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Tag Archives: Singapore

What makes Education Toxic?

A comment left for a postNC Teacher: “I quit”—on Diane Ravitche’s blog made a good point, and I posted a reply:

I think you have made a great point or at least inadvertently focused a spotlight on an important issue and why it is there.  Turnover in a school or school district may be a red flag—a strong warning sign— that the school board/administration/students are not the easiest to work with or work for [another word would be dysfunctional ].

This could be extended to an entire state since each state has its own department of education that decides policy in that state as directed by the elected politicians from the governor of a state on down. Due to a need to gain votes, religious and/or political agendas tend to rule in such organizations and the winds may shift at any time.

For example, I friend sent me this about the current situation in the high school in Southern California where he now teaches.

I was a public school teacher from 1975 – 2005 and we worked together before dysfunctional administration at our high school and in our school district drove him to quit and find a job in another district that at the time was a better place to work.

But beware of the grass is greener over there syndrome because a drought will kill the green grass leaving behind sweltering heat and dust.

During my thirty years in the classroom, I worked under nine-different principals. Some were great, some good and some horrible.

The horrible ones drove teachers, counselors and VPs out of the schools where they ruled Nazi style and turnover could reach as high as fifty percent in a few years.

Good principals, who are usually a sign of good administration and a sensible school board, tend to hold on to staff.

I mean, how many people quit jobs—any job—with a boss that knows what he or she is doing; a boss that supports his workers in the best possible ways to make the work environment a place where we want to spend twenty to forty years of our lives?

My friend said of this school year (2012 – 2013):

“112 scheduling changes in the first three weeks (the classes he teaches)

“75% of the administrative team is new; a lot of chaos

“50% of the counselors are new; a lot of chaos

“We lost our department chairs, so there is no communication between the teachers and administration

[This high school, he says] “once had a top-notch academic program; however, we are falling apart at the seams; our test scores have flat-lined and they will continue to flat-line because there are just too many new faces at our school; two of our Vice Principals have never been a VP before; they’re nice people, but we have to wade through their learning curve.”

For another example: at the high school where I taught for the last sixteen of the thirty years I was in the classroom as a teacher, we had one new teacher quit at lunch on his first day on the job with two more classes to teach after lunch. During the lunch break, he walked in the principal’s office, tossed his room keys on the desk and said, “If they won’t show some respect for me and attempt to learn, then I refuse to teach them.”

I know from experience, that district did not do a good job creating a positive, supportive educational environment for its teachers because I worked in that district for thirty years. Instead, it was more of a combative environment that did not offer the support teachers wanted or needed to teach.

It is a fact that teachers teach and students learn. However, that is not always the case. Instead, teachers in a toxic educational environment often struggle to teach while too many students make no effort to learn.

Elected School Boards and the administrators they hire should support an environment where teachers may teach and students will learn, and we can learn from two of the best public educations system in the world: Finland and Singapore.

In Finland, the teachers have a strong union and the teachers make the decisions in a supportive educational environment and it works. Parents start teaching children how to read at age three but the first year of school is at age seven.

In Singapore, merit rules. Students must compete academically to earn where they are tracked and the system is heavily tracked based on performance. There is no self-esteem driven educational environment; there is corporal punishment and students may be publicly beat with a bamboo cane if caught breaking strict-rules built to support a merit based education system.

Why can’t we in the United States learn from Finland and Singapore?

Discover What is the Matter with [American] Parents these Days?

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

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

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

When it was discovered that the Whole Language approach to teaching reading failed, instead of admitting they were wrong, the idealists behind the theory blamed America’s public school teachers.

To punish those teachers, what followed was a movement for school choice designed to allow parents to select the school their children attends. Although voters have rejected this theory in many states, the fanatics behind this movement refuse to surrender.

The next debacle was when President G. W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act into law, which ignored reality while blaming teachers again for the failure of a theory that many teachers were against but were forced to implement.

The Singapore element to the solution of this educational fiasco in the United States may be found in Civil Disobedience and No Child Left Behind, which says, “Meritocracy is a basic political ideology and a fundamental principle in Singapore’s 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.”

In addition, Singapore has a law that makes it a criminal offense for parents of children that cut school.

To learn more of the details behind the success of Singapore’s public schools, I suggest you see SG Box.com’s post about Singapore Education.

Unless the United States is willing to trust teachers and implement some of what Finland and Singapore have done, education in the US will continue to flounder regardless of laws such as No Child Left behind or failed theories such as Whole Language.

However, implementing these changes will not be easy, because idealists are often fanatics that refuse to surrender.

One well know example of this type of idealistic movement is Al Qaeda—the fanatical Islamic terrorists responsible for 9/11.

The best way to deal with America’s fanatics is to remove the public schools from the political system and trust the teachers to do whatever it takes to teach America’s youth.

Return to The Finland-Singapore Solution to Public Education in the U.S. – 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

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 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 Finland-Singapore Solution to Public Education in the U.S. – Part 1/3

After years of U.S. teachers and their unions being blamed for the failure of some students to learn, it is time to face reality.

American teachers did not fail the system. The system failed the teachers, and the proof may be found in Finland and Singapore where teachers are trusted and  supported.

Smithsonian Magazine’s September 2011 issue reported an A+ for Finland where “kids aren’t required to go to school until they’re 7, standardized tests are rare and yet the Nordic nation’s success in education is off the charts.”

Yet, more than 97% of Finland’s children attend public schools and the teachers belong to a strong union. If you read the piece in Smithsonian (link provided above), the elements of that success, which are missing in the US, are spelled out in detail.

There is a reason that the U.S. public education system appears to be failing (at least according to its very vocal idealistic and fanatical critics).

For decades, the public schools in the US have been run by local, state and federal politics, which resulted in decisions made by mostly ignorant elected officials that turned the schools into laboratories for one ideological fad/theory or political agenda after another.

As an example, devout Christians demand that creationism be taught instead of evolution, while scientists argue that creationism is wrong. School prayer is also a hot button issue between atheists and religions as is sex education.

LynNell Hancock of Smithsonian Magazine says, “Finland has vastly improved in reading, math and science literacy over the past decade in large part because its teachers are trusted to do whatever it takes to turn young lives around.”

The key phrase in the last sentence is “its (Finland) teachers are trusted to do whatever it takes”, which is missing in America.

Continued August 29, 2011 in The Finland-Singapore Solution to Public Education in the U.S. – Part 2

_______________________

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 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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