Category Archives: Education

Three Tips for Educating Your Down Syndrome Child

One of the most daunting questions about having a child with Down syndrome is how to best educate them. A child with Down syndrome will have more specific educational needs than a typical child.

Mental retardation is the general rule for kids with Down syndrome, so you will be entering a whole new world of special education. But don’t despair! There are many systems set up to make sure that your Down syndrome child receives the best education possible, tailored to his or her needs.

Laws Guarantee Your Down Syndrome Child’s Education

The first thing you should know about Down syndrome education is that every child in the U.S. is entitled to what is called a free and appropriate education. That means that your child will be educated in the public school system in a way that fits his or needs, and this is guaranteed by law.

When your child enters school, testing will be done to see what kind of services your child needs. An IEP, or Individualized Education Plan, will be written to address your child’s unique needs. If the school is not able to provide for your child’s needs, there is a process by which you may be able to get the school to pay for a special school that can.

There are many different therapies and accommodations that the school can provide for your Down syndrome child. The specifics, in terms of which services are appropriate for your child, will be decided at your first IEP meeting.

An IEP does the following:

  • Identifies your child’s disability, and lays out how it affects their ability to be educated.
  • Lists goals that the child should be able to accomplish during the school year – both academic and functional, such as life skills goals.
  • Provides a mechanism for how these goals will be measured and assessed.
  • Specifies the specific aids and services that will be needed to meet these goals – for instance, tape recorders, sensory aids, note takers, aides, a modified curriculum and so on.

A helpful website to learn more about IEP meetings is http://www.wrightslaw.com. IEP meetings are usually conducted once a year so adjustments can be made to your child’s services as he or she changes, if needed.

Three Things to Look for in Your Child’s School

Most kids with Down syndrome are educated in public schools and receive special services. If you have a choice between public schools, or want to choose a private school instead, here are some things to think about.

1. Will your child be educated in an inclusive environment or a self-contained classroom?

A lot of schools these days educate Down syndrome kids in the same classes as other kids, pulling them out for specialty services like speech and occupational therapy. They have an aide to help them navigate the mainstream environment. This helps them learn better how to interact with their typical peers, and their peers how to better interact with people who have disabilities. Some still use self-contained classrooms, where people with disabilities are grouped together. Some use a mixture of both.

Look into what transition support services the school offers for making the move from high school to beyond high school. This will become important later on.

2. Supports Your Child May Need in School

There are several different areas that your Down syndrome child may need support in once he or she enters school, and you will want to be aware of all of these.

  • Academic support is an obvious one, but you will also want to make sure your child has support out on the playground.
  • He will need help interacting and feeling integrated with his classmates, and you will want someone there to make sure that no bullying is going on.
  • Some kids with Down syndrome will still need help in the bathroom, using the toilet, at least at the very beginning of their school years.

Other areas of support can be added once you observe how your child is doing in school.

3. Another Option – Private Schools for Down Syndrome Children

If you feel your child cannot cope or thrive in a regular educational setting, there are private special education schools just for kids with Down syndrome. There are not a whole lot of them, and it is not the most common way to do things, but they do exist. (There are a lot of special education schools that accept kids with all sorts of disabilities, but fewer dedicated to only Down syndrome.) One example of a school dedicated to the education of Down syndrome kids is Pathfinder Village in Edmeston, New York.

Education for Down syndrome kids can seem confusing and overwhelming at first, but you’ll get the hang of it. There are many resources available to guide you: books, websites, teachers, and other parents who have been there. This is where a support group with other Down syndrome parents will come in handy to share experiences with what works. With a little legwork, you will be well on your way to ensuring a wonderful educational experience for your Down syndrome child.

Special Needs Education

When children with special needs reach school age, many families struggle with the dilemma of where to find the best education. Should they try placing their child in public school or should they seek a private special education school?

Public School Problems

Federal laws such as IDEA and ADA as well as state and local statues mandate that children with special needs must be allowed access to the public educational system and the public schools must accommodate their needs. As parents soon discover, what sounds good on paper doesn’t always work out in reality.

Parents naturally expect that teachers and administrators already are familiar with the regulations governing special education, but that’s not always true. Many public schools don’t know the laws and will not provide needed assistance. It is up to parents to learn their child’s rights and educate the educators. Unfortunately this may not solve the problem.

Public schools are notoriously underfunded and overworked. Special education school expenses are much, much higher for the schools than those for traditional students and, though there are state and federal programs to defray the costs, some schools are hard pressed to provide help needed even when spelled out in an IEP.

Private School as a Transition to Public School

Another challenge to public education may be the child’s capabilities. Many children with disabilities haven’t been able to learn the skills needed to function in public school, even in a special education program. Then find public school very stressful and may perform poorly. As they grow frustrated, the educational process becomes a nightmare.

Private special education schools are able to instill these children with the capabilities necessary to flourish in a public education setting. Special needs student who have done poorly in public schools may thrive after spending a couple of years in a focused special education school that focuses on building the social, physical and academic skills they need to do well in school. As our children change, so do the education options available to them.

Private Schools for Focused Education

Many parents of special needs kids find private special education schools are their best option. These facilities are able to concentrate on each child’s unique needs to provide a customized educational experience unlike what schools in the public are able to offer.

A common obstacle for families considering private special education schools is the cost of tuition. Unlike state funded schools, private educational institutions are not free. However many tuition assistance programs exist to help families cover the associated expenses, and the high quality education the children received is truly priceless.

Are Schools Ethically Responsible to Provide

The Past and the Present

My fondest memories of childhood are the days I spent playing with my friends in a small Northern Mississippi town. I belonged to a small clan of children who did not have much in common with today’s children. We had no video games, no cable television, no internet, and no cellular phones. All we had were each other and our imaginations. I remember spending hours riding bikes up and down the old country road. We played hide-and-seek, tackle football, sword fights with sticks, and many other games that our imaginations brought us.

I remember school being full of exciting games and activities on the playground in which our teachers would participate and make it all the more fun. We loved school and all the rich experiences that occurred in the classroom, in the gym, and on the play-ground.

Are these the days of old? Reality hit a few months ago when my son invited a school-mate to spend the night. I took the boys outside to play a little catch. After only a few minutes, my son’s friend was sweating immensely and short of breath. It was very obvious that he rarely played outside. He quickly asked if he could go inside to cool off and play more video games.

Today, at the young age of 37 (at least I think so), I still have a love for the outdoors. I enjoy running, playing basketball, hiking nature trails, fishing, and paddling in my canoe. I have shared that love with my children. I attribute this to the rich experiences of my childhood.

Today, with all the modern comforts and technologies, one of our biggest failures is the neglect we have shown towards our children. In a way, we have made life too easy for them and ourselves with air conditioned homes and schools, video games, cable and satellite networks with hundreds of channels to choose. It is no wonder why children elect to stay inside!

The Crisis

Many experts state that our nation’s youth are in a dire state. Some say this is the first generation that are not expected to out-live their parents. Due to increased pressures from No Child Left Behind for schools to make annual yearly progress (AYP) on standardized tests and from the recent budget crisis that have affected most of the state education agencies in the United States, many school districts have removed Health and Physical Education programs from their curriculums.

The Past and the Present

A national study in 2000 surveyed the after-school activities of America’s youth. Over three-million children reported staying home alone after school up to 47 minutes, many children between the ages of 11 and 12 reported being home up to an hour and 15 minutes. The big question is, what do they do? Many reported sedentary activities such as watching television, personal care, doing their homework, and eating snacks (Jacobson, 2000). With today’s fast moving pace, more children are spending time alone. In most cases, both parents work, or there is only one custodial parent. Due to the changes in family dynamics that were previously mentioned, children need more guidance in the areas of health and fitness; schools are a logical choice.

As an educator, I feel that schools have an ethical responsibility to educate the whole child: socially, emotionally, cognitively, and physically. All things are relative. For example, one reason health insurance premiums are so high these days are due to the rise in preventable diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. Wouldn’t it make sense to educate our future generations so that this trend can be reduced? One of the biggest problems with educational leaders is their lack of vision and short-sightedness.

From an educational stand-point there have been many studies that show a relationship between physical activity and academic achievement. For example, a national survey in 2006 analyzed 12,000 U.S. high school students. Those students who reported participating in physical education, school sports, or participating in physical activities with family members were reported to be 29% more likely to than non-participating peers to earn an “A” in math or English (Nelson and Gordon-Larsen, 2006). A study in 2003 revealed evidence that regular physical exercise improves cognitive function in key academic related areas such as IQ, concentration, and math achievement (Sibley, 2003). There are many more examples such as these, which makes it even more surprising that many school districts across America continue to cut physical education from their curriculums.

That being said, I would like to share some ideas with fellow school administrators on how they can promote healthy living among the students and faculty at their schools. One of the hats that I wear as an educational leader is that of a school health coordinator. Below, are some examples that school leaders can implement in their schools.

  1. Physical Education: Not only should schools offer physical education as an elective, schools should do their best to promote the program and encourage students to register every year, particularly at the upper elementary and middle school levels.
  2. Healthy Snacks: One way to encourage healthy eating habits is to remove unhealthy choices and give students the opportunity to try healthy alternatives. Schools might even offer free samples as encouragement. It has been my experience that once students try healthy snacks such as: whole grain cereal bars, fruits, cheeses, and yogurt, they discover that they actually like them and even prefer them over the traditional unhealthy alternatives.
  3. Healthy Options in the cafeteria: It is also important to offer healthy choices as part of the school menu and assist cafeteria staff in promoting these choices.
  4. Health Education: Incorporating health topics into the curriculum is a great way to spark interests in healthy lifestyles at an early age. There are a variety of creative ways to incorporate health objectives into both general and physical education curriculums. There are a multitude of websites and publications where teachers and administrators can attain ideas.
  5. Form a School Health Council: Many schools have begun to form councils that involve stakeholders from both inside and outside of the school. Their goal is to improve the overall health of the students and faculty members, as well as the people in community. Many schools set-up after school exercise programs for students, faculty members, and parents. Some form alliances with civic and private organizations in order to get their message out to the public.
  6. Health Fair: One thing we do at my school is host a yearly health fair that invites local businesses and organizations that promote physical activity. This gives students the opportunity to experience first hand the options that are available in their own community. Examples include: the local civic parks and recreation department, Boy Scout troops, businesses that teach cheer and dance, businesses that teach martial arts, running clubs/organizations, and local fitness gyms that offer memberships to students. These are just a few, every community has their share.
  7. In-Class Interventions: Many classroom teachers, especially at the elementary level incorporate stretching and exercises at different times of the school-day. Research has shown a link between physical movement and cognitive function. Allowing the students to perform a few mild stretches and exercises beside their desk is a great way to keep students engaged and to promote physical health. My school allows classes to walk around the building after leaving the lunchroom, students and teachers enjoy this and it doesn’t take time from instruction.
  8. Walking Clubs: Encourage faculty members and students to establish after school walking clubs and invite parents to participate. This is a great way to involve the whole community. Also, encourage teachers to walk the halls during plan time, this is a great way for them to relieve stress and from an administrator’s stand-point, it’s another set of eyes watching the building!

