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Wallis on Modernization of Schools Essay

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Updated: Oct 14th, 2021

Despite the fact that times have changed, teaching in schools in the United States for the most part seems to be stuck in some old routine that has been in place for years. Though the world has become a global village, the teaching methods have not changed with the times. It is still about, listening to the teacher, writing down notes, and reading from textbooks. The teaching approaches in schools need to change so that students can be provided with the necessary skills that serve to not only make them better but also more competitive individuals in society (Wallis and Steptoe).

According to the authors Wallis and Steptoe, it is not just enough to be a student, rather a student who is also a global student and who has certain characteristics. So what does it mean to be a global student? First and foremost, a student who can be referred to as a global student is one who is well versed in the world and world issues. This kind of student is well informed on issues to do with global trade, can speak other languages other than his/her native language, and is also sensitive to foreign curriculums. The authors state that “kids are global citizens now, even in small-town America, and they must learn to act that way”. In order to produce such kinds of students, there is a need for changes in the school curriculum. For instance, it should be mandatory that each student take up at least one foreign language as part of their course work to improve their language skills. Still, some classes may be taught in a foreign language. This is the case at Seattle’s John Stanford International School. While most subjects are taught in English, mathematics is also taught in either Japanese or Spanish. The students are then given the opportunity to perfect their language skills through video conferencing with sister schools in other countries such as Mexico. In addition, the social studies curriculum that is currently only fixated on US history should be completely overhauled. Take the case of the John Stanford International School in Seattle. In addition to American history, the students also cover the history of such countries as Asia, Africa, Australia, and even South America.

Secondly, the author states that the global student “needs to be comfortable thinking outside the box.” Also, the student should be conversant with various subject disciplines. The student is familiar with different disciplines such that he can combine them and come up with new innovations. In the Henry ford academy in Michigan for instance, students have to carry out a class project, developing an environmentally friendly sneaker, that combines concepts in business, design, chemistry, and earth science (Wallis and Steptoe).

The 21st century is an information era. So thirdly, it is important that the global student is smart and well informed such that he can differentiate useful and reliable information from that which is not. Moreover, this student is also well able to handle, understand, corroborate and act on information. According to the authors, “In an age of overflowing information and proliferating media, kids need to rapidly process what’s coming at them and distinguish between what’s reliable and what isn’t”. At Seattle’s John Stanford International school again, beginning with the first graders, students are exposed to the internet as a source of information. Again, they are taught how to use programs such as PowerPoint to act on the information they obtain for communication purposes. In Michigan, one of the necessary requirements before graduating from high school is the completion of an online course. The online course tests students on just how well they are able to access information and learn from the internet (Wallis and Steptoe).

Lastly, the global student is nothing without the appropriate people skills. The authors state that “developing good people skills and emotional intelligence is as important as IQ in today’s workplace”. In today’s global world, the ability of an employee to work in a team and in a multicultural setting is one sought-after quality. In addition, emotional intelligence and intelligence quotient go hand in hand. (Wallis and Steptoe) This is the reason schools such as John Stanford International School in Seattle video conference with other schools outside the United State. It gives students to interact with others who have a different culture from their own.

Wallis and Steptoe posit that instead of waiting on the government to effect the necessary changes, the fact that individual administrators have taken it upon themselves to revamp schools and education by extension is a step in the right direction; towards producing global students. With the help of the community, more so the business community, schools are being updated into the 21st century. The Bill and Melinda Gates plus the Carnegie Foundations are good examples of community involvement. They help provide not only the funds but also the necessary expertise to set up the programs that can set the precedence on what exactly education in the 21st century should be like. In the case of the John Stanford International School in Seattle, Nintendo and Star Bucks are part of the business community involved in education. They are involved in the budgetary funding of the school.

Other than the steps taken by such schools as the John Stanford International School in Seattle, schools districts have also devised ways of moving with the times to produce global students through the establishment of schools that offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. Before a student can be said to have successfully completed the program. They are expected to be able to both write and speak a second language, write a research paper, complete a world service project plus pass oral and written subject exams. The courses in the program also offer an international perspective. Moreover, information literacy is a mandatory course in the program. The course teaches students not only to research for their own information but also to be able to formulate and defend their own independent views. (Wallis and Steptoe)

Again, in order that students gain critical thinking skills, vital to qualify as a global student, the US school curriculum needs to be more like that of Singapore, Belgium, and Sweden. In the US, students are not able to fully grasp the basics of such subjects as math, science or even history. This makes it harder for them to grasp more complex concepts while at an advanced level. This can all be blamed on how the teaching is carried out. Unlike in the United States where the textbook and test approaches are the norms, countries like Singapore focus on teaching in-depth and through sequences. While schools in Singapore and Germany make use of textbooks too, their textbooks are usually much smaller and only cover the most relevant ideas (Wallis and Steptoe).

In agreement with the authors, it is evident that schools seem to be stuck in the 20th Century. Sitting in class, listening to the teacher talk, writing down notes, and reading from textbooks is still very much the norm in most school classrooms today. Again, in concurrence with the authors, there is a need for a change, a break from the norm, and the same old routine. Today’s children are exposed to much more than their grandparents ever were and how they are taught needs to reflect this. Consequently, teaching should be able to help them make use of everything that is available to them to their advantage. Teaching should be for purposes of churning out global citizens as opposed to just plain old average students. In the 21st Century, students need to be not only multilingual but also multi-disciplinary. They should be able to not only research for information but also be able to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information. It is imperative that the students are informed on other cultures and not just their own. To achieve this, school curriculums are overhauled. For instance in social studies, so that they can be widened to cover the history of other areas and not just the United States. Certain schools, such as the John Stanford International School in Seattle have been able to change the way in which they carry out teaching and it has worked. They have produced well-informed students who are also culturally sensitive. It helps to note that the school has not had to rely on the government to affect the changes rather it was a proactive approach that also brought onboard partners in the business community, Star Bucks. Bottom line is that teachers should teach their children how to apply what they learn in the classroom setting to real life. In addition, it would help if students learn in groups. This way the student learns extra skills such as punctuality, responsibility, and teamwork. If the schools adhere to these, education will not be stuck in the past and schools will be well on their way to producing global students.

References

Wallis, Claudia & Steptoe, Sonja. How to bring our schools out of the 20th Century. 2006

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