This part struck me. It wasn't that long ago in human history that these "kids" would have been considered adults. Fourteen, which should correspond roughly to the beginning of American high school, would have been the year they would have started apprenticeship and taking on real adult responsibility. And that's assuming they were even going to a skilled trade; unskilled trades like farmers would be outright working by that point. We see this transition point in cultures that have preserved it as tradition, such as bar/bat mitzvahs, quinceañeras, and débutante and cotillion balls.
The result is one of the most well-educated and trained workforces in the world. It's also an incredibly competitive job market, because almost everyone applying has the equivalent of at least a two-year degree, and if it's an academic profession, probably a Master's. Almost no union will take you as well if you haven't finished a trade school or higher school. There's talk now of them making post-secondary education mandatory as well for two years, because anyone who doesn't go into trade school or high school is more or less fucked on the job market. The kids who don't want to go to school after 16 wind up on unemployment and living with their parents because there's almost zero chance of getting any kind of employment without further education.
It's been interesting to see and learn how degree inflation works on the market here. In one sense this is a lot like the states, where in many fields now, anything less than a Bachelor's degree is useless. In another sense though, unlike the states this hasn't resulted in the 'diploma mill' effect, where those Bachelor's degrees have become utterly devalued and useless because they more or less hand them out to anyone willing to keep showing up for four years.
And as well, there are more options here for trades instead of going into academics, so it's not like there aren't options if you don't go into university. There are trade school courses in everything: I know a bloke who went to school for two years just to be a waiter. So unlike the states, where that diploma mill inflation can feel limiting because there's only so many academic subjects available, it seems like there's a lot more viable different routes to pursue towards finding a career.
that seems quite excessive - shouldn't on the job training work just as well?!
1) contrary to American myth, a good union promises quality workers, and the best way to do that is to ensure their members are highly trained. Everything is union here, but if you want to be a union employee, you must be prepared to meet that standard, starting with a thorough education.
2) American culture has seriously devalued the waiter. As a former cook, I've worked with those who had real training in the old French style, vs. those who merely took a job out of high school because the tips paid better. I'd choose the former every time. A skilled waiter is not just a glorified gofer, but someone who knows the food business inside and out.
3) It largely is on the job training; much of the trade school approach in Finland is based at least partly on apprenticeship. You take both lecture/classroom courses, as well as time spent on the job actually practicing your skills. The difference is, there's someone overseeing the process with an interest in actually making you a better professional, rather than solely on the basis of whether or not they should shitcan you and hire someone else.
Today we decry "child labor" but there is a lot that the traditional apprenticeship model had going for it. For one it gave young adults important job skills and introduced them to the job market, which not only jump starts one's career and financial self-sufficiency but also inculcates responsibility, belonging, and self-esteem (because teens see that they are capable of doing valuable work, capable of learning in a way that produces tangible results, etc.) But there's a subtle aspect to the apprenticeship system which also helps teens transition to adulthood, and that's the interaction of adults and "children" on a peer level.
At the moment you have an almost pathological system, anyone that a teenager interacts with who is over 18 is basically in a different world. And most of the time those people are authority figures. For the most part teens look to their peers for cues on how to behave, with predictable results. With an apprenticeship model you don't have that same arbitrary age-based segregation; apprentices, workers, and "masters" all work together, spend time together, and so on. They often become friendly, and often the younger apprentices would pick up cues on how to behave from those who are older and more mature, because in that context they are their peers.
This is hugely important because it jump-starts the process of gaining responsibility and maturity for teens as they transition to adulthood, and provides an extended network of people beyond just one's immediate family who can be consulted for advice on various questions that tend to present themselves when one is growing up.