Ethical Responsibility

Given the evidence reported above, is it ethical for school districts to cut physical education and health programs in their schools? Are schools limited to merely teaching the three R’s? I think not, the situation is dire. The health and happiness of future generations are at stake. In order to preserve a future, school officials must act today!

Education in South Africa

It’s January, and that means the start of a new school year in South Africa. In less than a week, students (or learners, as they’re called in South Africa) and teachers will fill classrooms, hoping to embark on a new year of learning, enlightenment, and growth. It’s a good time for students to ride the momentum gained with last year’s record-breaking high school pass rate. For those of us in the United States, Canada, and other Western countries, it’s a good time to learn about the educational experiences that our young South African friends will have this year.

Primary education is mandatory in South Africa. According to the country’s Constitution, South Africa has an obligation to make education available and accessible. All South Africans have the right to a basic education, including adult basic education and further education.

School in South Africa begins in grade 0, or grade R. It’s the equivalent of our kindergarten, a time of school preparation and early childhood socialization. Grades 0 to 9 make up General Education and Training, followed by Further Education and Training (FET) from grades 10 to 12. Students either stay in high school during this time, or enter more specialized FET institutions with an emphasis on career-oriented education and training. After passing the nationally-administered Senior Certificate Examination, or “matric,” some students will continue their education at the tertiary level, working towards degrees up to the doctoral level. Over a million students are enrolled in South Africa’s 24 state-funded colleges and universities.

With a solid educational structure in place, South Africa continues the long and arduous process of overcoming the discriminatory legacy left behind by 40 years of apartheid education. Under that system, white South African children received a quality schooling virtually for free. Black students, on the other hand, had access only to “Bantu education”, a system based on the unjust philosophy that there was no place in South African society for black Africans “above certain forms of labor” (a quote attributed to HF Verwoerd, the architect of the Bantu Education Act of 1953). In the 1970s, government spending on black education was one-tenth of spending on whites. By the 1980s, teacher to pupil ratios in primary schools averaged 1:18 in white schools and 1:39 in black schools. Even the standards for education were different between black and while schools: while 96 percent of all teachers in white schools had teaching certificates, only 15 percent of teachers in black schools were certified. Not surprisingly during apartheid, high school graduation rates for black students were less than half the rate for whites.

Bantu education was abolished with the end of apartheid in 1994. Nevertheless, South Africa continues to struggle with inequality and educational disparities. Seventeen years after the end of apartheid, the vast majority of poor black children are denied a quality education at severely deprived public schools. Over three-quarters of these schools do not have libraries, and even more do not have a computer. Around 90 percent of public schools have no science laboratory, and more than half of all pupils either have no text books or have to share them. Over a quarter of public schools do not even having running water.

More affluent South Africans (read: White South Africans, along with a small but growing contingent from the black middle class) can afford to send their children to so-called former “Model C” schools, publicly funded schools that were previously allowed only for white students. These schools charge extra school fees to supplement teachers’ salaries and buy extra resources. Not surprisingly, these former white-only schools have far superior facilities and quality of education.

School outcomes tell the story of South Africa’s educational inequalities. In 2009 just over half of black students passed the high school final exam, compared with 99 percent of whites. Of the South African population over 20 years old, 65 percent of those who are white and only 14 percent of those who are black have a high school degree or higher. The disparities remain at the university level. Although black Africans account for 80 percent of the whole South African population, they make up less than half of all university students. Less than one in 20 black South Africans ends up with a degree, compared with almost half of all whites.

Education Crisis Results in Poorly Prepared Future Workers

Following is a more literary form of the business proposal that I have presented to various chamber of commerce in the Los Angeles area. It is interesting to note that unlike academic theory or bureaucratic laced government-run institutions, that which works in the real world works virtually ignoring criticism or conjecture. Yes, Mr. Forbes, capitalism may not only save us but education as well. Here’s to the innovative, problem solving, get ‘er done spirit of the entrepreneur. Peace!

Over the past 17 years, the percentage of four-year college and university students who graduate has dipped more than 10 percentage points, despite increases in enrollment, according to the Council for Aid to Education and the National Governors Association. About 42 percent of students entering four-year colleges or universities graduate (Al Branch, CBS Business Network).

But there’s more. And it gets worse.

Every 26 seconds another student drops out of public high school which translates to nearly one-third of all public high school students dropping out. It’s so bad that Colon Powell and his wife are heading a national movement in an attempt to reverse the trend. But even of those two-thirds who graduate, the picture doesn’t get any brighter. According to a 2007 survey, nearly 90% desired to attend and graduate college. Unfortunately, the majority never did. Even of the current 28% of the population with bachelor’s degrees, within five to ten years 70% will no longer be working in a job related to their major.

So what’s happening? Are our children, our future not getting the help, education, achievement they need or have been promised?

But the plot thickens. Even though learning appears to be happening, there is a disconnect somewhere in the system: “A sizable [number of remedial students entering college] are recent graduates who performed well in high school: A 2008 study by the nonprofit Strong American School found that nearly four out of five remedial students had a high school GPA of 3.0 or higher.”

So why aren’t they learning? Or is there such a large discrepancy between high school and college education that the issue is closing the gap (we have some of the best colleges and universities in the world yet some of the worst performing schools)? Or is it grade inflation or students being pushed through the system just so high schools, even community colleges, can obtain funding? Regarding grades, in college there is a similar problem to that which is occurring at the high school level. More and more is being written about students not learning, even those achieving good grades (As and Bs). So what’s going on?

What is happening is complex but there are several major factors that stand out and must be taken into consideration; in doing so, we will take a look at not only the dropouts and failures but the alleged successes. And what we will discover is that we are looking in all the wrong places and asking all the wrong questions (or no questions at all) to ensure an increased chance at success. But first, let’s look at a few more facts to add to our understanding of the overall issue.

Let’s take a look at high school kids first. Why are so many dropping out? According to a report titled The Silent Epidemic by John Bridgeland (CEO of Civic Enterprise, a publicity group that lead a 2008 national dropout summit), 80% of students surveyed said they dropped out because of a need for “classes that are more interesting and provide opportunities for real-world leaning.” Unfortunately, far too often children are taught out of context with little connection made between what’s being learned in school to that of the real world. Achievers know that without specific understanding of outcomes, what they are or why they even exist, lack of motivation and focus arises negatively affecting achievement.

But there’s more to the drop out picture. More and more households are being run by a single parent-because of divorce sometimes paying for two households-who needs help from their wage-earning children just to pay the bills. Then there’s the minimum wage issue that places wages too high for some companies (especially small business that are in the majority) who can’t afford it, so they cut jobs. This has been part of the reason students drop out of high school; they can’t find a part-time job because there are fewer of them, so they get a full-time job to help mom or dad pay the bills.

But let’s get to the deeper issue or, as I stated previously, the not asking of critical questions.

How can schools really know what the issues are at hand when they are not asking students, their customers, what they want? As previously stated, today’s high school students have complaints (uninteresting classes, not applicable to real-world), and they may even be understood by teachers and administration, but little is being done to serve them. I know that some may feel that “adults know best” and teenagers are not mature enough to know what they need, but most adults will confess, if they think about it, this is hardly the case. And students know that today a college degree does not guarantee a job or career success. It may improve one’s chances but there are no guarantees.

So what are some of the core issues?

One is that schools are third-party government run institutions that don’t cater to the needs of the individual like customers or consumers in the real-world economy or the private sector. How many surveys are sent out to high school- or college grads to see if what they are receiving or have received is what they need? Often it is the opinions of a limited few on boards and accrediting agencies– at the college level–that are informing the many what they need. Because of this, schools and colleges are out of touch with what is really needed. Education (schools and colleges) is missing so much real-world knowledge, skills, and attitudes, which I estimate to be about 80%. Consider that in today’s job market those just entering the workforce will have upwards of three to four career changes over their working lifetime; what should be taught is not just knowledge but critical skills and attitudes on how to think and self-teach, for once college is over-after a brief sixteen years of education-then what? Go back to school every five to seven years or so for another degree? But instead we dictate to our students what we think they will need whether they need it or not. And it’s not just about careers, but to be more active and engaged parents, citizens, to live a longer, more productive life; life-long learning and new-skill building should be taught, along with a good understanding of success principles, relationship skills, capitalism, democracy, and government, and much more.

Regarding current curriculum, how many students who have to learn algebra, geometry, trigonometry, biology, chemistry, literature, language, and history don’t care for much if not most of these subjects? I’ve taken many an informal survey with few respondents ‘passionately’ interested in any of the aforementioned. And it’s not partial or mild interest that creates substantial, empowered, life-long achievement. Certainly we know of the great crush for those with math and science skills. But what does that actually mean? Of the entire workforce such jobs account only for about 15%. But another thing to consider is that we are putting the cart before the horse, or dictating, “You need to be good in math and science” rather than asking, “Are you interested in math and science.” For motivation is based in autonomy and the ability to choose, especially in considering one’s career choice, and not forcing a round peg into a square hole.

