Will more money improve education?

Tue, 02/10/2009 - 4:26pm
By: Letters to the ...

Will more money solve the education dilemma in America? Let me answer it this way.

Over the past 14 years, I have traveled to China 12 times, and four out of the past five summers I have hosted mainland Chinese high school students in my home as a part of a cultural and educational program. During the past decade, I have learned a lot about the Chinese culture and their educational system.

In my personal opinion, unless America can get its act together, China is going to soon surpass us in education, especially in the fields of math and science. What is their secret ingredient to success? Is it money?

Read carefully, and you will discover the secret to the educational success in China. Education is a success in China because it is the #1 priority of their nation. It is the #1 priority of the parents, and it is the #1 priority of the students.

China has a “one-child policy.” That means that each family can only have one child. Since each family only has one child, the parents put all of their hopes and dreams into that one child. So, from the very beginning, the parent focuses all of their time, effort and energy on that one child to make them a success. They believe that a quality education is the secret to success, which will allow them to go to the best university, and on to a successful career.

The focus of education is reinforced not only by the parents, but also by the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins (as well as the government). From the moment the child enters school they have one focus: to make the absolute best grade they can make on the college entrance exam. This is their “ticket” to success.

I know that you may be thinking that many of our students in America want to make good grades on the SAT/ACT and go to a good university. Well, multiply that by about a thousand times and you can begin to understand the emphasis that these parents and students place on education from the very first day of school.

Last summer, one of the Chinese high school students in my home explained her school schedule. Hold on because this is going to blow you away.

At 6:30 a.m. she reports to class for review. Her first class begins at 7 a.m. and goes to noon. At noon, she takes a two-hour break to eat lunch, wash clothes, take a nap, etc. Class starts back at 2 p.m. and goes until 6 p.m. Then, there is a 20-minute break for dinner. At 6:20 p.m. she reports back to class until 10 p.m.

She goes to school SEVEN DAYS A WEEK! The schedule is the same on Saturday and Sunday except there is no school after dinner on Saturday night, and there is no school on Sunday afternoon, but she goes to school on Sunday morning and night. (If you are an American student, don’t show this article to your parents!)

During the summer months she has a six-week break, but students are given homework that must be turned in when they return from the break. Also, when they have Chinese New Year, and other holidays, they must do homework during the break.

I have visited many schools in China and they don’t have all the extra stuff we have. In fact, many of the schools have 50 or more students in each classroom, but those students sit quietly and listen intently. In America, many teachers spend most of their class time trying to keep order.

The reality is that many of our students don’t appreciate the gift of an education. They take it for granted. Well, one day they will be competing with these Chinese students for the higher paying jobs, and guess who is going to be hired.

I am not advocating a one-child policy, and I am not advocating seven-days a week school. I am only saying that we must make education a higher priority or America’s best days are behind us. In the past, we had the edge over other nations because of our knowledge in technology. Well, not any more.

Here is the bottom line: if everyone in our society, beginning with parents and students, do not place a higher priority on education, then I don’t care how much money you throw at it, we will not have a successful education system.

The reality is that we have had a breakdown of the family over the past 30-40 years and no amount of money or government program will replace the role that parents play in making education a priority in their home.

So the main issue is not money; even though money may be needed. The main issue is the priority that we as a society place on education, and it begins in the home.

Keith Turner

Fayetteville, Ga.


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Submitted by wheeljc on Wed, 02/11/2009 - 4:45pm.

Mr. Turner's synopsis is excellent, and portrays the challenge before us. In general terms, the same also applies to Korea -- and look what they have accomplished without natural resources!

Feel that we have allowed 'money' to become a crutch! If we fail to achieve a given goal, "it is because we do not have the money!"

Mr. Turner alludes to the population differential. Today, China has over 1,300,000,000. The US has 300,000,000.

And, while we are looking at potential competitors from Asia, let us just look at another country that is also producing medical professionals and engineers (especially in the IT area) -- INDIA. Their population is 1,100,000,000.

Mr. Turner makes an excellent point on priorities. We either get our act together and get real serious on holding ourselves accountable, or we best hasten to learn Chinese (and be thankful that many Indians already speak English!!)

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