When I was a teen I was considerably more mature than the average of folks around me and for the longest time I didn't realize exactly why. I'm sure some of that is just my own personality, but recently I figured out that part of it had to do with the fact that I ended up spending a lot more time interacting with and working with adults than is normal for most teens and children. To me, it didn't feel weird to be hanging out with adults or working alongside adults as a peer when I was 10 or 14 or what-have-you, and that made the transition to adulthood fairly non-eventful. Sure, I struggled with plenty of the normal problems that everyone faces in their 20s (what to do with your life, how to build a career, etc.). But I didn't struggle with the same issues a lot of newly minted 18 year olds struggle with for years, such as how to be a responsible person, how to do work or learn of your own volition instead of being forced into it, and so on.
Unfortunately, that sort of thing is if anything almost actively discouraged today due to an excessive fear of child predators. And while we've perhaps incrementally affected the prevalence of sexual abuse of minors, if we even have, we've definitely stunted the development and maturation of millions upon millions of people over several generations, which unimaginably enormous negative consequences.
I don't know what the answer is to these problems but I do know that the current system is broken to an almost pathological extent, it should be one of our highest priorities to fix it.
I do not have any knowledge about it (neither myself nor my own children), other than what I've read. I do subscribe to the idea, though.
Mostly because parents who fork for such schools are already rich and well educated.
But the question is a question of probability and information divergence. If 0.0001% of the population was Montessori educated, but 1% of famous people were (whatever your definition of "famous" is), then it is greatly informative. If 0.0001% of famous people are, then it is not informative.
And note that even if informative, it might not be a causal relationship - it could be that the "causal" relationship is "parents who are open to alternative education systems", or "parents who can afford alternative education systems and are willing to", and the Montessori link is incidental. I do not know and I don't think anyone really does.
Regardless, I find those educational principles much more logical than the traditional ones, and would thus prefer them if given the chance.
Here is what is wrong with the current system:
- Grading is harmful. A pass should be 100%/A+. You should not be able to progress until you understand the subject matter 100% as future learning depends on you having a complete understanding of previous content.
- Grouping students by the year they were born is harmful. Some students progress faster than others. By grouping students this way, some students are held back while others are dragged forward; not understanding vital content.
- Grouping a student's progress for all subjects into a single metric is harmful. Eg. grade 1,2,3, etc. Every student will have a natural tendency to be good and bad at certain subjects. Maybe they are good and Physics but bad at English, or vise versa. By grouping a student's progress in all subjects into a single metric a student might be held back in the subjects they are good at or not understand vital content in the subjects they are bad at.
Here is what I imagine a good education system would look like:
- Students progress through subjects independently of their peers and the other subjects they are studying.
- Subject assessment would happen at much smaller increments and students do not progress until they understand that content block 100%.
- Students graduate school when they have reached a certain level of competency in all subjects. This could take an arbitrary amount of time. e.g. it might take one student 3 years but another 8. But once a student graduates they will be competent.
P.S I used to run an company that developed learning management systems, so I have thought about this stuff a bit and developed a hatred for the current education system.
That sounds ridiculous. No one understands their subject matter 100%. I mean take a question like "What where some of the root causes of the start of World War I". A perfectly reasonable question for a 14 years old to spend 30 minutes on in a history exam, but also one that they could spend the next 30 years of their life on and still not answer completely.
The only way to expect 100% pass rates on exams is to write stupidly easy exams with pointless multiple choice like "What year was the battle of the Somme". A question which doesn't prove any understanding att all.
"Fully ready" does not use 100% as its benchmark, though, because that would make the process less efficient. You just need to be good enough that you are well-prepared to learn the next step. You achieve, let's say, Level 45 (picturing your learning of a skill as climbing a ladder), which means you're ready to move on to Level 46. Level 46 assumes you can use all the skills learned up through Level 45, so it makes use of them, with the result that your Level 45 skill continues to improve with use as you learn Level 46. When you move on to 47, your use of 46 and 45 will continue to improve those skills.
So "mastery" of Level 45 does not mean 100% before moving on to Level 46 but means a level of competence that can be used successfully. With continued use, all previous levels will asymptotically approach 100%.
Since the mastery approach paid such close attention to readiness, prerequisites were better thought out. The prerequisites for literature at a certain level were not merely lower levels of literature. They also included the study of history, languages (Latin first, then Greek), rhetoric, and so on.