Who is to say what it is that an individual needs when that individual is so unique regarding personality, disposition, influences social and familial, gifts and talents, and desires. But very few students are even asked what they would like out of an education, or whether or not what they are learning is “real world” suited to them, or if they’ve chosen a major merely based on what their parents, peers, teachers, society wants, or if they are doing it to assuage their desire for respect, money, prestige, and so forth. I can’t count the number of conversations I’ve had with people who went to school for a particular degree only to discover later that it wasn’t for them. I tell my students that if they find they are really struggling with what they have been studying and hate every moment of it looking forward to post-test time like the purging of a disgusting meal, well, it is probably not for them. Another factor is that within five to ten years 70% of college grads no longer work in a field related to their major. There is just so little prep-work done by the student to honestly and thoroughly know herself well enough so that she is working more toward a sustainable career and not one that her teachers or the president of the U.S. wants but what she wants, for only passion for a career will sustain the worker through years or decades, not that which she is barely interested in never mind hates.

But even if the student is pretty secure in knowing herself-who she is and what she wants-there is still the mis-guided notion that colleges offering a degree will give her what she needs in the real world. Hardly. Once again, I can’t count the number of times I have been told by those who obtained a bachelor’s degree, certificate, associate’s degree-some type of officially stamped and sealed piece of paper-that hardly prepared them or didn’t do so in the least. Students, after all, do little in the way of analyzing self and then matching what they’ve discovered to an education then a career.

To top this off, consider that accrediting agencies approve quality of institutions of higher learning based on standards set by the accrediting agency in collaboration with the educational institution of higher learning in question. But just the number of issues regarding accrediting agencies alone could take up pages. Does this seem to be problematic to you? It should. Is any of what is being spoken to by the college or accrediting agency based in reality? What the student or consumer needs? Has a college grad ever received a survey asking how much of the education he or she has received is of great practical use? Applicable more than not to career and life? Is there anything that needs to be change? Modified? Altered? Improved?

Rarely.

Why? Because education is predominantly not about the student but funding. At the high school, community college, state college, even university level third-party interest in getting money far often takes priority over student education and what is being taught. Consider that the majority of high school students are learning things they won’t use or ever care about should give you some clue. And schools can get more and more money, but that doesn’t solve the problem either. For money has no intrinsic value, it is the people who use it who provide or lack the value. And sometimes it might be less money that will do the trick; why not instead put teachers on commission to ensure student success in the work place. In all likelihood, not only would student success improve so would teachers incomes as they push to get real-world results not what is merely believed to be needed. What is really needed is better management and innovation.

Another issue is that schools focus on minimal intelligence types, two of the eight, actually: linguistics and logic or language and math. What if a student’s gift lies in the kinesthetic or body, or in the intra-personal or reflective, or inter-personal the social, on and on it goes. There is so much more to life than being an engineer or English lit professor.

What would truly improve education is to disconnect it from the third-party government and leave it up to the supplier and consumer to work it out. Consider that greatest retention and graduation rates are formed in private high schools and the most learning goes on in private colleges and universities where the consumer votes with his or her dollar as to whether or not the institution stays open, should help you to begin to see a solution to this education problem.

Just imagine if degrees were offered on a supply / demand basis without the slow, self-interested based bureaucracy of government. The consumer would receive the least expensive, most innovative, practical, connective education one could buy. Without a direct connection between supplier and consumer distortion and imbalances occur. As any good capitalist knows, only the trial and error process of innovation in the private sector sans any micromanagement with third-party interest can determine and sustain long-term growth and optimize effectiveness. Government managed entities ultimately serve only the whims of politicians or third-party individuals. However, the education issue will never be solved by the government in a timely fashion. Consider that welfare was enacted in the 1930s and reformed some sixty years later or that government-run airports are sixty years behind in plane-tracking technology. Because of its bureaucratic self-interest, it can only provide basic education at best, and even there it does so poorly. We have to prioritize the consumer, what he or she needs, question and listen to what is needed.

Edward L Deci, author of Why We Do What We Do, tells us that people are motivated best if they act autonomously, or freely choose what it is they desire to do sans any parental, peer, social influences, or ego-based needs (to be a doctor to simply gain respect, prestige). This is the beginning of student success. And it will certainly take some time and experimenting even changing of careers, but over the long haul, it will decrease the waste of time and money spent on “education” that is not desired. And we must get rid of the waste. As Garrett B Gunderson states in Killing Sacred Cows, “The more risk we take on, the more we expose ourselves to lost opportunity costs, and these are so often so profound that they make all the difference between wealth and mediocrity.” This same loss can be seen in regards to education. Gunderson also mentions that in order to decrease risk financially one must invest in herself: “human life value-knowledge, skills, abilities, ideas, and relationships. Human life value is the source of all money, prosperity, and progress.” Yet people “know their Soul Purpose but refuse to acknowledge it because doing so may require uncomfortable decisions. The real pain and suffering from human existence come from not making these decisions.”

To cut back on waste in time and money, confusion and mismanagement the individual consumer must put her education / career into her own hands. She can’t fix the system, nor should she desire to, but rather she should know as much as she can about herself, her talents, gifts and abilities, where she desires to apply them and what specific education and training she needs to get there sans any third-party that thinks it can dictate to individuals via a mass message what he or she needs.

Teacher Education and Teacher

1.0 INTRODUCTION

One of the sectors which fosters national development is education by ensuring the development of a functional human resource. The institution of strong educational structures leads to a society populated by enlightened people, who can cause positive economic progress and social transformation. A Positive social transformation and its associated economic growth are achieved as the people apply the skills they learned while they were in school. The acquisition of these skills is facilitated by one individual we all ‘teacher’. For this reason, nations seeking economic and social developments need not ignore teachers and their role in national development.

Teachers are the major factor that drives students’ achievements in learning. The performance of teachers generally determines, not only, the quality of education, but the general performance of the students they train. The teachers themselves therefore ought to get the best of education, so they can in turn help train students in the best of ways. It is known, that the quality of teachers and quality teaching are some of the most important factors that shape the learning and social and academic growth of students. Quality training will ensure, to a large extent, teachers are of very high quality, so as to be able to properly manage classrooms and facilitate learning. That is why teacher quality is still a matter of concern, even, in countries where students consistently obtain high scores in international exams, such as Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). In such countries, teacher education of prime importance because of the potential it has to cause positive students’ achievements.

The structure of teacher education keeps changing in almost all countries in response to the quest of producing teachers who understand the current needs of students or just the demand for teachers. The changes are attempts to ensure that quality teachers are produced and sometimes just to ensure that classrooms are not free of teachers. In the U.S.A, how to promote high quality teachers has been an issue of contention and, for the past decade or so, has been motivated, basically, through the methods prescribed by the No Child Left Behind Act (Accomplished California Teachers, 2015). Even in Japan and other Eastern countries where there are more teachers than needed, and structures have been instituted to ensure high quality teachers are produced and employed, issues relating to the teacher and teaching quality are still of concern (Ogawa, Fujii & Ikuo, 2013). Teacher education is therefore no joke anywhere. This article is in two parts. It first discusses Ghana’s teacher education system and in the second part looks at some determinants of quality teaching.

2.0 TEACHER EDUCATION

Ghana has been making deliberate attempts to produce quality teachers for her basic school classrooms. As Benneh (2006) indicated, Ghana’s aim of teacher education is to provide a complete teacher education program through the provision of initial teacher training and in-service training programs, that will produce competent teachers, who will help improve the effectiveness of the teaching and learning that goes on in schools. The Initial teacher education program for Ghana’s basic school teachers was offered in Colleges of Education (CoE) only, until quite recently when, University of Education, University of Cape Coast, Central University College and other tertiary institutions joined in. The most striking difference between the programs offered by the other tertiary institution is that while the Universities teach, examine and award certificates to their students, the Colleges of Education offer tuition while the University of Cape Coast, through the Institute of Education, examines and award certificates. The training programs offered by these institutions are attempts at providing many qualified teachers to teach in the schools. The National Accreditation Board accredits teacher training programs in order to ensure quality.

The National Accreditation Board accredits teacher education programs based on the structure and content of the courses proposed by the institution. Hence, the courses run by various institutions differ in content and structure. For example, the course content for the Institute of Education, University of Cape Coast is slightly different from the course structure and content of the Center for Continue Education, University of Cape Coast and none of these two programs matches that of the CoEs, though they all award Diploma in Basic Education (DBE) after three years of training. The DBE and the Four-year Untrained Teacher’s Diploma in Basic Education (UTDBE) programs run by the CoEs are only similar, but not the same. The same can be said of the Two-year Post-Diploma in Basic Education, Four-year Bachelor’s degree programs run by the University of Cape Coast, the University of Education, Winneba and the other Universities and University Colleges. In effect even though, same products attract same clients, the preparation of the products are done in different ways.

It is through these many programs that teachers are prepared for the basic schools – from nursery to senior high schools. Alternative pathways, or programs through which teachers are prepared are seen to be good in situations where there are shortages of teachers and more teachers ought to be trained within a very short time. A typical example is the UTDBE program, mentioned above, which design to equip non-professional teachers with professional skills. But this attempt to produce more teachers, because of shortage of teachers, has the tendency of comprising quality.

As noted by Xiaoxia, Heeju, Nicci and Stone (2010) the factors that contribute to the problems of teacher education and teacher retention are varied and complex, but one factor that teacher educators are concerned about is the alternative pathways through which teacher education occur. The prime aim of many of the pathways is to fast track teachers into the teaching profession. This short-changed the necessary teacher preparation that prospective teachers need before becoming classroom teachers. Those who favor alternative routes, like Teach for America (TFA), according to Xiaoxia, Heeju, Nicci and Stone (2010) have defended their alternative pathways by saying that even though the students are engaged in a short-period of pre-service training, the students are academically brilliant and so have the capacity to learn a lot in a short period. Others argue that in subjects like English, Science and mathematics where there are usually shortages of teachers, there must be a deliberate opening up of alternative pathways to good candidates who had done English, Mathematics and Science courses at the undergraduate level. None of these arguments in support of alternative pathways, hold for the alternative teacher education programs in Ghana, where the academically brilliant students shun teaching due to reasons I shall come to.

