The thing with education is that while it seems like an obviously necessary commodity for all of humanity to have access to and such an obviously necessary priority for us to maintain, it is not always treated that way. There always seems to be something lacking in the school systems in order to properly establish or maintain an adequate schooling structure.
In the United States, our struggle has been receiving the sufficient amount of funding that is needed for the public schools. It is widely known, and has become to butt of some jokes, that teachers are drastically underpaid. How is it that such a vital role in our community, the people that spend their time shaping and educating our children, are treated as if they are so low on the totem pole?
Recently, several state and local education budgets have been cut resulting in summer programs being reduced/eliminated and the actual time kids spend in school shortened. The New York Times reported that Los Angeles’ summer budget drop $16 million this past year, and a couple years ago, Hawaii shortened their school year by 17 days. This has been a trend across the country. As several states have had to slash budgets, they have lowered the numbered of days per year that schools run and some have even decided to drop a day out of the school week.
While this is not true in every school district around the nation (Phoenix approved a 200-day academic calendar last year resulting in increased reading scores), this general trend is giving students less time in the classroom and a smaller likelihood of retaining what is taught. The Obama administration has recognized this problem and has established a $4 billion program to assist deteriorating schools with additional funding once improvement plans are formed which should include increased classroom time. It is safe to say that while we are lucky to have a functioning school system, there are many problems facing us that will take some money and attention to fix.
In the other various corners of the world, there are countries that struggle with more basic problems to their education worries. These include physical structures, teachers to hire, and classroom supplies. How are children supposed to effectively learn without a building to report to, a person to teach them, or books to read? During my time in Peru, I helped at a school whose building could not fit more than 15 students and whose teachers spent the majority of their time making the students clean. It was largest waste of “educational” time that I had seen. Those 15 children that attended this San Isidro school stayed there only because their families couldn’t afford to send them to the better school down the road.
In several rural regions, schools are so few and far between that children are made to walk, possibly up to a couple days, to even reach the building. This happens in the rural regions of Nepal. Here it is often necessary for kids to walk hours each way or even to find housing close to the school to attend. Many times this is the reason that families decide not to send their children to school or continue their education.
Whichever country you look at, it is unlikely that a flawless education system exists. Maybe the perfect one cannot exist. In any case, there are improvements across the board that can be made and things that we can do to help. Whether it is petitioning our local governments for funding, volunteering in afterschool or summer programs, donating books and school supplies to children in developing countries, or shipping yourself halfway across the world to help build a school, we are able to help influence the direction of education and increase the opportunities for our children.
The U.S. information taken from the article, “Saving Money Means Less Time in Schools” by Sam Dillon in the Wednesday, July 6, 2011 issue of The New York Times.