Education still the solution to every problem

By V.K. Raju

My mentor in London (during my ophthalmology residency) used to say, “There are three solutions for every problem or any problem: First is education, second is education and third is education.”

According to a report published by the US News & World Report, eight of the top 10 colleges and universities in the world are in the U.S. Today, over one million international students are studying here.

What about elementary and secondary education? In 1965, the far-reaching Elementary and Secondary Education Act provided funds for primary and secondary education. The main goal was the elimination of poverty and racial injustice.

Yet, the most recent Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results, from 2015, placed the U.S. at an unimpressive 38th out of 71 countries in math and 24th in science.

The U.S. ranks 17th in overall educational performance, according to the Huffington Post. The “Learning Curve,” developed by The Economist, ranks the U.S. 17th out of 40 countries in overall educational performance. Finland ranks first.

Finland’s objective is to provide all citizens with equal opportunities. The potential of every individual should be maximized. Education is free at all levels. Adult education has a long and strong tradition. The education system is based on trust and responsibility. Most private institutions do not differ from those that are publicly maintained.

Every child has a subjective right to attend early childhood education and care. It can take place at kindergartens or smaller family daycare groups in private homes. The fees are moderate and based on parental income. Basic education starts in the year when a child turns seven and lasts nine years.

Most students continue their studies after basic education. In many ways, Finland’s education system shows us that “less is more.”

Teaching is an attractive career choice in Finland. Teachers are recognized as keys to quality in education.

The U.S. spends more per student on education than any other country. Yet, in the U.S., we cannot stick to one philosophy of education long enough to see if it actually works.

We are constantly trying new methods, ideas and initiatives. We believe “more” is the answer (like in healthcare) to all of our educational problems. Everything can be solved with more classes, longer days, more homework, more assignments, more pressure, more content, more meetings, more after-school tutoring and, finally, more testing.

This may result in more burnt- out teachers, more stressed-out students and more frustration.

Plato believed that children would never learn unless they wanted to learn.

Let me end with a final quote of Abraham Flexner (even if Plato might not agree). “Without ideals, without effort, without scholarship, without philosophical continuity, there is no such thing as education.”

V.K. Raju is a member of The Dominion Post’s Community Advisory Board.

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