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Tag Archives: Programme for International Student Assessment

The Cultural Legacy of the British Empire on Literacy – Part 1/2

In Not Broken, a five-part series, I pointed out a number of comparisons to show that America’s public school are not broken. In Part 5, I provided evidence that culture (Asian/Pacific; White; American Indian/Alaska Native; Hispanic/Latina, and Black—the US may be one country but it has subcultures and each subculture has its own unique characteristics) influences a child’s ability to achieve functional literacy.

After Part 5 appeared, it took a few days before I realized I missed an important comparison: the English speaking nations that were all colonized and ruled by the British Empire establishing links to a common culture.

The majority in each of these countries is White. The influence of that White dominated culture has much to do with the structure of the schools in those countries today and the way teachers are treated.

Note (to establish the dominant ethnic group and/or culture of each country):

In 2009, the census in Australia reported that 92% of its citizens were identified as White.

In 2006, the census in Canada reported that 67.32% of its citizens were identified with links to the UK, France and Ireland

In 2006, the census in Ireland reported that 94.9% of its citizens were White.

In 2009, the census in New Zealand reported that 56.8% of its citizens were identified as European.

In 2001, the census in the United Kingdom reported that 92.1% of its citizens were White.

In 2007, the estimate in the United States was 79.96% of its citizens were White.

For this comparison of literacy, I focused on six of the thirty-six English speaking countries that were once ruled by the British Empire.

The following information comes from a report published for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 1994–2003. According to this report, we may discover the number of people in each of these countries lacking functional literacy skills (% aged 16–65).

Note: In addition, I researched each country to discover any reports that confirmed the reported percentages and in several countries, the percentage of adults that were functionally illiterate may be higher.

1. Australia = 17% (the actual number may be much higher)

However, it may be much worse in Australia than the UNDP report says. Brendan Nelson, Education Minister said, “About 30 percent of Australian children who are leaving the school system in Australia are functionally illiterate.” Source: ABC.net.au

2. Canada = 14.6% (the actual number may be much higher)

According to the two following quotes, the functional illiteracy rate in Canada may be much higher than what the UNDP reported: “About 42% of young adults age 16 to 65 scored below level 3 in prose literacy, which is considered the threshold for coping in society. Source: Vivele Canada

In addition, CBC reported on Canada’s shame: “Nearly 15 percent of Candains can’t understand the writing on simple medicine labels such as on an Aspirin bottle and an additional 27% can’t figure out simple information like the warnings on a hazardous materials sheet.”

3. Ireland = 22.6% (the actual number may be a bit higher)

In addition, Irish Central.com reported, “The dumbing down of Ireland – 23 percent of males are illiterate. A Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) study has shown that one in six Irish students has significant reading problems while 23 percent of Irish males have lower than “functional literacy.”

Then Independent.ie reported, “The horrifying figure of 24 per cent adult illiteracy was first published in an OECD survey in 1996, and put us close to the bottom of the international league. (In Europe, only Poland scored worse than we did.)

“But in the months prior to the publishing of the survey results, government ministers were at pains to deny the figures which were already filtering through.”

4. United States = 20% (this percentage appears accurate)

The Caliteracy.org report of the National Assessment of Adult Literacy in the United States says:  “After completion, this massive assessment revealed that only thirteen percent of American adults are proficiently literate, most of whom hold a college degree, while the majority merely have intermediate literacy skills. However, the population of adults with basic or below basic skills total forty-three percent according to NAAL research, which is far higher than those with proficient skills.

“In fact, the term “functionally illiterate” is frequently used to describe the estimated twenty percent of adults in the US who cannot perform basic tasks involving printed materials. Functional illiterates may have trouble filling out a job application, using a computer, understanding written instructions, reading a contract, and many other related tasks. Many of these citizens are not able to hold a job, and those who do work regularly have difficulty with occupational tasks and career advancement.”

