it, but don't let the illusion of being the world's only superpower get to your head. In short, have respect for others around world who have high power, and don't let the critism of other's who view us get to you. Think about it, every superpower and empire thoughout history has had cristism. It's only natural. You have one big nation, you're the bully to everybody else. 200 years from now, it'll be the same when the torch gets passed to another country (probably Japan ).

    Of course a lot of adults think the kids of today show no respect to the US, but I beg to differ. I think the youth of today has a lot of respect for their country, just not in the way the die hard conservatives want them to be. It also seems because of the conservatives rant about how things should be run, it has scared a lot of potental voters away. The extreme liberals haven't helped either. The moral majority of this country is moderate, and hold respect to other people and cultures. It's just the idiots in Washington that make everything go straight to hell. (And stupid people who like to make an ass out of themselves to just get on the six o' clock news.) Of course they do it because we let them. Rather than make a rational decision, America has become so superfical with the media that a lot of people have become sheep to the news and false propaganda. People will vote for anybody who looks young, and has some great idea that'll they never put to use.

    I think that's why I'm happy with the high school I went to. The state I live is in the extreme with patriotism and being highly on the conservative side. The town I live in is full of nothing but fundamentalist Christians and over exsuberant patriots. Yet, our school was able to prevent that type of mentality from taking over the students. As matter of fact, a lot of teachers including my professors here at my university say that if you're extreme in those two things then there's the door. In short, the educational system doesn't put up with it where I'm from. Both my high school and college want the students to think rationally and objectively, rather than in a narrow minded and biased attitude. It really is quite surprising that this area would be like it is, and the teachers keeping the stance that they have. I guess times are changing in some places in America for the better.

    Doc

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    Quote Originally Posted by lexico
    But I found the content rather lacking (not much detail), and we have the popular commercial reference books ҍl or test books W for each subject.
    I have never had such test books. Actually, tests are not standardized at all and depend on how strict or kind the teacher is and how much content we could learn that year with that particular class. So two classes in the same school with the same teachers sometimes have diffrent tests/exams.

    The only standardized "government test" I had was at the end of the 6th grade, before entering secondary school. I don't know if my primary school was more difficult than others, but it was so easy I got between 90 and 100% in all subjects.

    My kid in 7th grade probably used 3.14 since he was in the 4th grade I think.
    I was told that the Japanese used to learn 3.14, but the government has decided to simplify it in their "levelling of education" (a bit like you explained about Korea). Now that could have happened in Europe too in recent years, I don't know, but certainly not when I was at school.

    Is private tutoring or private institues a flourishing business in Japan?
    Yes it is. There are "juku" (cram schools) everywhere, and many Japanese try to go to (expensive) private schools. However, the private schools mostly teach the same as the public schools, with the same textbooks and exams. So what's the point ? I think it's just a matter of prestige, and the fact that some private universities have their own schools (eg. Keio University) and that there is no entrance exam for those students. They call it the "elevator system". Students join frm kindergarten or primary school and are almost sure to graduate from university with very little effort or risk. Pathetic !

    But the teacher could never have his/her own curriculum widhout a textbook. That kind of freedom is only allowed in colleges and universities, not in high schools here.
    Maybe my case is a bit special, as many of my (highschool) teachers had been university teachers too. Nevertheless I think that any teacher have this freedom. Sometimes I feel that a Japanese university degree is barely equivalent to a secondary school diploma from the school I attended. That's a fact that they know much less after 4 years at university than I and my classmates did when we were 17.

    I've heard Germany had a good system of guiding young students in the most fitting direction which is the wise thing to do. By the 6th grade, they pretty much know what they want to do with life? Is that true? I wish we had that system!
    We have 3 "levels" of secondary schools in Europe : general education (teaching all the reguar intellectual subjects - about 80% of the students, I think), "technical schools" (to become mechanics, electrician, etc. - more applied sciences than theoretical subjects - maybe 10% of the students) and "professional/vocational schools" (much easier, less theoretical, but little prospect of finding a good job and no access to tertiary education).

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    Speaking of picking different text books that reminds me about my religion professor. I had him for a year straight with four different classes. Introduction to Philosophy, Contemp. Ethical Problems, Philosophy, and Living World Religion. In all of those classes he never once used any books. When asked why, he stated simply that he never found one that teaches exactly what he wants to teach. Of course I know the man personally (he used to be the preist for my former chruch), and the real reason why he doesn't use their books is because they're all done by Christian authors who have to compare everything to Chrisianity. As matter of fact on the first day of every one of his classes his tells the students that he wants everybody to be in the middle when they leave his class. He doesn't want them on either side of the extreme between science and religion, but rather an equal balance and to think rationally and openly about different concepts and points of view. He even told the students that if they didn't like it that they could drop his course anytime they wanted.

