Schools in Crisis
Parents send their children to school to learn more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. They expect schools to provide a well-rounded education, one that equips youngsters to develop into adults of whom parents can be proud. But their expectation often goes unrealized. Why? Because schools worldwide are in crisis.
IN MANY countries a lack of both money and teachers places children’s education in jeopardy. For example, across the United States, the financial recession of recent years forced some schools to rebind ‘old textbooks, let ceiling plaster crumble, cut out art and sports programs, or close down for days at a time,’ notes Time magazine.
In Africa, education resources are similarly stretched to the limit. According to the Daily Times of Lagos, the country of Nigeria has only 1 teacher for every 70 pupils, “with a strong probability that one out of every three teachers is unqualified.” In South Africa—apart from a shortage of teachers—overcrowded classrooms and political unrest contribute to what South African Panorama calls “the chaos in black schools.”
Of course, a well-staffed and well-equipped school does not guarantee educational success. In Austria, for example, nearly a third of 14-year-olds reportedly cannot perform simple arithmetic or read properly. In Britain, pupils’ passing rates in mathematics, science, and the national language “lag well behind those in Germany, France and Japan,” notes The Times of London.
In the United States, teachers complain that although pupils score well in tests, many remain unable to write a good essay, solve math problems, or prepare a summary of essential points of various lessons or documents. Consequently, education authorities around the world are taking a fresh look at both the school curriculum and the methods used to assess a pupil’s progress.
Reports reveal an ominous and increasing level of violence in schools. In Germany, a teachers’ conference was told that 15 percent of schoolchildren are “prepared to resort to violence—and 5 percent do not shrink back even from acts of extreme brutality, in that they would kick a defenseless person lying on the floor.”—Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
Individual cases of extreme brutality arouse great concern. The rape of a 15-year-old girl by four youths in a washroom of a Paris high school prompted students to take to the streets to demand tighter security at school. Parents worry about the increase in sexual offenses, blackmail, and emotional violence. Such incidents are not confined to Europe but are becoming more common worldwide.
Japan’s Education Ministry reports a surge of violence involving both junior and senior high school students. The South African newspaper The Star, under the headline “Gun-Toting Pupils Take Over Schools,” likened the scene in a number of Soweto classrooms to that of “the Wild West” in the United States during the 19th century. Even New York City’s reputation for violence has reached, in the words of The Guardian of London, “a new height with the announcement by a security firm of a rush of orders for bullet-proof clothes for schoolchildren.”
Britain also suffers from a plague of school violence. “In the last 10 years,” observes one teachers’ union official, “we’ve seen a growing tendency to resort to weapons. It’s also moved down the age range and is spreading from male to female incidents.”
It is little wonder, then, that a few parents decide to take their children out of school and teach them at home.* Those who find this impractical often worry about the bad effect school has on their children, and they wonder how to counteract this. What can parents do to help their children deal with problems encountered at school? And how can parents cooperate with teachers to ensure that the children get the best out of school? The following articles offer answers to these questions.
The article “Home Schooling—Is It for You?” published in the April 8, 1993, Awake! reviews this option.