Student loan debt is an American crisis, but the education system as a whole may be questionable and far behind the rest of the world. The United States is one of the most unique countries in the world, and its population size, geographical variation, and job market requires a set of skills and learning that significantly differs from other countries.
The U.S. Teaching Approach
There are many different teaching models in existence, and although teachers have their own style in the classroom, a nationwide curriculum favors a progressive approach.
Progressivism encourages students to learn as much as they can on their own through structured environments. By learning how to acquire, interpret, and store knowledge through their unique learning style, students develop independence and critical thinking skills that will benefit them far beyond the classroom.
However, stories from two foreign countries suggest that there may be a benefit in relying on a more traditional approach of explicit instruction.
Explicit instruction is the preferred teaching approach that has an extensive history and has proven beneficial for generations. Every teacher provides direct education to some degree, but the greatest difference lies between the balance of instructor-led education and student-based learning.
Katharine Birbalsingh, the founder of the Michaela Community School in England, praises explicit instruction. There are progressive elements involved in the Michaela curriculum, such as self-quizzing and memorization of historical dates, but the bulk of students’ education comes from direct instruction.
The Michaela school also imposes a strict disciplinary environment; students are corrected for any form of disrespectful behavior, including eye-rolling and turning around too frequently during classroom instruction.
Although it may seem harsh, test scores reveal that the majority of Michaela students, most of whom are low-income, scored significantly higher than students nationwide.
Fewer Tests, Greater Instructor Independence
In 2016, Finland adopted a new core curriculum that decentralized the education system and gave teachers greater liberty at how to teach their students. Rather than focusing on subject material and teacher-led lectures, Finnish students are encouraged to keep track of their own learning schedule. Even elementary school students are instructed to keep a weekly calendar and track their assignment deadlines.
Some parents found the system too student-driven as some students struggled to handle the additional responsibility. For students with learning difficulties, this level of freedom could ultimately lead to a negative impact on self-esteem.
What lessons can the United States learn from these schools? Progressivism is beneficial, but it has to be regulated to a degree. Explicit instruction and regulation may be more advantageous in particular age groups and schools, while other students might do well with a more relaxed approach.
Teachers must begin to deviate strictly from pedagogical theory and start to make their own style; as they begin to respond directly to their students’ needs and match their level of inclusion to individual learning styles, greater autonomy, and thinking skills can be inherited along with general education.
About The Author
Yuri Vanetik is an Entrepreneur, Private Investor, Coalition Builder, and Philanthropist in Orange County, California. He is the Managing Partner of Vanetik International, LLC, a management consulting firm which offers advisory services and strategic planning to businesses and industries. He is also the Managing Partner of Dominion Asset Management, a technology-driven opportunity real estate fund that invests in undervalued real estate throughout the United States. Yuri Vanetik brings over 20 years of professional experience in a variety of roles, and has been featured in notable publications, including the Wall Street Journal, California Business Journal, Bloomberg Law, and Forbes.