<Ned> Front Porch
Everywhere you go in the world, people always complain about the current condition of the schools.
I think that we have to ask some of the basic questions that go in to designing a curriculum and then evaluate what is currently happening and what changes need to be made to get us where we want to go.
What is the function of education in today's world?
- I would argue that the main function of education should be to teach people to learn. Things change so quickly in this world that you must know how to learn on your own in order to survive for your life time.
b Math - numbers - without a calculator
c How to ask questions
d How to find answers
e How to solve problems using a and b above
Thailand is pretty high on the development scale - #74 at last report. They have good education numbers: Adult literacy at 92.6% and Combined gross enrollment ratio for primary, secondary and tertiary schools at 74% (East Asia averages 90.4% and 69% while sub-Saharan Africa is at average 60.5% and 50%). Don't even begin to think that those numbers reflect the current student's ability to be productive in a modern world.
My faculty has hundreds of computers, almost all connected to the internet. Every desk in the faculty office has a computer on it. To the best of my knowledge, there is no one I have met trained in Thailand who knows how to use (for example) MS Office beyond using it as a type writer. No one had any idea how to use a mailing list. This in an office that has 16 people half of whom have Master's degrees and over 10% of whom are working on PhDs. They do know how to use all of the bells and whistles on Power Point but they can't any of them make a presentation that is helpful in terms of clarifying a talk.
My students can calculate math given an equation but they have no idea how to use math to figure out ANYTHING.
Thai kindergarten students learn how to add long columns of numbers with carrying and subtract with borrowing but can't figure out what the aggregate demand is given how much of the product each buyer wants.
Someone reported recently that the average Thai reads 1 line of written material a day. And that was probably in a cartoon book.
I suspect that a major part of the problem is the class size. The smallest class size I have seen in a public school is 40. It is not possible in classes that size to give students any kind of personal attention. You do not encourage students to ask questions in classes of that size. You structure things so that answers are right or wrong and don't require long to mark.
How can we get around this?
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