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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Problems cannot be solved by the level of awareness that created them... Albert Einstein


Problems cannot be solved by the level of awareness that created them... Albert Einstein

I was struck this morning by two articles appearing in the Mail Star section of the Herald in Halifax

www.thechronicleherald.ca/Search/1039102.html and www.thechronicleherald.ca/Search/1039103.html

about recent testing of 10,000 Grade 3 students in Nova Scotia on fundamental math skills. While the test scores were not published (thankfully) we found out that 33% of the students couldn't achieve a grading of over 67%. This is in light of earlier testing of Grade 12 students who had an average score of 39% in math. I have posted on the issues of education in this province in the past, and the recent testing attests to the complete failure of the education system in Nova Scotia to prepare students for life as adults. Math is a core subject, and one that can lead to personal chaos if not well conceptualized and implemented by adults.

These scores should lead one to a conclusion that the system is failing from the lowest grades, yet the Minister of Education for the province, Karen Casey is quoted as saying "we set high expectations with this assessment and I am pleased t that hat so many students met that standard". Funny, that's not the reaction I expected.

I would strongly recommend all adults (especially us older gaffers) in our province read not only the above links to the paper, but also a report done by GPI Atlantic on 'how well educated we are" in our province (www.gpiatlantic.org). Ron Colman of GPI states that the "civic literacy of young Canadians has fallen over time"... he added that the percentage of 18 to 23 year olds answering correctly a series of general political knowledge questions was only slightly over 30%. Between the under thirty crowd's lack of math and their lack of civic knowledge it is likely that they will continue to support the status quo in our government and the education system. Grey hairs unite!

I have referred to Einstein's comment on who is capable of solving perplexing problems like the education issues facing Nova Scotia. Clearly, according to this Einstein Theory, not the NSTU and not the Department of Education bureaucrats and not the incumbent leadership (refer to Ms Casey's comment).


4 comments:

Anonymous said...

We certainly need to talk about education, especially today when Canada’s future increasingly depends on a highly educated population as manufacturing and even service jobs go abroad. But to make that discussion productive, we need to avoid some ‘ailments’ common to such discussions. I’ll offer three.

The first is ‘the good old days’ syndrome. When we lament how the system has deteriorated, we should ask ourselves, “How many of the kids who entered Grade 1 in 1950 were still in school period and/or in Grade l2 in 1962?” I think the answer is 30 to 40% at most. What happened to the rest? Most ended up gainfully employed in good jobs. So what has changed, why, and when? Can we/should we go back? What implications come with keeping 80+% in school until the end of Grade 12?

The second ailment is ‘multiple agenditis’. The real list of what people want from the education system is much longer than this, but let’s try and pick three out of this short list: reading, writing, and math skills; health and wellness awareness; physical fitness; self-esteem maintenance and development; increased voter turnout. I found an article in the Toronto Star quite interesting along these lines: www.thestar.com/article/302001 , because it illustrates so well how politicized something as basic as homework has become. Can you picture your parents complaining to your teacher that you were getting too much homework?

The third is ‘knock the system-osis’. Is there something in particular wrong in the Nova Scotia system? To find out, let’s look at how Nova Scotia kids do when they move to another province at different stages in their education experience, from primary to post-secondary.

You’ve opened some doors Bruce, but I’m not sure they’re the right ones. You are ‘inside the door’ of the education system in ESDHS, and maybe Einstein would agree that, ‘Problems solved from within are often solved. Problems solved from without are frequently simply exchanged for others.’

Ron

Ponderling said...

This is exactly what we need... I need... someone to fight back... but I add
to my earlier posting... we are not competing with the same thing we were in
1950... we are now competing with 5 Billion people who want to beat us...
and with the internet, they can and will if we don't do better than 33% of
10,000 students getting 67% on a math test. I agree, playing the blame game doesn't work... but neither does sticking one's head in the sand when the game gets as tough as it is today... Ponderling

Anonymous said...

My reference to 1950 was not a suggestion that we’re in the same world, simply an illustration to make the point that too often we “grey hairs”compare today’s ed system/situation with one we remember through the lens of being one of the ‘survivors’.
But since you’ve brought it up, it might be worth looking at the relative economic situations between now and then, as the freshly rebuilt European economies, in particular Germany’s, began to regain steam, and Japan began to flood the North American market with cheap imports. I suspect there was lots of suggestion that ‘the sky was falling’ then as well.

I believe it was Mark Twain who said, “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.” I find the tendency to fall back on blindly quoting such statistics quite facile. How much do you know about this math test? Was it based on the current curriculum? To what extent was it a test of ‘basic’ math skill, the ones we need to have to function as aware citizens, as opposed to those involved in trig for example? The answer to both these questions could have a major - and PRODUCTIVE - impact on the discussion.

I don’t think my head is ‘in the sand’. I was (and still am) simply trying to make the discussion more productive.

Ron

Ponderling said...

Hi... chose my words carefully and definitely wouldn't think 'our' heads are in the sand... however, here is what I think I know... the Grade 3 test was as simple as 2 + 2 =... and for these types of questions, 33% of the students got a score of <67%.

The Grade 12 testing was on curriculum and results were on the order of 28% of students taking the test passed with >50%... however, <50% of grade 12 students in NS take math, so it probably follows that <14% of Grade 12 students passed the math test... in the 50's or 00s that (if correct) is reason to be concerned. And the powers seem to be concerned concerned.

I would argue that many of us need the basic math to function... but for serious development of things beyond our social fabric, like the various sciences and macro economics we need to be sourcing students that can excel in math, geometry, trig, calc and so on... we should be concerned that the attitude and work ethic that we are passing on to this new generation is perhaps not oriented to excellence in the maths and sciences... let alone languages. Conceptual grasp of the need to excel seems to be missing in a larger portion of the student body than we are used to... and it is impacting our competitive position in the world... particularly here in Nova Scotia.

It seems to me that we need to be developing conceptual goals for our province of 950K souls that we can get out of this spiral we seem to be in... education, health care, hard infrastructure, and living off the largess of the rest of Canada. It is a challenge we can discuss, and hopefully we will drag our compatriots into the discussion (kicking and screaming, but contributing).

Blueknowser

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