John Heintz, school lawyer, administrator, teacher and progressive learning advocate, offers a perspective on merging these two irresistible trends. The world, Heintz explains, is already globalized.
China is leading the way in education investments. Students in China learn English. Ambitious parents understand the value of sending their child to English-speaking countries every holiday for authentic language experiences.
Parents in the West are moving less quickly. Where parents in China prepare their children for a highly competitive globalized job market, parents in America hold romanticized views of the goals of education.
In his latest piece, Heintz highlights the differences in schools today. Schools are different because of increased competition. Selective college spots are more coveted, including from international students and especially competitive children from China which topped 300,000 this year.
Students experience more stress today due to the increased competition, and even parents who retreat to the formerly safe suburbs are confronting the impact of global competition. The competition is all the more cut-throat given increased academic accountability from accurate new assessments that mercilessly sort students leaving little room for consideration whether a child is nice.
Future job skills are unclear. Parents, schools and employers seek to create flexible, adaptable learners, so the narrow training curriculum of the past has disappeared. Higher education costs continue to increase disproportionately to the economy overall. Increasingly vocal are those questioning whether big student loans for big degrees carry a worthwhile return. Even in an improving global economy, salaries are not keeping pace with increasing education costs.
Parents in the US are slowly beginning to see the depth to which schools need to change. Parents in China have seen it for years. The East has an advantage over the West in that Eastern parents understand globalization and are doing their best to prepare student for it. Western parents have an advantage over the East because of the West’s open and free internet. Education needs an open society, and openness today means freedom from censorship. China’s restrictions on information hinders its parents’ attempts to prepare its children for a global future. Western openness means students explore ideas freely.
On both sides of the Pacific, schools are the hold-up. In China, schools lack the global internet needed to match parents’ global expectations. In the US, schools maintain a 1950s bell-and-seat schedule that holds learners back from learning at a time, place and pace of the learner’s choosing.
Twenty years ago, most high school English classes taught research in high school when seniors did “the research paper.” Today, students would not consider waiting until twelfth grade to perform research. They want information, and they can get it on their phones.
Globalization has come, but schools have not caught up. Progressive schools worldwide are upgrading approaches to teaching and learning. Most schools maintain dated models for organizing classes, the school day, the school year and school operations, all of which will transform when embracing the opportunities presented from digital technologies.
Embracing research starts in schools. Schools with parental support to embrace curricular and operational revisions will flourish. Parents and schools need to acknowledge these few changes that will transform learning.
- Research needs to be taught directly and at younger ages. Curricular planning needs to include evaluation of source reliability as well as giving credit to sources.
- Research need to be taught by whatever means necessary. Students in Shanghai research on their phones. Families in China that cannot afford computers see the power of smartphones. Students in China are masters of working with thumb-typing and have been known to write entire papers on the smallest digital devices.
- Students need to be encouraged to research with fast processors, fast internet and good online support. The hole-in-the-wall project shows kids will research and learn on their own when given the bandwidth.
- Traditional schools try to control information flow by focusing on plagiarism. The increase in plagiarism is good news. It signals increased numbers of students conducting research. Online research is an opportunity for teaching and learning and need not to be turned into an opening to legislate punitive rules.
Change not being made is because of parents. Parents are not the sole arbiters of what schools teach, but they are the most powerful. John Heintz, former Chicago area attorney and school superintendent, and his friends at Second Rail highlight the need for schools to catch up with globalization and prepare students for the coming education transformation. Heintz makes an informed and impassioned plea for schools to change how they approach reading, writing, research and, most imperatively, learning.