2.05 Schools In Other Countries Writing Assignments

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to attend a school in another country?  It may be very different from your own school.  Going to school is important for kids, and schools all share a similar goal – to help children learn skills that will be needed as they grow up.  Let’s learn more about what a typical school day looks like in countries around the world.

Getting to School

In the United States, some children walk to school, ride the bus or are driven to school by their parents.  But in some locations around the world, kids have to take unique forms of transportation to get to class on time.   In Peru and Guatemala, many children take boats to reach their schools which can be located on the other side of some of the large rivers and waterways.  Children in the Philippines ride to school in a rickshaw, a cart that is pulled by a bicycle or an adult.  And in Bolivia, a horse-drawn wagon is used to transport the kids each day.  If you’re lucky enough to live on an island, you will have to use a small plane to reach your classroom!  Students who attend school on Kelleys Island in Ohio and also on the Orkney Islands in Scotland must use a plane for transportation during the winter months or other times their local ferry is not running.

A School is not always a Building

Some schools are located in buildings and have multiple classrooms – but this is not always the case.  In many countries, there is not enough money to build a school, so classes are held in a variety of locations.  In less populated areas, there is just one large classroom for kids of all ages and grades.  Kids in some areas of Kenya attend classes under the trees in their village.  Other schools hold their classes outdoors with children sitting on the ground and doing lessons that connect with nature.  In Afghanistan, buildings are not available in many locations so tents are used as classrooms.  And in some cases, children can attend school on a ship or boat!  Some students in Bangladesh attend classes on wooden boats moored to a riverbank.  And the kids who travel with their parents on Mercy Ships, which are global hospital ships that travel the world to provide healthcare, do their homework in their cabin or in the ship’s library and stop at various ports in different countries to learn their classwork.

What Will Kids Learn Each Day?

There is usually a teacher in the classroom or learning area – after all, what is school without a great teacher?  But in some countries, boys must have a male teacher while girls are only taught by female educators.  In Iran, boys and girls are educated separately at the primary grades.  Once they reach universities, men and women can attend classes together.  In Afghanistan, classes are segregated by ninth grade and the girls must be taught by female teachers.

Almost every child around the world will learn to read and write in their native language – and many schools will teach children more than one language.  Some schools are not able to afford books for their classrooms, so students must copy their lessons onto chalkboards or notebooks each day.  Science, math and computers are also popular classes in many developed countries.  For rural schools, classes in farming and animal care are important.  And some children help clean their school and care for local animals as part of their school day.

Lunchtime & Recess

No matter where you go to school, lunch is an important part of the day.  Your favorite lunch might be peanut butter and jelly  — but a “typical” school lunch varies from country to country. For example, in Japan, the kids actually help prepare and serve the food during lunchtime.  Sometimes we all enjoy similar lunch foods but have different names for the item.  For example, kids in Australia enjoy drinking ‘poppers’ – in America, we call these same items juice boxes.  Rice or noodles are the main ingredient in hot lunches for many schools around the world.  Many schools also serve soups.  These are popular choices since they aren’t too expensive and can be cooked in large amounts fairly quickly so that no one has to wait a long time to eat lunch.  And in some countries such as Brazil, children will go home to share lunch with their family before returning to school for afternoon classes.  Many schools will also have some type of outdoor play or recess period during the day.

How long is a school day?

Most schools begin around 8 am and end the day around 3 or 4 pm.  Some countries also have evening study sessions where kids can return to do their homework after dinner. While many children attend school each day and then go home at night, there are some kids who live at their schools.  These are known as boarding schools.  If you attend a boarding school, you live in a dormitory and attend classes with other students at the school.  In England, there’s even a boarding school in a castle – Kimbolton Castle allows children ages 11 and older to board at the historic dorms and attend classes at the castle!

The days of the week that kids attend school vary greatly around the world.  In Kenya, Russia and India, children attend school 6 days each week.  In Japan, school is in session five days a week plus two Saturdays each month.  And until recently, children in France attended school four and a half days each week with a half-day on Saturday and no school on Wednesdays or Sundays.