5. United Kingdom = 21.8% (this percentage appears accurate)

6. New Zealand = 18.4% (the actual percentage may be much higher)

Education Counts.govt.nz reported that levels three and above on the International Adult Literacy Survey  (IALS) indicate “functional literacy” while Levels 1 and 2 indicate “functional illiteracy”.  The survey found that 45% of adult New Zealanders were in levels 1 and 2 for prose literacy, 50% for document literacy and 49% for quantities literacy (the average of the three is 48%).


If Josh Harden can read to his young children as he is dying, what is your excuse?

Continued on September 11, 2012 in The Cultural Legacy of the British Empire on Literacy – Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga.

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Comparing Apples to Apples Instead of Cabbages

My goal for this post was to discover how America’s public schools compared to countries with similar educational systems.  The scores used are from the 2009 global PISA rankings.

I ended up comparing the scores of nine similar countries [Western Christian cultures] with the top three [China, Finland and Singapore] and the lowest score [Kyrgystan].  The first chart lists three of the top five, the second chart includes the United States and eight similar countries, and the last chart shows the country with the lowest global score on the 2009 international PISA test.

Three of the top-five public school systems in the world as tested by PISA.

These three public school systems are very different from the United States. I’ve written about these differences in The Finland-Singapore Solution to Public Education in the U.S.

Country

Overall Reading Scale

Mathematics Scale

Science Scale

Shanghai-China 556 600 575
Finland 536 541 554
Singapore 526 562 542

Using Google and doing some research, I discovered “Nine Countries” [Western Christian cultures] that use annual standardized tests to measure student growth, which means these countries teach to the test and teachers are probably micromanaged by administration and pressured to raise test scores as is often the case in America.

The average score of Reading was 482.5 and the United States was 17.4 points higher.  Only one of the nine countries scored higher than the United States.

The average score of Mathematics was 486.7 and the United States was 0.3 points higher—three of the nine scored lower.

The average score of Science was 494.2 and the United States was 7.8 points higher. Only three of the nine scored higher.

Country

Overall Reading Scale

Mathematics Scale

Science Scale

United States

500

487

502

France 496 497 498
United Kingdom 494 492 514
Romania 424 427 428
Lithuania 468 477 491
Russian Federation 459 468 478
Netherlands 508 526 522
Germany 497 513 520
Sweden 497 494 495

The lowest-scoring public school system in the world as tested by PISA.

Country

Overall Reading Scale

Mathematics Scale

Science Scale

Kyrgystan 314 331 330

What can we learn from this?

We may learn that the political/religious critics of America’s public schools will manipulate the data to make the schools look bad and ignore the rest of the facts that say otherwise.  With this comparison, we see America from a different perspective comparing apples to apples instead of apples to cabbages.

Discover Civil Disobedience and No Child Left Behind

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

To subscribe to “Crazy Normal”, look for the “E-mail Subscription” link in the top-right column, click it and then follow directions.

 

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The Finland-Singapore Solution to Public Education in the U.S. – Part 2/3

From Smithsonian Magazine’s A+ for Finland, we learned Finland’s teachers are trusted to do whatever it takes to turn young lives around.

However, in America, few trust or want to hear advice from school teachers. Instead, each state has a curriculum for teachers to follow and standardized tests to make sure teachers are doing as they are told.

The unspoken message to most of America’s teachers is to say nothing, do what we say and if you do not like it, quit. In addition, if you stay and do not succeed, it is your fault.

Well, half do quit in the first five years of teaching and few come back.

Rote learning, which is still practiced successfully—regardless of what American critics say—in other countries such as China or Singapore, was rejected in the U.S. because it was decided during the rise of the self-esteem parenting movement that rote learning was tedious and no fun, which explains why this method of teaching was tarred, feathered, tortured and burned at the stake in the U.S.

However, there are elements of education that require boring and tedious rote learning such as memorizing the names of the states and their capitals,  the names of America’s presidents, rules of grammar, the multiplication tables, which I had to memorize when I was young, and how to spell, etc.

Then in the early 1980s, the Whole Language Approach (WLA) arrived in America. At the school where I taught, I was one of many English teachers that protested this method would not work.

