My four-year old son will likely be returning to school a few weeks from now. He will be attending a public school close to where we live. He wants to go back because he misses his friends, and this is something I sympathize with. Children should be spending most of their day playing, preferably unsupervised. It’s not the same when I play catch with him, or trucks or dinosaurs. At the same time, I know that this will retard his academic progress, compared to home schooling. His 3 “R” skills have gone through the roof over the previous six months since the onset of COVID-19.
Why? How can I say this as nicely as possible? Ontario’s public school system stinks. This judgement, by the way, is based on the standards the system itself sets. In 2017-2018 (the latest numbers I could find), almost 40% of Grade 3 students were below the provincial standard for math, and more than 50% of Grade 6 students failed to meet their higher standard. This should be considered a national disaster. Yet no-one seems to either care or even notice. And at a time where we seem to be increasingly sensitive to differences in outcomes between races, does anyone reading this not believe that there are huge differences depending on whether the child’s parents are white, black or of Asian descent?
This problem could be solved overnight. This problem should be solved overnight. There should be an Ontario-wide curriculum designed for every subject, and every single student should view that content, via the internet. It would require a computer in each classroom, and a large projection screen. All learning would be delivered on-line, and then teachers in the classroom would assume the roles of “police officers” and tutors, ensuring that discipline is maintained and helping individual students work through those areas that each finds difficult.
Ultimately, every single Ontario student would move ahead at approximately the same pace, resulting in 100% success in each academic discipline.
This would require frequent standardized testing. Many in the Educational Establishment think that, by definition, standardized testing is problematic. This is utter nonsense. Common sense tells everyone that standardized testing is not the issue. The issue is whether the standardized test correctly captures the desired learning outcomes. Let me use my son as an example. I am currently teaching him how to add all the numbers from 1 through 10. I use a standard card playing deck. I have taken all the hearts in the deck from the ace through ten, and all the spades in the deck from the ace through ten.
I test him on a daily basis. I shuffle the cards and match one red and one black card. When I started this exercise two weeks ago, he would typically get 2 or 3 out of 10 trials correct. Now he’s up to 5 to 6 on average. When he consistently hits 10/10, we’ll bring in the Jack, and designate that as the number “11”. When he hits 10/10, we’ll introduce the queen as number “12”. And I’m doing something similar with words and spelling: Start with short, simple words, and layer in more difficult and longer words gradually.
I would admit that evaluation would be easier earlier on in the education process. However, all high school subjects that are more “subjective”, such as History, Geography, and English, could be delivered similarly. To maintain consistency across the province, the primary testing method would be multiple choice. However, in order to pass at each grade, students would be required to write an essay in several hours. They’d be plopped in front of a PC, given a topic, and then off they go. Depending on the student’s age, the level of difficulty and sophistication would vary.
When I was growing up, there was a saying that war was too important a matter to be left to the generals. Today’s equivalent is that education is too important to be left to a corrupt Education Establishment that has clearly failed us and more importantly, our children.