There's no single, objectively correct sequence, even for STEM subjects. But a master teacher can learn from experience what should be learned first, and to what level, to make a student fully ready to learn any given thing. Then take many experienced masters, put them together, and have them carefully work out a prerequisite tree from which they derive a sequence of instruction.
Another concern is that while a mastery-based education system could be wonderful for middle/high-performing students - it is likely to lead to a huge mass of underperforming students in the lower and middle grades. "Oh, you haven't mastered exponents; Then, you cannot move on to...". The reasons that these students fall behind may have nothing/little to do with their classroom experiences and yet they would not be allowed to advance. Considering the costs - there is no way we're prepared socially/fiscally for a huge backlog of low-performing students in these grades (particularly when they begin to drop-out en-mass once they get tired of failing at "little kid work").
At the extreme, if you refuse to move a student forward to higher-level content are you impeding their right to an equitable education as their peers? There is civil rights precedents for this question with regard to special education students being refused higher level academic work because they could not (by some metric) prove themselves "competent" to move forward.
Further, is the content we require our students to learn truly necessary knowledge for adulthood? It had better be if you're going to refuse moving an 18-year-old to the eighth-grade because they cannot write a "properly" formatted paragraph.
I agree completely that this is problem, but unless we decide that fully educating every child is the actual, explicit goal of compulsory education - and accept the significant costs that will be associated with that goal - then there will always be a purge valve for underperforming students. Currently, that is moving them along despite low performance and obvious gaps in knowledge/skills.
Even in something like math which is probably the subject best suited for multiple choice, it is still a poor option since seeing the steps the student choses to try to answer the question are often more important and more illuminating than whether or not they get the answer right.
The usual objection to this is people's aversion to having children at vastly different levels of physical development in the same classroom. Personally, I don't know whether to buy that argument, but it sounds worth expanding upon.
> Students graduate school when they have reached a certain level of competency in all subjects. This could take an arbitrary amount of time. e.g. it might take one student 3 years but another 8. But once a student graduates they will be competent.
OK, but at age eighteen, physically preventing them from leaving is against the law, and will likely be punished.
I'm only half-joking:
At some point, the law recognizes people as full adults, and it is much more difficult to legally restrain an adult, even if they're reading at a fifth-grade level.
Personally, I think the answer to that is more and better trade schools, and increased governmental public works programs, but such ideas went from being All-American in the 1930s to Socialism in the 1950s, and we're still not quite past that yet.
I think the future is more automated, independent learning. At my kid's school, a good chunk of the math curriculum is taught by computer. They go to a lab, and get to play math games that change according to their success with what they've been presented already. So if a kid has trouble adding small numbers, he'll get more of those problems than a kid that has that figured out, and can move forward to adding large numbers, multiplication, division, or whatever else still challenges him, regardless of his age.
This also handles attention span issues. If a kid can be challenged with new exercises and learn for an hour and a half straight, great. If another one has trouble learning new material late in a class, he will do worse, and face easier material as the class goes along.
Socialism was "All-American" in the 1930s. Then history happened and it garnered itself a rather nasty reputation, which it went to great, great effort to earn fair and square.
Re your second point. It's just a graduation, no one is forced to stay in school.
how about physical education (i.e., sports)? you'd usually want to group similarly aged students in those, lest you have a 16 yr old competing against a 10 yr old.
Like the CNC machining meme. If you reengineer society so that everyone below the top 5% of their high school class becomes a CNC machinist... it's not going to be a rare and valuable skill anymore.
On the surface it seems like you're arguing that there is not enough room in the trades for more tradesman. However adding a good chunk of people to the trades will increase the velocity of money in the form of more people spending more dollars based on their higher salaries. The alternative is that the demand for trades is fixed, which doesn't make much sense to me.
The demand for trades may not be fixed, but it is not proportional to the number of tradesmen. Most likely it's proportional to overall economic activity in some way. Doubling the number of tradesmen will not double economic activity across the whole economy, or likely have any significant impact on demand for tradesmen, so the value of tradesmen will drop until some are forced out and an equilibrium is reached, probably not far off where it is now.