We were ignored and forced to do as we were told or else.

Without an ounce of trust for the judgment of those English teachers, which included me, we were forced to throw out the grammar books, which were tedious and boring to learn from.

Whole Language versus Phonics says of the Whole Language approach to teaching, “experimenting with new concepts upon an entire nation of children without any verifiable proof of a concept’s effectiveness has proven a grave mistake for millions of children in several generations. Illiteracy has been growing for at least four decades, and yet Whole Language continues to be used.”

Continued on August 30, 2011 in The Finland-Singapore Solution to Public Education in the U.S. – Part 3 or return to Part 1

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

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The Annual Autumn Teacher Blues – Part 3/3

All the negative media and criticism of “ignorant idiots” that public school teachers in the U.S. and their unions are failing America’s children doesn’t explain why the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS), reported that between 19% and 23% of American adults performed at the top levels for each of the three literacy scales: document literacy, prose literacy and quantitative (number) literacy.

Sweden is the only country that scored higher.

Countries that have participated in the IALS are Canada, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, United States, Australia, Belgium, Great Britain, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Chili, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Hungry, Italy, Norway, and Slovenia.

The IALS is an international comparative study designed to provide participating countries, including the United States, with information about the skills of their adult populations. The IALS measured the literacy and numeracy skills of a nationally representative sample from each participating country. Source: NCES.ed.gov

As I was writing about the IALS, I thought if this survey had been widely reported in the media as much as the 2009 PISA test results were, the media and critics of U.S. public schools would look for statistics from this survey that were negative and report the glass half empty and never mention the glass is more than half full.

From Retaining Teachers.com, we learn how tough it is in America’s public schools from the teacher turnover rate.

The same stress that causes PTSD in teachers that stay in education may also drive qualified teachers away.

Ingersoll (1999, 2001, 2002a) proposed the schoolteacher hiring and quitting cycle is a revolving door.

Ingersoll (2001) analyzed national data and concluded the teacher shortages in public schools is not because of teacher retirement but a revolving door in which almost half the new teachers leave within five years, while another study (Barbour – 2006) found that shortages of well-prepared teachers in public schools exist because 22% of new teachers leave within five years.

However, another study found that 28% of teachers that left self-reported they would return if school conditions improved (Futernick, 2007)

Return to The Annual Autumn Teacher Blues – Part 2 or start with Part 1

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

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Civil Disobedience and No Child Left Behind – Part 5/9

Now that we have dealt with Finland and China’s education systems, ethnic/racial and cultural differences compared to the United States, it is time to look at Singapore, which is almost the polar opposite of the United States except for English as the national language.

Unlike China (95% Han Chinese) and Finland (more than 95% Caucasian), Singapore is 74.2% Chinese, 13.2% Malay and 9.2% of Indian descent and about 40% of the population is foreigners. The total population is 5.1 million — 2.9 million were born in Singapore while the rest are foreign-born.

However there is a big difference between the US and Singapore. The US is 64.6% White/Caucasian, 15.1% Hispanic/Latino, 12.85% African-American/Black, 4.43% Asian, etc.

The largest difference between the education systems of Singapore and the United States is that America is influenced by “memes” and/or popular trends, which is a pervasive idea within a given culture. The idea replicates itself (sort of like a virus) via cultural means and on the Internet mostly spreads through web sites, emails, blogs, forums, videos, and other channels. The goal of the meme is to change the thought patterns of the populace. Source: Google


Caning in Singapore

In the United States, those “memes” or trends have led to boosting self-esteem among children, which includes not shaming students; making sure children have lots of fun time, and avoiding meritocracy while promoting students regardless of academic achievement. There is also a popular dislike of corporal punishment as cruel.

However, in Singapore, ‘memes’ or popular trends do not have a similar impact as they do in the US.

In Singapore, Meritocracy is a basic political ideology and a fundamental principle in the education system, which aims to identify and groom bright young students for positions of leadership. The system places a great emphasis on academic performance in grading students and granting their admission to special programmes and universities.