When the target is just to fill vacant classrooms, issues of quality teacher preparation is relegated to the background, somehow. Right at the selection stage, the alternative pathways ease the requirement for gaining entry into teacher education programs. When, for example, the second batch of UTDBE students were admitted, I can say with confidence that entry requirements into the CoEs were not adhered to. What was emphasized was that, the applicant must be a non-professional basic school teacher who has been engaged by the Ghana Education Service, and that the applicant holds a certificate above Basic Education Certificate Examination. The grades obtained did not matter. If this pathway had not been created, the CoEs would not have trained students who initially did not qualify to enroll in the regular DBE program. However, it leaves in its trail the debilitating effect compromised quality.

Even with regular DBE programs, I have realized, just recently I must say, that CoEs in, particular, are not attracting the candidates with very high grades. This as I have learnt now has a huge influence on both teacher quality and teacher effectiveness. The fact is, teacher education programs in Ghana are not regarded as prestigious programs and so applicants with high grades do not opt for education programs. And so the majority of applicants who apply for teacher education programs have, relatively, lower grades. When the entry requirement for CoEs’ DBE program for 2016/2017 academic year was published, I noticed the minimum entry grades had been dropped from C6 to D8 for West African Senior Secondary School Examination candidates. This drop in standard could only be attributed to CoEs’ attempt to attract more applicants. The universities too, lower their cut off point for education programs so as attract more candidates. The universities as alleged by Levine (2006) see their teacher education programs, so to say, as cash cows. Their desire to make money, force them to lower admission standards, like the CoEs have done, in order to increase their enrollments. The fact that, admission standards are internationally lowered in order to achieve a goal of increasing numbers. This weak recruitment practice or lowering of standards introduce a serious challenge to teacher education.

The Japanese have been able to make teacher education and teaching prestigious and therefor attract students with high grades. One may argue that in Japan, the supply of teachers far exceeds the demand and so authorities are not under any pressure to hire teachers. Their system won’t suffer if they do all they can to select higher grade student into teacher education programs. To them, the issues relating to the selection of teachers are more important that the issues relating to recruitment. However, in western and African countries the issues relating to recruitment are prime. It is so because the demand for teachers far outweighs that of supply. Western and African countries have difficulties recruiting teachers because teachers and the teaching profession is not held in high esteem. Teacher education programs therefore do not attract students who have very good grades. It is worth noting that, it is not the recruiting procedure only that determines whether or not teacher education will be prestigious, however recruiting candidates with high grades, ensures that after training, teachers will exhibit the two characteristics essential to effective teaching – quality and effectiveness. Teacher education can be effective if the teaching profession is held in high esteem and therefore able to attract the best of applicants. Otherwise, irrespective of incentives put into place to attract applicants and irrespective of the measures that will be put in place to strengthen teacher education, teacher education programs cannot fully achieve its purpose.

In order to strengthen teacher preparation, there is the need for teacher preparation programs to provide good training during the initial teacher training stage, and provide and sustain support during the first few years after the teachers have been employed. That is why Lumpe (2007) supports the idea that pre-service teacher education programs should ensure teachers have gained a good understanding of effective teaching strategies. Methodology classes therefore should center on effective teaching strategies. Irrespective of the pathway the training program takes, the program must be structured such that trainees gain knowledge about pedagogy, besides the knowledge of subject matter. They should also get enough exposure to practical classroom experience like the on-campus and off-campus teaching practice. Whether or not there is the need to fill vacancies in the classroom due to the high teacher attrition, many countries face, teacher preparation programs should aim at producing quality and effective teacher and not just filling vacancies.

3.0 DETERMINANTS OF TEACHER QUALITY

Teacher quality has such enormous influence on students’ learning. Anyone who has been in the teaching business will agree that teacher quality is central to education reform efforts. Priagula, Agam & Solmon (2007) described teacher quality as an important in-school factor that impact significantly on students’ learning. Quality teachers have positive impact on the success of students. Where the students have quality and effective teachers the students make learning gains while those with ineffective teachers show declines. With respect to the classroom teacher, teacher quality is a continuous process of doing self-assessment so as to have professional development and a self-renewal, in order to enhance teaching. For the teacher educator, an effective or quality teacher is one who has a good subject-matter and pedagogy knowledge, which the he/she can build upon.

Outstanding teachers possess and exhibit many exemplary qualities. They have the skills, subject matter, and pedagogy to reach every child. They help equip their students with the knowledge and breadth of awareness to make sound and independent judgments. Three determinants of teacher quality will be considered here. They are; pedagogical knowledge, subject-matter content knowledge and experience.

3.1 PEDAGOGICAL CONTENT KNOWLEDGE

Trainees of every profession receive some sort of education that will give them insight into and prepare them for the task ahead. That of the teacher is called Pedagogical Content Knowledge or Pedagogical Knowledge. Pedagogical Content Knowledge can be described as, knowledge the teachers use in organizing classrooms, delivering the content the students must show mastery over and for managing the students entrusted into their care. Generally speaking, pedagogical knowledge is knowledge the teacher uses to facilitate students’ learning. Pedagogical Content Knowledge is in two major forms – teachers’ knowledge of the students’ pre-conceptions and teachers’ knowledge of teaching methodologies. Students come to class with a host of pre-conceptions relating to the things they are learning. The pre-conceptions may or may not be consistent with the actual subject-matter that is delivered. Teachers must have a good idea of both kinds of preconception, in order to help students, replace the inconsistent pre-conceptions or build upon the consistent pre-conceptions to bring about meaningful learning. Teachers must have a repertoire of teaching methodologies for facilitating students’ learning. When the methodologies are applied wrongly little or no learning occurs in students. In effect when either of the two is weak, the teacher becomes a bad one because that teacher will not be able to execute his/her responsibility in the vocation he/she has chosen. Due to this during teacher preparation, Pedagogical Content Knowledge is emphasized.

Teachers gain Pedagogical Content Knowledge from various sources. Friedrichsen, Abell, Pareja, Brown, Lankford and Volkmann (2009) distinguished three potential sources of Pedagogical Content Knowledge. They listed the sources as professional development programs, teaching experiences and lastly teachers’ own learning experiences. During their days as students in teacher education programs, teachers are assisted in variety ways to gain Pedagogical Content Knowledge. For examples, during practice, they learn how to put the pedagogical skills they learnt. Teacher education programs and other professional development programs create avenues for teachers to gain pedagogical content knowledge through workshops, lectures, working together with colleagues, and in teaching practice. Then their experiences in their classrooms as they teach students lead them to gain insight into which methodologies work under best under specific situations. That last source is usually ignored. It indicates that the professional knowledge of the teacher begins to develop long before the teacher becomes a candidate entering into teacher education. This means, the way teachers teach influences to a large extent the prospective teachers’ professional knowledge and beliefs. This type of learning is, generally, overlooked by teachers at all levels because unintentional and informal, it is.

Pedagogical Content Knowledge can be gained through formal and informal means. Learning opportunities for pedagogical content knowledge, formally, designed by institutions, based on learning objectives which generally are prerequisite for certification, constitutes the formal means. In formal learning, students have clear ideas about the objective of acquiring pedagogical skills. Informal learning, on the other hand, is not organized intentionally. It takes place incidentally and so can be considered as ‘side effect’. As Kleickmann et al (2012) described it, it has no goal with respect to learning outcomes, and it is contextualized to a large extent. This is often called learning by experience. Informal, but deliberative, learning situations exists. This occurs in situations such as learning in groups, mentoring, and intentional practicing of some skills or tools. Werquin (2010) described informal, but deliberative, learning as non-formal learning. Unlike formal learning, non-formal learning does not occur in educational institutions and does not attract certification. Whether pedagogical content knowledge

Pedagogical Content Knowledge is used to bridges the gap between content knowledge and actual teaching. By bridging the gap, it ensures that discussions of content are relevant to teaching and that discussions themselves are focused on the content. As such, Pedagogical Content Knowledge is something teachers must pay attention to. Teachers who possess and use good Pedagogical content knowledge have good control over classroom management and assessment, knowledge about learning processes, teaching methods, and individual characteristics (Harr, Eichler, & Renkl, 2014). Such teachers are able to create an atmosphere that facilitates learning and are also able to present or facilitate the learning of concepts by even lazy students. They are able to make learning easier by students hence teacher with high pedagogical content knowledge can be classified as quality teachers. It is worth noting that it is not pedagogical content knowledge only that makes good teachers. A teacher will not be good if he/she is master of pedagogical knowledge but lacks subject matter content knowledge.

3.2 SUBJECT-MATTER KNOWLEDGE

The goal of teaching is to help learners develop intellectual resources that will enable them participate fully in the main domains of human taught and enquiry. The degree to which the teacher can assist students to learn depends on the subject-matter the teacher possesses. That is to say, teachers’ knowledge of subject-matter has influence on their efforts to assist students to learn that subject-matter. If a teacher is ignorant or not well informed he/she cannot do students any good, he/she will rather much harm them. When the teacher conceives knowledge in such a way that it is narrow, or do not have accurate information relating to a particular subject-matter, he/she will pass on these same shallow or inaccurate information to students. This kind of teacher will hardly recognize the consistent pre-conceptions and challenge the misconceptions of students. Such a teacher can introduce misconceptions as he/she uses texts uncritically or inappropriately alter them. It is the teacher’s conception of knowledge that shapes the kind of questions he/she asks and the ideas he/she reinforces as well as the sorts of tasks the teacher designs.

Teachers’ subject-matter matter content knowledge must go beyond the specific topics of their curriculum. This is because the teacher does not only define concepts for students. Teachers explain to students why a particular concept or definition is acceptable, why learners must know it and how it relates to other concepts or definitions. This can be done properly if the teacher possesses a good understanding of the subject-matter. This type of understanding includes an understanding of the intellectual context and value of the subject-matter. The understanding of subject matter generally reinforces the teacher’s confidence in delivering lessons, thereby making him/her a good teacher.

