Teacher and Student: Two Variables of the Learning Equation
Scherer of North Carolina University recently wrote "The Role of the Intellectual in Eliminating the Effects of Poverty: A Response to Tierney" in the Educational Researcher. Tierney, president of the American Educational Research Association, previously published in the same journal recommendations on what educators could do to eliminate the effects of poverty on education. The following are Tierney's recommendations:
...Overall, the really big challenge in the Philippines is how there is such a knowledge and cultural distance between the elites and the poor. If you ask me what our biggest role is, it is a bridge across those gaps. The biggest solutions will only come from our next generation of leaders who will have a better feel for the poverty in the country. People in power have tended to take simplistic approaches to the poverty – consider the businessmen who seek an improvement to our struggling public schools by adding two years to the curriculum. My point is, ‘700 thousand students drop out before grade six, and 1.2 million do not finish the current high school curriculum.’ Solutions like getting more computers or adding years of school won’t work for these student dropouts. Our challenge becomes connecting these leaders with the actual problems the poor have....
Through the student, nonschool factors which are equally powerful as the teacher inside the classroom enter the picture. This is where the socio-economic factors affect learning. This is where capability becomes a factor. "Solutions like getting more computers or adding years of school won't work for these student dropouts." Ensuring that students understand what constitutes a college-ready curriculum by 9th grade would not help those who drop out of school during the primary years. These are just examples that show how reforms on the supply side could miss what is important when it ignores what is on the receiving end. There are interventions that work but all of these require that the student is capable of benefiting from these measures. For this reason, focus on early childhood learning presents the best opportunity. Unfortunately, providing low quality preschool and kindergarten education only exacerbates the situation. Providing support to enhance interest in reading, the sciences and mathematics is crucial in the early years. Losing the students at these early stages preclude any benefit from later interventions.
Addressing what is on the receiving end obviously takes us out of education into a much bigger picture, the society. Problems in education are in fact symptoms of greater ills within society. That is why education is not a solution to poverty. It is the other way around. Solving poverty is part of solving problems in education. Equity is important for an educational system to thrive. Not doing so creates only pockets of excellence, which are mere facades. These pockets only look good when compared against very bad schools. Against universal standards these schools fail likewise. Lastly, equity in schools can only be achieved by an equitable society.
|Above photo copied from Rally for Relief|
"A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members."