has education become so bad?

i have the joy of looking after our students at work – something i really do enjoy it. most of the time.

i had an e-mail from a german client last week, who sells south africa as a destination, expressing surprise that it is winter in south africa now. “because we’re going into summer, and it’s nice and warm”.

umh…

so i put it to the students. did they know which season it is in germany at the moment? they replied with that hesitant uttering of a word, the one you want to let out slowly so that you can swallow it quickly if you sense that it is wrong. so that if the lecturer’s face begins to show signs of disagreement, you can take it back, unuttered, and give the opposite, correct answer.

so it was that ‘”s-s-sum-m-mer…?” slowly edgedd out. i agreed and asked them “why?”

more confidently came the answer this time – “because of the time difference.” smile.

i can live with that (only just, but i can). the world is not everyone’s cup of tea.

this week i asked for an indication of the GDP per person for various countries. I was told that they couldn’t find that, but they have got it per capita.

i can even (just) live with that.

but when the number representing the area of a country (1.212.912 square km) is read out as “one comma two one two comma nine one two square kilometres” or when someone is physically not able to read out the number 244’908, because they don’t know where to start, then i struggle with that.

i really really do.

7 thoughts on “has education become so bad?

  1. Hmmm …
    I would not be able “to live” with the “time difference” answer. Somebody in (going into) tourism should know better! And anybody in tourism has cups of world tea aplenty …

    But WHY should they know about GDP? [Not even economists’ secretaries would know that!] The “per capita” though I think is funny … and they need to be told (have probably never been told before; please: blame the teachers!).

    But I empathise with the student when it comes to the reading of those numbers! The full stop (or comma) is NOT the indicator for “thousands”, it’s the (non-breaking!) space. And the comma (NOT the full stop) denotes decimal. And as long as foolish printers or writers (who definitely should know better) insist on their antiquated ways … well, the poor young people cannot get it write. Just smile – tell them what’s correct … you do it so well (smiling and telling them).

    Nice entry today, though.

    • while you may be right with the punctuation of numbers, it actually doesn’t matter what is used. whether a full stop, comma or space is used, the students should be able to read out a number. they should know that the size of a country is more than 1,2 square kilometres. they should know that no number or value ever has more than one decimal point.
      basically, in teaching and learning, copy & paste is the worst invention. it has removed the need for students to think, edit and understand the material they are working with.

      thanks for your reply too though!

  2. Ah, well, and the “write” should of course have been “right” or “correct”. See, even crutches don’t get it right … every time! 😉

  3. Do you think that the standards of teachers have gone bad instead of education as a whole? I would be more interested in whether students could actually tell me what GDP means and why it is useful than being able to read the number. I guess this is why there is so much debate over assessment.

    I totally get the hesitant replies that students give though. They wait until the last minute to see they are going to be right instead of taking a chance. Too bad!

    • the teachers are part of the education system (arguably the most important part). so if the quality of teachers and teaching declines, then education declines. i’;m not sure though if the problem lies with the education departments demanding less from the teachers, or whether teachers and students are lazier. certainly, the disinterest shown by many parents doesn’t help one bit!
      with respect though, being able to read out a number is something they should be able to do before starting high school. learning what GDP is can happen later.
      thanks for your comment!

  4. It is indeed worrying, but I believe the problem goes beyond the question of dodgy teaching methods. I believe the system‘ is to blame, strangling the educators.

    A teacher recently told me her biggest concern is that the kids today have no curiosity. Is this a consequence of our abilty for instant gratification through the internet? Don’t know something? Google it. No more having to go to the library, find the right book, page through it, discover other interesting bits along the way.

    If you’re anything like me, when you look up a word in a dictionary, your eye catches another word and you read its definition – you just can’t help yourself. dictionary.com doesn’t give you that pleasure.

    • i think you may well have hit the nail on the head Dusty… a lack of curiosity. thanks – that makes it clearer in my head too 🙂

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