3.3 EXPERIENCE

Experience is one of the factors that account for variations in teacher salary, the world over (Hanushek and Rivkin, 2006). The fact that salary differences are based on the number of years the teacher has served, suggests that employers believe the teachers experience makes him/her a better teacher and such a teacher must be motivated to remain in the service. Though some studies like that Hanushek (2011) have suggested that the experience positively influences teacher quality only in the first few years, and that beyond five years, experience ceases to have positive impact on teacher efficacy, common sense tells us the one who has been doing something for a long time does better and with ease. Experience will therefore continue to pay, since, more experienced teachers have the propensity to know more about the subject-matter they teach, and think and behave appropriately in the classroom, and have much more positive attitudes toward their students.

Teachers who have spent more years of teaching, usually, feel self-assured in their skill to use instructional and assessment tools. These teachers are able to reach even the most difficult-to-reach students in their classrooms. They also have greater confidence in their capability to control the class and prevent incidence that might make the teaching and learning process difficult. Their experience makes them much more patient and tolerant than their counterpart with few years of experience (Wolters & Daugherty, 2007). Novice teachers progressively gain and develop teaching and classroom management skills needed to make them effective teachers. They spend time learning themselves – trying to understand fully the job they have entered. The teachers who have spent more years teaching have gained a rich store of knowledge the less experience teachers will be trying to build. Teachers’ sense of effectiveness is generally associated with good attitudes, behaviors and interactions with their students. This is something the experienced teacher has already acquired. These explain why more experienced teachers are usually more effective teachers than the novices.

Another reason more experienced teachers tend to be better teachers than their inexperienced counterparts, is that, experienced teachers have gained additional training, and hence, have acquired additional teaching skills, needed to be effective from direct experience. Usually the training of teachers does not end at the initial teacher training stage. After graduation, teachers attend capacity building seminars, workshops and conferences. These give teachers the opportunity to learn emerging teaching techniques and also refresh their memories on the things they have learnt. Such seminars, workshops and conferences mostly add to the teacher’s store of knowledge. The other advantage the experienced teachers have is that they have encountered more situations to develop the skills needed to be effective teachers through additional direct, and sometimes indirect experiences. That is to say, they have encountered challenging situations which gave them the opportunity to build their skills. Whether they were able to overcome these challenging situation or not, does not matter so much. If the teachers encounter difficult situations in their classes, they learn from them. If the teachers are able to overcome difficult situations, they get to know how to resolve such situations at the next encounter, otherwise their reflections and suggestions from co-teachers gives them ideas about how to approach same or similar situations. They also have a greater chance of being exposed to current and competent models. More experienced teachers have a higher chance of demonstrating superior self-efficacy in most areas, because they have learned the needed classroom management and instructional skills from their colleagues. Teachers who have been in active service for many years are most likely to be classified as quality teachers, because of what they have learnt from in-service training, capacity building workshops and seminars, their interaction with other teachers and what they have learnt from experience in their classrooms.

4.0 CONCLUSION

Teacher education aims at providing teacher education program through initial teacher training for teacher trainees, and in-service training for practicing teachers in order to produce knowledgeable and committed teachers for effective teaching and learning. To realize this mission, teacher education programs have been instituted for the training of teachers. These programs differ from one country to another. Even within the same country, there may be different programs training teachers for the same certificate. These alternative programs are a created, specially, where there are shortages of teachers, and attempts are being made to train large numbers of teachers at a time. These alternative programs ease the teacher certification requirement, allowing those who under normal circumstances would not become teachers. This introduces serious challenges. Because large numbers of teachers are needed within a short period, their training is somewhat fast-tracked resulting in what is usually referred to as half-baked teachers – teachers of lower quality. Applicants who did not gain admission into the program of their choice come into teaching only because they have nowhere else to go. Such applicants tend not to be dedicated to the teaching service in the end. Fast-tracking initial teacher preparation actually harm the mission for which the initial teacher training institutions were created. This is because the teacher produced through such training are usually not of high quality.

Teacher preparation has a direct impact on students’ achievement. The most important in-school factors upon which student’s success hinges, is a teacher who has been well prepared. A well-prepared teacher is one who has gone through a strong teacher preparation program. It is therefore necessary for educators to work to create needed improvements in teacher preparation. To strengthen teacher preparation, teacher preparation programs must provide strong preparation during the initial teacher training period and give support to fresh teachers until they are inducted. Pre-service teacher education should emphasize the acquisition of effective teaching strategies. This can be done in methodology classes and corresponding field experiences. Students who have quality teachers make achievement gains, while those with ineffective teachers show declines, therefore having high quality teachers in classrooms has a positive impact on students’ achievements.

Pedagogical content knowledge, subject matter content knowledge and experience determines the quality of a teacher. Teachers make subject-matter accessible to students by using Pedagogical content knowledge. Pedagogical content knowledge has two broad areas of knowledge: teachers’ knowledge of students’ subject-matter pre-conceptions and teachers’ knowledge of teaching strategies. What Pedagogical content knowledge does is that, it links subject-matter content knowledge and the practice of teaching, making sure that discussions on content are appropriate and that, discussions focus on the content and help students to retain the content. The teacher’s job is to facilitate the learning of subject-matter by students. The degree to which the teacher can assist students to learn depends on the subject-matter content knowledge the teacher possesses. Teachers who possess inaccurate information or comprehend the subject-matter in narrow ways, harm students by passing on the same false or shallow subject-matter knowledge to their students. The last of the three determinants of teacher quality is experience. Teachers who have served more years gain additional and more specific training by attending seminars, conferences and workshops and in-service training and so tend to understand their job better. They also might have met and solved many challenging situations in their classroom and therefore know exactly what to do in any situation.

Crisis Education

For some time now our educational system has been awash in too much controversy. Having the current Educational Secretary heading the Department of Education has not done much to improve the nations overall prospects that our children will achieve a higher degree of an educational experience that will prepare them for the jobs of today and tomorrow. The reality facing too many parents is not whether to send our children to charter, or private schools but to face the fact that public schools have been on the decline for many years now. Consequently, the youth of today too many won’t and can’t receive that degree of quality in their education. Now, with the current policies in place there are very little options left for parents concerning the education of their children. We also have to really consider a whole set of demographics when we take into account the quality of education in the United States today.

When we take a hard look at our society much can be said of the sad conditions in too many urban and rural areas. For over 20 years now conditions have only gone from bad to worse. The children of 20 years ago are now parents of today’s children and not much has changed to improve their economic standing. In fact over 70% of parents today don’t have the financial means to be able to pick and choose where their children go to school. And when the economic conditions within the family unit are no longer sustainable to make the choice of either a charter, private or even home school public schools are the only option left. But, what has transpired in public education for many decades now is directly linked to the overall decay of societies norm that was set during the late 1950’s through the 1960’s when our public educational system was the best in the world.

When we take into account what is happening outside of the educational spectrum we find a very troubling trend. For one thing society as a whole has succumbed to a lower standard of ethics, morals, etiquette and behavior. All one has to notice how this has taken place is to take into account what is occurring in many school districts across the country. What has transpired within the educational experience since the late 1960’s has led our society down a path that is jeopardizing our entire future. Sure, there have been bright spots where students have excelled but far too many of our youth continue to fall way short of the academic standards of the late 1950’s and 1960’s.

Recently there have been marked increases in teachers frustration and resignations within the public school systems all across the country. Partly to blame is the increase emphasis on test and achievement scores. This is where base salaries are tied to the performance of students in achievement based almost entirely on test scores. Least we forget that all students perform differently. Some may have the highest test scores but fall short of the everyday academic levels. While others fail miserably on test scores while achieving the highest everyday academic levels in their classrooms. But, this is only part of the problem facing academics in our schools.

With more of our teachers not only wanting to resign but actually quitting the teaching profession entirely signals very disturbing trends in our schools today. Not only are standardized testing jeopardizing quality in education, school boards across the country too many are filled by people who don’t, can’t or won’t realize the failings that have gone on for decades within public education. This excerpt from a former teacher sums up some of the dysfunction within the school systems not only in Florida but all across the country.

“Some misbehave so that they will be the ‘bad kid’ not the ‘stupid kid’, or because their little bodies just can’t sit quietly anymore, or because they don’t know the social rules of school and there is no time to teach them. My master’s degree work focused on behavior disorders, so I can say with confidence that it is not the children who are disordered. The disorder is in the system which requires them to attempt curriculum and demonstrate behaviors far beyond what is appropriate for their age. The disorder is in the system which bars teachers from differentiating instruction meaningfully, which threatens disciplinary action if they decide their students need a five minute break from a difficult concept, or to extend a lesson which is exceptionally engaging. The disorder is in a system which has decided that students and teachers must be regimented to the minute and punished if they deviate. The disorder is in the system which values the scores on wildly inappropriate assessments more than teaching students in a meaningful and research based manner.”

Faced with the fact that school boards are increasingly unsympathetic to what really goes on in the classroom but are more interested in test scores. And, when this Republican congress and the Trump Administration pulling the purse strings is another key factor that is undermining the quality of education of our youth. With budget shortfalls all across the country where the tax base is no where near sufficient to offer the same quality in education that some of the more wealthier counties in the country offer leaves a gap that is never going to close until there are enough funds either through taxes, fellowships, grants or other organizations willing to finance school systems that already experiencing financial woes. Sad to say with the latest economic forecast public schools will suffer more financial hardships.

This economic forecast indicates schools all across the country are in for more budget cuts. Employers across the country are paying less each year in payroll taxes. What this means for schools is that there will be far less money to support the institutions that our youth attend for their education. Program offerings will be cut and eliminated. Many of the tools used in education will be outdated or worse non existent. And, teachers will be faced with having to do more with less resources because their salaries will be cut. A financial burden not only for American workers but for teachers as well. You can bet your bottom dollar with this proposed tax plan by the Trump Administration will only ad more misery to an already impoverished public school system.