    Doc

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    No cultural events requirement in the US. No philosophy either.

    Most of the schools in the US are divided into elementary (usually grades K-5 or 6) middle (6-8) and high (9-12). Years are 188 days long and divided into two semesters.

    In High School they take 4 years of language arts, 2 years of math- usually algebra and geometry, Physical science, life science, 1 year world history, 1 year US history, one semester of US government, one semester of economics, 2 years of PE and elective classes in art, music, industrial arts, health, drivers training, more math and science for the college bound...most take a computer class and two years of foreign language. At least in California where I live about 50% of the students are bilingual with English as a second language.

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    That's pretty much the same here in Missouri, except you can have no less than 173 days of school in a year and no more than 180 in a year. Unless they changed it because I haven't been in high school for almost two years. (College is great! )

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    Quote Originally Posted by lexico
    I've heard Germany had a good system of guiding young students in the most fitting direction which is the wise thing to do. By the 6th grade, they pretty much know what they want to do with life? Is that true? I wish we had that system!
    Not such a good system here in Germany, as PISA (& my recent experience in giving private lessons) suggests.
    Originally a three-pronged approach in secondary schools, there are now 4 major branches (you have to decide after 4th grade -~10 years of age- which branch to go to):
    Hauptschule - for the intellectually challenged, usually later doing manual work
    Realschule - medium, partly in the direction of manual work, partly office work
    Gymnasium - preparing for university
    Gesamtschule - the socialist answer to the three-pronged system, theoretically should encompass the 3 other school forms, but in practice takes those pupils who were not good enough originally to go to the Gymnasium, but want to have the chance to later join university

    There are other schools as well (eg. Sonderschule for pupils with learning disabilities). Education is a matter of the federal states, only very general common rules apply. Textbooks are mostly a matter of individual schools. Which can be quite a problem if you change school, even more so if you change from one federal state to the other.

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    About Italian scholar system

    I'm a teacher in Italy's "Scuola Media Inferiore" that should be like your Junior High School (three years, students from 10-11 to 13-14 yo).

    Italian system is always changing, as everyone gets elected thinks scholar system needs to change. But it somehow manages to work all the same!

    One basic characteristic of Italy's system is autonomy. Every school can choose what to teach and how to teach it to a great extent. There are guidelines but they are a bare minimum of arguments that every school must teach.
    Beyond that, schools are allowed to add arguments and even whole courses. That way every school is allowed to use local resources or professional resources of its teachers to expand the so-called "Teaching Offer Plan."

    Of course this has a big downside. If a school is lucky, with many resources this offer is varied and valid, if not the offer is poor and reduces to the minimum.

    There are many other interesting facts about Italian scholar system. For instance every single school may decide more holidays (and when having them), provided that school days are at least 200.

    Teachers can choose among every book available, but their choice must be ratified by the "Collegio Docenti," a little "parliament" composed by all teachers.

    Nowadays Italian school does value reasoning over memory. The classic Language schoolwork is the so-called "Tema." Students are given a subject and they must elaborate on it, by discussing and analyzing it, by telling their opinions - or siding with one opinion - and argumenting their choices.

    I think this is very different from Asian school (Chinese and maybe Japanese): in our school there are a few Chinese children and I've been told by my colleagues that they have a very difficult time writing in a free way because they are not accustomed to (besides the obvious language difficulties: Chinese and Italian are indeed very different!).

    Italian students learn two languages from their first year of elementary school.
    One is generally English, the other is another EU language. Latin is reserved for "Lycees" (the Senior High School who leds to University), but some school teaches it as an option during the last year of Junior High School. Greek is only studied at the "Classical Lycee" whose first two years are also known as "gymnasium."

    Teachers have always a university degree, which is directly connected to what they teach. However, in Junior High School, I teach both Mathematics and Science (plus Computer Science) with a Math degree.
    Of course teaching what you have a degree in does not warrant a quality teaching... But it does help!

    Bye,
    Greistal

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    I erred in the number of days we attend in California. I work as a teacher 188 days. Students attend 182. Six days are "pupil free" in-service days.

    My kids go to school up here in the mountains...they get snow days and seven of them are now built into the schedule. Last year, we had those massive wildfires that shut the mountains down for weeks. They only got 170 days in, but the state of California okayed it. This year, storms have closed schools for a total of eleven days which will leave them with 178 if they don't have make up days in June.