You can have a minimum of 50% and still have kinds know 10 times more than what a minimum of 100% course has them.
50% of an advanced course is better than 100% of a course for idiots.
It's all about the breadth and deepness of the material, not some arbitrary mark on it, like 50%.
Learning to 100% is a fallacy. It is more efficient to learn to about 90% - 95%.
Future learning does not always depend on past learning. You don't need to have memorised the double angle formulas in order to start learning group theory.
Really the whole problem of when/what to learn has been comprehensively solved by supermemo et al. The unsolved problems are in formulation of learning material.
As much as I can see the value in that, it'll never fly. Because, as I'm sure you know, we live in a society of "equals". Therefore, the system you propose will violently shatter that illusion for the general public and mainstream collective-thought.
And this will happen because you will very quickly see so many fail miserably and a few plowing through the material. Both due to innate general intelligence, affinity for particular skills/topics as well as plain old determination. We don't all have equal amounts of all, no matter how much we get told otherwise by individuals blaming externalities.
And I'll just go ahead and add that I believe I'd be one of the many that would very quickly fail in such a system. At least, until I realized the seriousness of the situation and decided to sit my ass down and study with determination and not rely on any supposed inner ability/gift/talent.
IMHO the idea of school is to teach students how to learn. Knowing when a certain battle happened isn't important, understanding how to view the world through the lens of history is. Knowing how to study the historical background of a culture or society should be what the student learns.
Likewise, the goal of English class is not to memorize the parts of speech or memorize famous poems. Learning how to write prose, master communication with the written word, and coherently communicate their thoughts, loves, and desires upon paper, are the ideals towards which students should strive.
Essentially, why aren't good study skills explicitly taught and practiced?
What I've experienced through school is that whilst there is some implicit teaching of such skills, a lot of study skills are either found by students themselves through experimentation(random), or passed down from their parents. More often than not, these are attrocious for students that did not have enough parental involvement OR parents that don't know how to study efficiently either. My personal hypothesis is that these are affected by and also affect socioeconomic standing. Just like wealth, education also perpetuates through generations.
Personally, through highschool my aproach to studying involved cramming, keeping almost no note of due-dates and very messy planning of long term academic projects. In fact, anything that took more than 2 weeks of foresight would leave me scrambling to finish at last minute.
What's worse is that this did not occur to me to be a problem until well into 10th to 11th grade, which put a dent into my college prospects to say in the least.
Since then, I've been working on aquiring these skills on my own, playing around with things like holistic learning, spaced repetition, learning how to structure projects and aquiring organizational tools such as org-mode or even something as simple as using a calendar habitually. And it helps immensely.
And whilst now I'm starting to put these things into place, I keep asking myself: "Why was this not pointed out to me back in ,say, 6th grade?". General education is a great social equalizer, but the assumption that these neccesairy skills are simply passed down seems to go against that very idea. My personal opinion is that teaching these skills would have an incredible impact, since often intelligence is not the problem, but methodology is.
But the assessment doesn't have to only assess facts. The assessment can also include complex problems; it would however require that an answer be an absolute value. This teaching method would not be appropriate for all learning material. But it might be good for 70%. Even English has fundamental/structural "facts" that could be assessed this way.
The only other option is that the weaker or average student will not even see those hard exercises exist and I not sure how would that help him.
That approach makes sense only if you mean to become expert in that subject. It does not make sense to demand that in everything.
I don't think this is a good idea at all. It sounds extremely discouraging.
This system is lovely for people always at the top of the class, who get to thrive with exactly the knowledge and content they need (assuming they have stored it in long-term memory, rather than storing it just long enough to pass through the immediate barrier), but it's terrible for everyone else.
You see this pattern already in compulsory education: 'I don't really get this topic' becomes 'I can't do this topic' becomes 'I can't do this subject' becomes 'Why would I bother?'.