When we turn our attention to society and what has occurred within the family unit and outside of the school atmosphere we find behavior patterns in many of our youth today troubling. No longer are many of the patterns of behavior that exemplified the youth of the 50’s and 60’s apparent when our children attend school. There are allot of reasons why children behave in manners not conducive to achieving academic excellence. One is the breakup of the family unit. Today, too many children grow up in single parent homes. Again, financial considerations appear to have a major influence in why there are so many single parents. Then there are the other financial factors to consider. Today’s economic environment requires parents to either hold two or even three jobs just to meet financial obligations such as rent or mortgage, food, insurance, and all the rest of the cost of living needs today for themselves and their children.

When parents are caught up in meeting the financial obligations like working longer hours and schools only take a percentage of the child’s time leaves a window of loss opportunity for parents to bond with their children. Without structure, nutriment and proper supervision children deviate to a more challenging behavior patterns when they return to the classroom. When behavior patterns disrupt a structured lesson plan or other students becomes a crisis point in the classroom. What was acceptable reactions by teachers years ago are no longer acceptable in today’s realm of reality. Teachers today are very limited in the way they handle disruptive and disorderly students.

The incidents involving students being so disruptive in schools has only increased. Teachers many of whom have been physically assaulted by unruly students. And just recently teachers were resigning because students in grade school classes behaved so bad teachers couldn’t continue. The disruption has only increased in too many schools form Elementary, Jr. High and even into High Schools. And, when local school boards continue to ignore the plight of many teachers today remains a very high priority that education reform on a national scale be implemented.

A Brief History of Special Education

Perhaps the largest and most pervasive issue in special education, as well as my own journey in education, is special education’s relationship to general education. History has shown that this has never been an easy clear cut relationship between the two. There has been a lot of giving and taking or maybe I should say pulling and pushing when it comes to educational policy, and the educational practices and services of education and special education by the human educators who deliver those services on both sides of the isle, like me.

Over the last 20+ years I have been on both sides of education. I have seen and felt what it was like to be a regular main stream educator dealing with special education policy, special education students and their specialized teachers. I have also been on the special education side trying to get regular education teachers to work more effectively with my special education students through modifying their instruction and materials and having a little more patience and empathy.

Furthermore, I have been a mainstream regular education teacher who taught regular education inclusion classes trying to figure out how to best work with some new special education teacher in my class and his or her special education students as well. And, in contrast, I have been a special education inclusion teacher intruding on the territory of some regular education teachers with my special education students and the modifications I thought these teachers should implement. I can tell you first-hand that none of this give and take between special education and regular education has been easy. Nor do I see this pushing and pulling becoming easy anytime soon.

So, what is special education? And what makes it so special and yet so complex and controversial sometimes? Well, special education, as its name suggests, is a specialized branch of education. It claims its lineage to such people as Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard (1775-1838), the physician who “tamed” the “wild boy of Aveyron,” and Anne Sullivan Macy (1866-1936), the teacher who “worked miracles” with Helen Keller.

Special educators teach students who have physical, cognitive, language, learning, sensory, and/or emotional abilities that deviate from those of the general population. Special educators provide instruction specifically tailored to meet individualized needs. These teachers basically make education more available and accessible to students who otherwise would have limited access to education due to whatever disability they are struggling with.

It’s not just the teachers though who play a role in the history of special education in this country. Physicians and clergy, including Itard- mentioned above, Edouard O. Seguin (1812-1880), Samuel Gridley Howe (1801-1876), and Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet (1787-1851), wanted to ameliorate the neglectful, often abusive treatment of individuals with disabilities. Sadly, education in this country was, more often than not, very neglectful and abusive when dealing with students that are different somehow.

There is even a rich literature in our nation that describes the treatment provided to individuals with disabilities in the 1800s and early 1900s. Sadly, in these stories, as well as in the real world, the segment of our population with disabilities were often confined in jails and almshouses without decent food, clothing, personal hygiene, and exercise.

For an example of this different treatment in our literature one needs to look no further than Tiny Tim in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (1843). In addition, many times people with disabilities were often portrayed as villains, such as in the book Captain Hook in J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan” in 1911.

The prevailing view of the authors of this time period was that one should submit to misfortunes, both as a form of obedience to God’s will, and because these seeming misfortunes are ultimately intended for one’s own good. Progress for our people with disabilities was hard to come by at this time with this way of thinking permeating our society, literature and thinking.

So, what was society to do about these people of misfortune? Well, during much of the nineteenth century, and early in the twentieth, professionals believed individuals with disabilities were best treated in residential facilities in rural environments. An out of sight out of mind kind of thing, if you will…

However, by the end of the nineteenth century the size of these institutions had increased so dramatically that the goal of rehabilitation for people with disabilities just wasn’t working. Institutions became instruments for permanent segregation.

I have some experience with these segregation policies of education. Some of it is good and some of it is not so good. You see, I have been a self-contained teacher on and off throughout the years in multiple environments in self-contained classrooms in public high schools, middle schools and elementary schools. I have also taught in multiple special education behavioral self-contained schools that totally separated these troubled students with disabilities in managing their behavior from their mainstream peers by putting them in completely different buildings that were sometimes even in different towns from their homes, friends and peers.

Over the years many special education professionals became critics of these institutions mentioned above that separated and segregated our children with disabilities from their peers. Irvine Howe was one of the first to advocate taking our youth out of these huge institutions and to place out residents into families. Unfortunately this practice became a logistical and pragmatic problem and it took a long time before it could become a viable alternative to institutionalization for our students with disabilities.

Now on the positive side, you might be interested in knowing however that in 1817 the first special education school in the United States, the American Asylum for the Education and Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb (now called the American School for the Deaf), was established in Hartford, Connecticut, by Gallaudet. That school is still there today and is one of the top schools in the country for students with auditory disabilities. A true success story!

However, as you can already imagine, the lasting success of the American School for the Deaf was the exception and not the rule during this time period. And to add to this, in the late nineteenth century, social Darwinism replaced environmentalism as the primary causal explanation for those individuals with disabilities who deviated from those of the general population.

Sadly, Darwinism opened the door to the eugenics movement of the early twentieth century. This then led to even further segregation and even sterilization of individuals with disabilities such as mental retardation. Sounds like something Hitler was doing in Germany also being done right here in our own country, to our own people, by our own people. Kind of scary and inhumane, wouldn’t you agree?

Today, this kind of treatment is obviously unacceptable. And in the early part of the 20th Century it was also unacceptable to some of the adults, especially the parents of these disabled children. Thus, concerned and angry parents formed advocacy groups to help bring the educational needs of children with disabilities into the public eye. The public had to see firsthand how wrong this this eugenics and sterilization movement was for our students that were different if it was ever going to be stopped.

Slowly, grassroots organizations made progress that even led to some states creating laws to protect their citizens with disabilities. For example, in 1930, in Peoria, Illinois, the first white cane ordinance gave individuals with blindness the right-of-way when crossing the street. This was a start, and other states did eventually follow suit. In time, this local grassroots’ movement and states’ movement led to enough pressure on our elected officials for something to be done on the national level for our people with disabilities.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy created the President’s Panel on Mental Retardation. And in 1965, Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which provided funding for primary education, and is seen by advocacy groups as expanding access to public education for children with disabilities.

When one thinks about Kennedy’s and Johnson’s record on civil rights, then it probably isn’t such a surprise finding out that these two presidents also spearheaded this national movement for our people with disabilities.

This federal movement led to section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. This guarantees civil rights for the disabled in the context of federally funded institutions or any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. All these years later as an educator, I personally deal with 504 cases every single day.

In 1975 Congress enacted Public Law 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA), which establishes a right to public education for all children regardless of disability. This was another good thing because prior to federal legislation, parents had to mostly educate their children at home or pay for expensive private education.

The movement kept growing. In the 1982 the case of the Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley, the U.S. Supreme Court clarified the level of services to be afforded students with special needs. The Court ruled that special education services need only provide some “educational benefit” to students. Public schools were not required to maximize the educational progress of students with disabilities.

Today, this ruling may not seem like a victory, and as a matter of fact, this same question is once again circulating through our courts today in 2017. However, given the time period it was made in, it was a victory because it said special education students could not pass through our school system without learning anything. They had to learn something. If one knows and understands how the laws work in this country, then one knows the laws always progress through tiny little increments that add up to progress over time. This ruling was a victory for special education students because it added one more rung onto the crusade.

In the 1980s the Regular Education Initiative (REI) came into being. This was an attempt to return responsibility for the education of students with disabilities to neighborhood schools and regular classroom teachers. I am very familiar with Regular Education Initiative because I spent four years as an REI teacher in the late 1990s and early 2000s. At this time I was certified as both a special education teacher and a regular education teacher and was working in both capacities in a duel role as an REI teacher; because that’s what was required of the position.

The 1990s saw a big boost for our special education students. 1990 birthed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This was, and is, the cornerstone of the concept of a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) for all of our students. To ensure FAPE, the law mandated that each student receiving special education services must also receive an Individualized Education Program (IEP).

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 reached beyond just the public schools. And Title 3 of IDEA prohibited disability-based discrimination in any place of public accommodation. Full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, or accommodations in public places were expected. And of course public accommodations also included most places of education.

Also, in the 1990s the full inclusion movement gained a lot of momentum. This called for educating all students with disabilities in the regular classroom. I am also very familiar with this aspect of education as well, as I have also been an inclusion teacher from time to time over my career as an educator on both sides of the isle as a regular education teacher and a special education teacher.

Now on to President Bush and his educational reform with his No Child Left Behind law that replaced President Johnson’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The NCLB Act of 2001 stated that special education should continue to focus on producing results and along with this came a sharp increase in accountability for educators.

Now, this NCLB Act was good and bad. Of course we all want to see results for all of our students, and it’s just common sense that accountability helps this sort of thing happen. Where this kind of went crazy was that the NCLB demanded a host of new things, but did not provide the funds or support to achieve these new objectives.

Furthermore, teachers began feeling squeezed and threatened more and more by the new movement of big business and corporate education moving in and taking over education. People with no educational background now found themselves influencing education policy and gaining access to a lot of the educational funds.