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    Post Not quite right...

    Quote Originally Posted by Sally_Hawn
    Why do many people from small countries like Singapore (including a lot of Chinese, but these Chinese are different from those Chinese in China and its SARs), Malaysia (again with a lot of Chinese) and South Korea can learn a second or a third language pretty well?
    Ⴂ܂ (wrong). FYI, many students in Singapore are struggling with their 2nd language (especially Mandarin) (probably like how most Japanese students struggle with English). There are students who can learn 3 languages well, but it's very uncommon.

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    "Suck" is in the eye of the beholder, or "suck" is a relative term.

    Relatively speaking, Singapore students have the highest scores in TOEFL among Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, China and Japan.

    What do you mean by struggling with their second language and it's Mandarin? Don't they speak Fookinese / Malays as first language (I mean the language they speak when they are babies) and English as second language ? Well, at least many of the Singapore people I had encountered do. I also met some who speak Hakka, English and Malay.

    Even if Singaporeans speak English as their first language, their Mandarin level is still higher than the English level of Hong Kong students. I had worked as an examiner for HK high school standardized English oral tests before, and I knew for sure many HK students (excluding the ones who attended international schools) could not even answer simple questions like "What is your hobby?" or "What do you like to do on the weekend?"

    On the other hard, there're also many pathetic Chinese people in Hong Kong and the rest of the world who pretend they can speak English better than Chinese. Inferiority complex or post-Colonial rule syndromes ...

    * Don't have the time and don't feeeeeeel like searching for the hard data to support the above statement.
    Last edited by Sally_Hawn; 19-02-05 at 08:48.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sally_Hawn
    "Suck" is in the eye of the beholder, or "suck" is a relative term.

    Relatively speaking, Singapore students have the highest scores in TOEFL among Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, China and Japan.

    What do you mean by struggling with their second language and it's Mandarin? Don't they speak Fookinese / Malays as first language (I mean the language they speak when they are babies) and English as second language ? Well, at least many of the Singapore people I had encountered do. I also met some who speak Hakka, English and Malays.

    Even if Singaporeans speak English as their first language, their Mandarin level is still higher than the English level of Hong Kong students. I had worked as an examiner for HK high school standardized English oral tests before, and I knew for sure many HK students (excluding the ones who attended international schools) could not even answer simple questions like "What is your hobby?" or "What do you like to do on the weekend?"

    On the other hard, there're also many pathetic Chinese people in Hong Kong and the rest of the world who pretend they can speak English better than Chinese. Inferior complex or post-Colonial rule syndromes ...

    * Don't have the time and don't feeeeeeel like searching for the hard data to support the above statement.
    English is the language of instruction used in Singapore schools. Students take Mandarin, Malay, etc as a second language.

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    Oh, just to add on why HK students suck so much in learning English. I wasnft an English major, and I didnft go to teacherfs college. Didnft and still donft care much about grammar, spelling, syntax, diction and etc. However, I had a friend who was a teacher and she introduced me to her school, there I got the job to fill in one of the examiners who was absent that day. Although I got a universtiy degree and I speak English better than most of the teachers at that school ...

    Huh, the quality of the English teacher in Hong Kong is reallyc ermc terrible.

    Like teachers, like students.

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    Wink

    It strikes my that you where educated in Great Britain Maciamo-san. Just wondering did you do GCSE's or 'o' levels and CSE's? I'm form the old school of 'o'levels and CSE's. I found the education system fairly good in England, and despite what the whingers say, the education system is still fairly good. I am a Cub leader (8 to 11year olds) and usually find that the kids we see, a large majority of them do have a good grasp of english and maths. The older ones are even staring french. There is now a drive in English schools to get children to learn a foriegn language at earlier ages. Scotland has a slighlty differnet eduacation system and welsh is compulsory in most welsh schools, if you are wondering why I use English schools instaed of Britsih schools.
    A friend of mine who has recntly moved to the states has not been impressed with their education system. His wife has an 11 year old daughter. When they lived in England she was sent to the local school. Despite being there for only a couple of terms, when they returned to the Staes she had to be put up a grade because of what she learnt in England. My friend seem to think that most American school seem to be churning out people with very basic English and Maths. I thing at the last PTA he annoyed the teachers by asking them whether they are going to tweach the children anything or turn them in morons. He and his wife are seriously considering moving their daughter to a Public school, where she can get a decent education.

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