It's a lot of work for student and teacher to get back from this point, if they ever manage to. Your system encourages this, and so almost nobody will graduate your system in 8 years; anyone who faces such overwhelming blockades will naturally drop out rather than overcome them. I contend that your idea is worse than the existing system.
One of the best ways to get a student to understand content they are completely stuck with is to introduce and apply it as part of a more advanced topic or more practical context, i.e. just move them on from the part they are stuck with and let them continue, coming back to earlier topics where relevant (and as a necessary reminder to the others). The existing system works well in this respect, at least.
On the contrary, struggling to get everything done by next week and scraping by with a 55% pass mark is extremely discouraging.
Being able to take as much time as you like to understand the content until you get it all 100% sounds much more encouraging to me.
By way of anecdata, a researcher who had experimented with this approach in australian schools for teaching math came to my faculty and gave a seminar last year. He and his organization found that the students were, as predicted, vastly more encouraged by the mastery learning approach. Actual learning rates were also on average 2x as fast.
> You see this pattern already in compulsory education: 'I don't really get this topic' becomes 'I can't do this topic' becomes 'I can't do this subject' becomes 'Why would I bother?'.
Only because we are forced to progress without even trying to fix "I don't really get this topic".
Not sure where you live, but with kids here, the amount of time spent studying is directly related to how close the test is - especially when it comes to subject the kid does not care much about.
People actually open the book at home when the test/oral exam comes clise. Giving them infinite time only ensures they will put off work indefinitely.
Compared to a control group, or to the national average? To me, 2x seems extremely low for a group of students receiving special or individualised treatment - but please do link.
> Only because we are forced to progress without even trying to fix "I don't really get this topic".
Not 'only', I disagree.
There are existing systems like this: e.g. certain learn-to-program websites. How many people reach the end point?
Anecdotally, everyone I know who has tried code-learning sites experiences getting stuck (sometimes on a broken problem) and they soon drop out - they don't see the point of progressing any further.
> Anecdotally, everyone I know who has tried code-learning sites experiences getting stuck (sometimes on a broken problem) and they soon drop out - they don't see the point of progressing any further.
I imagine the situation would be different with an actual human teacher one could ask for help.
Expert practitioners with decades of experience will often still make one or two mistakes, a couple of "derps", if given a child's exam. This is a broadly good idea, but you need to allow some margin of error for the noisiness of real cognition.
People make mistakes.
The only "surefire" way I've found to test that in myself is written condensing of the concept in a way that allows another person to understand the concept from my notes, or actually explaining the concept to another person.
That doesn't scale to 20-30 people in a class though since validating that number of explanations is not easy.
Random probing using application of the concept however encourages the cooking recipe approach. There's only a number n different types of problems you can generate, and by learning all of those is possible. They're easy to grade, but they don't guarantee full understanding.
Then there's using compound problems, where you start mixing concepts. If a student understands say momentum and friction, they should be able to work out a problem involving both. And those are the bane of students who did not invest in conceptual understanding since the number of recipes to learn suddenly increases exponentially. First midterm of physics 101 usually leads to a number of exasperated "This wasn't covered in class". Yes it was, just not this specific recipe. Now the issue with this type of problems is they cover a number of concepts, and pinning down the culprint/s isn't exactly straightforward. I guess you could tackle this through deduction based on a number of pairings (say momentum&impulse,momentum&friction&whatnot...), but noise would mess with that process.
You might want to take a step back and return to these thoughts once your hatred has subsided. I think you will then better be able to have an unbiased evaluation of the good and bad of multiple education options. Because right now you are going to far to a totally different extreme, which can be ripped apart just as well as our current model.
EDIT: Also my hatred will not subside. It's been 3 years since I was in that business and my opinion isn't any less absolute. The current system is broken, very broken and it is crazy to me that we continue to support it. Even this thread is an example why change is difficult. An education system is very complex and new idea's are interpreted in the context of the current system, so it makes it very difficult to explain without writing a white paper. And ain't nobody got time for that.