This accountability craze stemmed by excessive standardized testing ran rapid and of course ran downstream from a host of well-connected elite Trump-like figures saying to their lower echelon educational counterparts, “You’re fired!” This environment of trying to stay off of the radar in order to keep one’s job, and beating our kids over the head with testing strategies, wasn’t good for our educators. It wasn’t good for our students. And it certainly wasn’t good for our more vulnerable special education students.

Some good did come from this era though. For example, the updated Individuals with Disabilities with Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) happened. This further required schools to provide individualized or special education for children with qualifying disabilities. Under the IDEA, states who accept public funds for education must provide special education to qualifying children with disabilities. Like I said earlier, the law is a long slow process of tiny little steps adding up to progress made over time.

Finally, in 2015 President Obama’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) replaced President Bush’s NCLB, which had replaced President Johnson’s ESEA. Under Obama’s new ESSA schools were now allowed to back off on some of the testing. Hopefully, the standardized testing craze has been put in check. However, only time will tell. ESSA also returned to more local control. You know, the kind of control our forefathers intended.

You see the U.S. Constitution grants no authority over education to the federal government. Education is not mentioned in the Constitution of the United States, and for good reason. The Founders wanted most aspects of life managed by those who were closest to them, either by state or local government or by families, businesses, and other elements of civil society. Basically, they saw no role for the federal government in education.

You see, the Founders feared the concentration of power. They believed that the best way to protect individual freedom and civil society was to limit and divide power. However, this works both ways, because the states often find themselves asking the feds for more educational money. And the feds will only give the states additional money if the states do what the feds want… Hmm… Checks and balances, as well as compromise can be a really tricky thing, huh?

So on goes the battle in education and all the back and forth pushing and pulling between the federal government and the states and local government, as well as special education and regular education. And to add to this struggle, recently Judge Moukawsher, a state judge from Connecticut, in a lawsuit filed against the state by the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, rocked the educational boat some more when in his ruling he included a message to lawmakers to reassess what level of services students with significant disabilities are entitled to.

His ruling and statements appear to say that he thinks we’re spending too much money on our special education students. And that for some of them, it just isn’t worth it because their disabilities are too severe. You can imagine how controversial this was and how much it angered some people.

The 2016 United States Presidential election resulted in something that few people saw coming. Real Estate mogul and reality star Donald Trump won the presidency and then appointed anti-public educator Betsy Devos to head up this country’s Department of Education. Her charge, given to her by Trump, is to drastically slash the Department of Education, and to push forward private charter schools over what they call a failing public educational system.

How this is going to affect our students, and especially our more vulnerable special education students, nobody knows for sure at this time. But, I can also tell you that there aren’t many people out there that feel comfortable with it right now. Only time will tell where this is all going to go and how it will affect our special education students…

So, as I said earlier, perhaps the largest, most pervasive issue in special education is its relationship to general education. Both my own travels and our nation’s journey through the vast realm of education over all of these years has been an interesting one and a tricky one plagued with controversy to say the least.

I can still remember when I first became a special education teacher back in the mid-1990s. A friend’s father, who was a school principal at the time, told me to get out of special education because it wasn’t going to last. Well, I’ve been in and out of special education for more than two decades now, and sometimes I don’t know if I’m a regular education teacher or a special education teacher, or both. And sometimes I think our country’s educational system might be feeling the same internal struggle that I am. But, regardless, all these years later, special education is still here.

The Problem Is The Parents As First Educators

The long awaited Review of Funding for Schooling has been completed and the Report by the panel of eminent Australians chaired by David Gonski AC has been released.

In this Submission I have only focused on Chapter 3 in relation to equity and disadvantage but also have comments in relation to disabled children.

I have also concentrated on western suburbs schools in Sydney as I live in that area and my children attended a western suburbs catholic school before moving to an independent school.

The panel must be congratulated as the Report is both comprehensive and well researched and makes a number of recommendations that, if implemented may, to some degree, improve the educational outcomes of some Australian children.

The ‘Pink Elephant’ In the Gonski Report

I believe, however, that the Report, (for whatever reason) fails to acknowledge ‘the pink elephant’ in the classroom and that is that parents are the first educators of their children. This is the foundation premise of many independent schools in Australia, including the PARED (Parents For Education) schools, which excel academically year in and year out, although they are not selective and offer no scholarships to secure bright children who will boost the overall marks of the school.

Schools that acknowledge parents as the first educators of the child work in partnership with the parents so that the child receives the same message and expectations at home and at school. This applies not only to academic expectations but also to behaviour. When the parents bring the child up with the end in sight (ie. adulthood) not just the present moment, they focus on developing a strong character in the child by modelling this themselves and expecting the child to display human virtues such as sincerity, cheerfulness, generosity, perserverence, gratitude, respect, honesty and service to others. This means that it is normal for the child to do his or her best at school and in other endeavours, to respect school property, to care about the feelings of others and to help those less fortunate. This is simply the taught character of the child and it is unrelated to socio-economic status. These types of schools run in countries where the majority live well below the poverty line as we know it, such as the Philippines and these children still emerge as strong, independent young adults, full of gratitude and determination to make the most of life, despite the fact that they are among the poorest of the poor. One such school, Southridge (in Manila – Phillipines), runs a program whereby the fees of the day students are used to fund an afternoon school for students who would otherwise have to attend a poorly resourced public school and the university entrance marks of the afternoon students are actually outstripping those of the more financially privileged day students.

Socio-Economic Status and Academic Performance

The Southridge experience shows us that socio-economic status does not have to adversely affect academic performance. In fact central to the Gonski panel’s definition of equity ‘is the belief that the underlying talents and abilities of students that enable them to succeed in schooling are not distributed differently among children from different socioeconomic status, ethnic or language backgrounds, or according to where they live or go to school’. The Report cites the findings of Caldwell and Spinks (2008) that all children are capable of learning and achieving at school in the right circumstances and with the right support.

I believe that the key to success is whether the children have the right circumstances and support and this is not necessarily linked to socio-economic status, although, because of a lack of social welfare programs in Australia, it often is. For decades the children of migrants to Australia have been well represented in the lists of high achievers and their parents have generally had little or no formal schooling (which contradicts the findings of the Gonski Report p 114) and both worked long hours in manual or menial jobs for low pay. These families have always been in the low socio-economic segment but the children were, however, raised with the belief that education is the key to success and with the parental expectation that they would study hard and go to university. This was a non-negotiable given. They were also raised to respect their parents and other elders and to have an attitude of gratitude and service to others, with many migrants supporting family members back in their home countries although they had little themselves.

These migrant parents had a mindset that saw the value of education. It is the same in third world countries such as the Phillipines. Parents support education as the key to a better life. Hence the success of initiatives such as the Southridge afternoon school. How many parents of children from a western suburbs high school would accept a scholarship for their children to undertake high school at say the Kings School (for boys) or Tara School for Girls (Parramatta) if it was a condition of the scholarship that they meet the requirements of these schools including:

1. Having the children up by 6.30am every day to eat breakfast and travel to school to arrive by

8.00am;

2. Encouraging the children to do the minimum 90 minutes homework each evening (Year 7) after

arriving home around 5.00pm (This time increases each year);

3. Allowing the child to devote at least half a day per weekend to homework and assignments;

4. Ensuring that the child represents the school in a sporting activity which will involve driving the child

to and from the venue on a Saturday; and

5. Attending the school as required for meetings on the child’s progress.

I believe that very few parents would accept the scholarship, as the commitment would disrupt their lives and the disruption would not be seen as worthwhile as education is not high on their list of values. As Dr John DeMartini teaches these families do not perceive education as a void, even though they did not get it themselves and therefore do not value it. As a result even if the child took the scholarship he or she would not understand why they were required to put in so much additional effort to their friends at local high schools and would resent the obligation.

The Real Problem Of Disadvantage Is The Inconsistency Between Home and School

The Gonski Report cites the findings of researchers Perry and McConney (2010) who found there are multiple ways in which schools with high concentrations of disadvantaged students differ from schools with high concentrations of students from more advantaged backgrounds. These include less material and social resources, more behavioural problems, less experienced teachers, lower student and family aspirations, less positive relationships between teachers and students, less homework and a less rigorous curriculum

The Report warns that new arrangements are needed to:

• Make sure that Australian kids do not fall behind the rest of the world, and keep Australia

competitive, after a decline in education standards in the past decade.

• Stop the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students growing wider.

To deal with these challenges, the Report recommends introducing a Schooling Resource Standard, which would have two elements: a set investment per student, plus additional top-up funding to target disadvantage.

I support the set investment per student and believe that this should be the same no-matter where the child goes to school as each child deserves equal government investment in their education. This is the key to ensuring that the educational standard of our top students does not decline.

I do not agree that there should be additional top-up funding in schools to target disadvantage. Such funding perpetuates the idea that there are advantaged and disadvantaged schools and locks in the idea that children from certain schools are different and less likely to succeed than children from other schools. It also confuses education with social services. The real issue is the academic standard and mindset that each child beings to the school year they are entering, not what is on offer from the school, as most Australian schools offer enough.

All Australian children should have access to the same curriculum (and they do), to passionate and experienced educators (this is sometimes achieved) and to schools that are adequately resourced (generally achieved).

It is irrelevant how much money a school throws at literacy and numeracy programs as although they may improve standards from what they initially were, they will not being the participants up to the same level as children in schools where the children, themselves value education, as the child must be willing to put in the effort necessary to succeed. You get nothing if you give nothing. The child must have the virtues of perseverance and hard work and these must be taught. An education must do more than give a minimum academic standard, it must also build character. As parents are the first educators of a child and have the most influence on them, a school by itself will never over-rule the mindset taught at home and is opening itself up to student resentment and belligerence when it sends a different message to what is taught at home, as it threatens the very foundations of the child’s world.

In relation to the resourcing of the schools I believe that far too much weight is placed on this. The evidence is the fact that students of correspondence and on-line courses achieve high results with no physical resources. In addition many western suburbs high schools are far better resourced than independent high schools where the parents have to contribute funds to buy equipment and build buildings and are already stretched to the limit paying fees. However the results of these well resourced high schools do not reflect the amount spent on resources. Take Glenwood high school for example. The Mindquest program is run there one weekend a term for gifted and talented children (but really any child can go and does) and I was stunned when I saw what was on offer to local children such as technology labs, sports fields, cooking kitchens, art rooms etc.