If you would like to learn more about schools around the world, I would suggest one of these fun books:  It’s Back to School We Go by Ellen Jackson, School Days Around the World by Catherine Chambers and Off to Class: Incredible and Unusual Schools Around the World by Susan Hughes.

By contrast, the team did not expect good news out of France, where Mr. Schleicher lives and where his children are enrolled in school. “Most reforms have been on the surface, not reaching into the classroom,” he said. “Nobody predicted France would be a star performer.”

Finally, it was time for the results: The analysts looked at the country names to see how their predictions held up. It was, by statistician standards, a huge thrill. The United States had not raised its average scores, but on measures of equity, it had improved. One in every three disadvantaged American teenagers beat the odds in science, achieving results in the top quarter of students from similar backgrounds worldwide.

This is a major accomplishment, despite America’s lackluster performance over all. In 2006, socioeconomic status had explained 17 percent of the variance in Americans’ science scores; in 2015, it explained only 11 percent, which is slightly better than average for the developed world. No other country showed as much progress on this metric. (By contrast, socioeconomic background explained 20 percent of score differences in France — and only 8 percent in Estonia.)

In the end, the PISA team had called virtually every country correctly. Colombia and Singapore had indeed improved. And France had done a bit worse in science and math while improving ever so slightly in reading. “It’s hard to surprise us when it comes to these things,” Mr. Schleicher said.

Here’s what the models show: Generally speaking, the smartest countries tend to be those that have acted to make teaching more prestigious and selective; directed more resources to their neediest children; enrolled most children in high-quality preschools; helped schools establish cultures of constant improvement; and applied rigorous, consistent standards across all classrooms.

Of all those lessons learned, the United States has employed only one at scale: A majority of states recently adopted more consistent and challenging learning goals, known as the Common Core State Standards, for reading and math. These standards were in place for only a year in many states, so Mr. Schleicher did not expect them to boost America’s PISA scores just yet. (In addition, America’s PISA sample included students living in states that have declined to adopt the new standards altogether.)

But Mr. Schleicher urges Americans to work on the other lessons learned — and to keep the faith in their new standards. “I’m confident the Common Core is going to have a long-term impact,” he said. “Patience may be the biggest challenge.”

President-elect Donald J. Trump and Betsy DeVos, his nominee for education secretary, have called for the repeal of the Common Core. But since the federal government did not create or mandate the standards, it cannot easily repeal them. Standards like the Common Core exist in almost every high-performing education nation, from Poland to South Korea.

Some of the other reforms Americans have attempted nationwide in past years, including smaller class sizes and an upgrade of classroom technology, do not appear on the list of things that work. In fact, there is some evidence that both policies can have a negative impact on learning.

For now, the PISA reveals brutal truths about America’s education system: Math, a subject that reliably predicts children’s future earnings, continues to be the United States’ weakest area at every income level. Nearly a third of American 15-year-olds are not meeting a baseline level of ability — the lowest level the O.E.C.D. believes children must reach in order to thrive as adults in the modern world.

And affluence is no guarantee of better results, particularly in science and math: The latest PISA data (which includes private-school students) shows that America’s most advantaged teenagers scored below their well-off peers in science in 20 other countries, including Canada and Britain.

The good news is that a handful of places, including Estonia, Canada, Denmark and Hong Kong, are proving that it is possible to do much better. These places now educate virtually all their children to higher levels of critical thinking in math, reading and science — and do so more equitably than Americans do. (Vietnam and various provinces in China are omitted here because many 15-year-olds are still not enrolled in school systems there, limiting the comparability of PISA results.)

As we drift toward a world in which more good jobs will require Americans to think critically — and to repeatedly prove their abilities before and after they are hired — it is hard to imagine a more pressing national problem. “Your president-elect has promised to make America great again,” Mr. Schleicher said. But he warned, “He won’t be able to do that without fixing education.”

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