Thursday, January 24, 2008

Educational crisis leads to desperation and idiotic moves

I have known for years that the educational crisis isn't just a Bulgarian but a worldwide phenomenon. And because people don't know what to do about it, and when they know they haven't the guts to do it, they resort to desperate idiotic incentives.
I've just read in Yahoo! news about the latest one: two Georgia schools have started "a 15-week pilot program that is paying high-schoolers struggling in math and science $8 an hour to attend study hall for four hours a week... The eighth- and 11th-graders chosen had to be underperforming in math and science, and many are eligible for free or reduced-cost lunches. The hope is that the bribes will boost students' motivation to learn, attend class and get better grades. Aside from the hourly wage, eighth-graders will get a $75 bonus, and 11th-graders $125, if they improve their math and science grades to a B and achieve certain test scores... The initiative is aimed at math and science because many student struggle in those subjects even if they excel in others. "
Why do I find the idea idiotic? First, because it offers no reward to the students who already attend all classes and have good scores, even if they also come from poor families. In essence, some students are rewarded for having been underachievers and absentees.
Second, the project is stupid because it includes 11-graders who are 16 or more (the story features a particular 16-year-old student). In most countries, 16 is the age limit ending mandatory education and allowing full-time work. To my opinion, if a teenager aged 16 or more cannot cope with school, he should leave and start work. The politically correct idea that everybody could and should complete secondary education inevitably leads to declining educational standards, not to mention the resources wasted to keep in school people who don't belong there.
But yes, leaving school early closes many career options. The poor ones will not be able to attend university. Here we come to another politically correct idea: the dream of a world "where everyone advances to higher education and thence to symbol-manipulating employment in accountancy, or law, or the ever-swelling government bureaucracy, and nobody has to be a cleaner or cable layer... Dirt will cease to accumulate in buildings and cables will lay themselves spontaneously" (quote from J. Derbyshire).
It is comforting to know that not only Bulgarian educational policymakers are idiots.

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