It is the same with the high schools at Quakers Hill, Rooty Hill high and Mt Druitt. Despite the outstanding resources these schools are not producing results that equal independent schools or indeed public schools in more affluent areas. Why is this? It is partly because:

1. the standard and experience of the teachers is not exceptional in these areas for a variety of

reasons, including the fact that these children are difficult to teach and teacher’s lose motivation;

and

2. the family does not put a high value on education.

What is also missing is the partnership between the parent and the school. The parents are the first educators of the child but they are not educating them in the importance of education and in the human virtues necessary to build strong character and determination in the long term. You will find that in disadvantaged areas many parents do not set high standards for themselves, they have not been taught how to persevere, how to see the opportunity in every obstacle and how to sacrifice momentary satisfactions for long term gain. Take the Kings School and Tara scholarship example above. It would be very difficult for many of these parents to see the value of their children exerting effort and the whole family making sacrifices for a first rate education.

Very often children in western Sydney areas arrive at school without breakfast, without their text books and not having done their homework. There are conflicting messages being taught at home and at school and no amount of education funding is going to alleviate this problem. In fact throwing more funding at children who do not have the capacity to appreciate the innovative learning programs and amazing resources being provided in schools is a waste of precious funding and the government should stop. This funding could be better spent in the independent arena and on public schools where the children have a different attitude towards education and success, to raise the standard of our highest performing students. Yes, this will increase the gap further between our best and worst students but is this a bad thing? The Gonski Report shows that the standard of our brightest students is falling. We need to raise the standard of education in our country and raise the bar even higher, to which our disadvantaged children can aspire.

Change The Mindset

The key to improving the educational standards of our disadvantaged students is to change their mindset. To bombard them with positive messages about what they can achieve if they exert effort and give them role models very different to their own families and community members.

The universal laws say that ‘what you see, is what you’ll be’ as your thoughts and what you focus on, shape your reality. I have concentrated on Sydney’s western suburbs as that is where I live and I have a good understanding of western Sydney schools as my own children attended one. These local schools draw students from the local area and most families have the same values and beliefs as each other and lead the same kind of lives. I make no judgment on whether the lifestyle is wrong or right I am simply stating facts as I have experienced them.

These families often live in housing commission homes, or in low cost rental accommodation, they receive social security or earn basic wages, they often place little value on what is given to them because it is free and they spend most of what they earn on lifestyle and instant gratification, they do not save. The parents generally drink and smoke, buy takeaway meals and ensure that their children have the latest version of any new technology. These families are consumer driven and very focused on satisfying immediate wants and needs. Little time is spent teaching the children the value of persevering to achieve a result, or postponing something now, to get something better later on.

As a life coach who deals with children on a regular basis I have spent much time searching for the answer as to what breeds success at school and I know without doubt that after the parents, the teachers have the biggest influence. The value of an experienced, passionate teacher cannot be over-emphasised and they are hard to find, as in addition to their skills they must be able to relate to the children and earn their respect. They must also have the tolerance to deal with all manner of parents and this is as difficult in independent schools as disadvantaged public schools.

In western suburbs high schools whilst the majority of teachers meet the above criteria too many do not and one bad teacher can destroy a child’s whole perception of school. I have heard countless stories of young, passionate teachers who enter the public school system only to become quickly disillusioned when it takes 20 minutes to settle the class so they can begin to teach the lesson. There is much absenteeism by teachers and the replacement teachers struggle. Also many of the experienced teaches needed in these schools are jaded and opt for an easier life in an area where the children place a greater value on education and respect authority. There is no easy answer here but what is clear is that teachers must be held accountable for the performance of their students when measured against a state or national measure. If a teacher in a western suburbs high school cannot get the desired results they should be asked why? If they do not have a clear answer they should be transferred out of the school as it may well be that they do not have the ability to connect with children of that particular mindset. This does not mean they are a bad teacher, it may just mean that they are not the right teacher for that type of school.

We cannot, however, afford to pander to the sensitivities of our teachers at the expense of our children. In the independent schools if the children do not succeed academically and are not taught the values that the school has promoted the parents quickly demand answers and the teacher is held accountable. The same rules must apply in the public system if we are to achieve the ‘equity’ that the Gonski Report promotes. We must have teachers of such a high calibre in our disadvantaged schools that they have so much influence on their students that they can equal the parents as the first educators.

The Solution

The Gonksi report focused on additional funding for disadvantaged students and more resources. As I have explained above I do not believe that this is the answer. We must be careful not to confuse required spending on education with required spending on social services.

Our schools must offer the same curriculum to all children and be adequately resourced. I think we have achieved this. Our schools must offer teachers of the highest possible calibre who are held accountable and in this area I believe we have a way to go.

Where we are failing completely is in ensuring that children from low socio-economic areas have a mindset that values education and see the unlimited opportunities available to them if they are grateful for what is provided for them and exert personal effort. We are failing to develop a positive mindset and strong character in children from disadvantaged areas.

What we should be doing is trying to show our disadvantaged children a different life to the life that surrounds them daily. We need to change the mentality that these children are poor and will grow up poor and will be taken care of by the government. By showing the children a different way of life they have something to aspire to and have a new focus for their thoughts. Remember the law of attraction says that you get what you think about.

The solution is not giving more money to schools (except for better teachers) but spending money on programs outside the school day that fill the child’s time and reduce the amount of time spent in the home environment that devalues education and reinforces low self worth and the ‘poor me’ mentality of limited opportunities. These programs need to involve:

1. teachers from the local schools so that the children can see them as human beings they can

admire and respect and build a relationship with (pay the teachers to be involved);

2. adults from similar backgrounds who have gone on to excel;

3. life coaches who can work on changing mindset and seeing the opportunity in every obstacle;

4. youth leaders who understand the concept of unlimited opportunity if you, yourself, take action

and promote this; and

5. promoting the value of service to others as it helps develop an attitude of gratitude.

It is going to be a real challenge for these children to break away from the norms of the family as any change they try to make will be interpreted by their parents as criticism of their lives and this may even lead to violence. The children need to be taught how to respond to this.

The children need to be taught self worth. They must be taught that when they wake up they must make and eat breakfast as this nourishes their mind and body. They must be taught that they are valuable and worth taking care of and developing. They must be given the strength to bring new routines and processes into their homes. They must be the change that brings the change to their family and their whole community.

Summary

The government has an obligation to ensure a first rate education for each Australian child. To do this it must provide funding so that each child has access to the same high standard curriculum, the highest calibre teachers who are held accountable for their student’s results and adequately resourced schools.

I believe that it is faring quite well in its delivery of the above, although more work needs to be done in relation to making teachers accountable and attracting teachers who understand that their role is to educate the whole child in terms of both character and academics.

Where the government is failing miserably is in the area of social services. It is failing to recognise that parents are the first educators of the child and failing to take steps to fill the gap when a child is not taught at home that education is valuable and that human virtues such as sincerity, cheerfulness, generosity, perseverance, gratitude, respect, honesty and service to others are integral to strong character and ultimate success as an adult.

It does not matter how much government funding is provided to schools for literacy and numeracy programs and what resources are provided, if the child does not see the value of education he or she will not exert the effort necessary to succeed and will not have a mental picture of himself or herself as a successful adult.

The government must fund social services programs outside the school system that ensure that children are given other positive role models when their parents, as first educators, do not perform their roles well. These programs must give the children an insight into lives very different to their parents so that they can focus on achieving such a life themselves, develop a positive mindset towards success, develop an attitude of gratitude, a belief in unlimited opportunity and a desire to serve others.

When a child sees the value of education and lives a life based on human virtues they become receptive to education and are far more likely to enter each academic year having achieved the outcomes for the previous year. Additional literacy and numeracy programs then have an exponential impact on increasing educational standards.

Our social service programs must teach our disadvantaged children self worth and self esteem. They must be given the tools to be the change that brings the change to their family and their whole community.

The government needs to stop confusing the funding of education with the funding of social services programs.

Tonette also teaches that every hardship occurs for a reason and that there are no victims. This means that her clients are taught to see the opportunities in every occurrence so that they can move forward with life with gratitude. This is particularly effective with children who are bullied as they get their power back when they do not feel that they are victims.

Why Pursue E-Commerce Education

What is E-commerce Education?

E-commerce has been one of the most rapidly increasing industries of the last decade and has attracted the attention of entrepreneurs and large corporations. Electronic commerce has had a great success rate because shoppers are offered the luxury of browsing stores from the comfort of their very own home. Online shoppers prefer save time by avoiding crowded malls and parking lots. Cyber Monday has emerged as an online alternative to Black Friday and is now the single most profitable day in Internet sales. Cyber Monday takes place three days after Black Friday and allows buyers to complete holiday gift lists without having to navigate through malls full of crazed and relentless shoppers. Retailers have already released deals that will be available online this November.

While large and well-known companies reap the benefits of clever e-commerce campaigns, there is plenty of room in the industry for new businesses. Web savvy entrepreneurs look for niche markets where they can corral traffic and convert it to sales. Efforts can be futile if you have no e-commerce experience or a poor understanding of Internet operations. E-commerce education is something that few possess but it is a necessity to succeeding in online business. Institutions have been established to address the needs of entrepreneurs looking to make the big bucks online and they provide assistance in all areas of web sales.

E-commerce education schools offer instruction from qualified and seasoned experts through webinars or in class sessions.

Topics covered include:
-Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
-Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
-Email Marketing
-Product Sourcing
-Web Design
-Shopping Cart
-And More.

E-commerce schools have been popping up all over the country and the web in response to the demand for e-commerce knowledge. As with all business, there is no guarantee at success, but giving your company a solid foundation will always benefit in the long run. If you don’t know what you are doing, don’t be afraid to seek out the right help. E-commerce sites take a few weeks to get up and running so do not rush it. An E-commerce education can give you the background necessary to start an online store intelligently and on the path for success.