As for discipline in Singapore’s schools, corporal punishment is legal (for male students only), and fully encouraged by the government in order to maintain strict discipline.

Canings in schools may be classified in three areas.  The first is a private caning where the boy is caned in the principal’s office; class caning where the boy is caned in front of his class, and public caning where the boy is caned on stage during assembly in front of the whole school population, to serve as a warning to potential offenders as well as to shame the student. It is usually reserved for serious offences committed like fighting, smoking, and vandalism.

School caning is a solemn and formal ceremony. Before the caning, the Discipline Master usually explains the student’s offence to the audience.

In addition, in Singapore, “any child who is unable to attend any national primary school due to any physical or intellectual disability” is exempted from compulsory education. Singapore’s public schools do not provide special education for persons with disabilities.


Caning was once an English tradition. After the British Empire made caning illegal, they lost the empire.

Education in Singapore is managed by the Ministry of Education, which controls the development and administration of state schools, but also has an advisory and supervisory role in respect to private schools.

It is also a criminal offence for parents to fail to enroll their children in school and ensure their regular attendance. Imagine what would happen if this were a criminal offense for parents in the United States.

Due to Singapore’s cultural beliefs and the structure of its educational system, it ranked fifth in reading (The US was 17th) on the 2009 PISA test, second for math (the US was 31st) and fourth for science (the US was 23rd – the OECD average). Source: moe.gov

Continued on August 5, 2011, in Civil Disobedience and No Child Left Behind – Part 6 or return to Part 4

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

 

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Civil Disobedience and No Child Left Behind – Part 2/9

Mr. Morally Correct’s assumption that the unionized public school systems in America are corrupt and educators that cash their monthly checks are failing their contractual obligations comes from a conservative, idealistic bias looking for an easy scapegoat to label as a fraud to explain why 100% of American children are not graduating from high school and reading on or near grade level.

In fact, “fraud” does exist, but this “fraud” demands perfection in public education, which is impossible to attain, and the goal leads to vouchers so students will attend unregulated private schools on public money, which would increase profits for the private sector at the taxpayers’ expense. To achieve this, the political agenda is to poison the minds of most Americans through misinformation and deceit.

It is easy to state opinions without facts to support them, which is why I write long responses to short opinions such as the one easily dashed off without much thought by Mr. Morally Correct.

Some time ago, in previous e-mails with Mr. Morally Correct, Finland was mentioned since Finland has the best educational system in Europe and often ranks in the top three globally on the PISA Test. I don’t recall the context of those e-mails but usually if Mr. Morally Correct mentions Finland, he does it as another criticism of America’s public schools.

Since Finland is such a fine example when it comes to public education, it is always a good idea to understand the competition.


Watch the video to discover key differences between Finland and America.

Finland’s literacy rate is 99% and ninety-five percent of Finland’s teachers are unionized and the country’s population is 5.3 million (America’s population is more than 300 million with about 5 million unionized teachers).

Even though most schools in Finland started as private, today only 3% of students are enrolled in private schools.

Finland’s curriculum is set by the Ministry of Education and the Education Board. Education is compulsory between the ages of 7 and 16. However, in the US, education is compulsory between the ages of 5/6 to 18.

Finland also has one of the world’s most extensive welfare systems, and Finland does not have the racial/ethnic diversity and challenges with legal/illegal immigration that the United States deals with.

America’s illegal alien population is about eleven million (more than twice the population of Finland) and about 3.5 million illegal aliens are children attending America’s public schools. About one million of those illegal alien children attend public schools in California.

Although no official statistics are kept on ethnicities, statistics of the Finnish population according to language and citizenship are available, and it is safe to say that more than 95% of the population is Caucasian/White with a similar historical heritage.

In comparison, America’s ethnic ratios are White 63.7%, Hispanic/Latino 16.3%, Black or African American 12.6%, and Asian 4.8%, etc.

On August 2, 2011, we will examine more comparisons in Civil Disobedience and No Child Left Behind – Part 3 or return to Part 1

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

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