Easy A’s for Education

“I like it when learning something is difficult; and when I see a puzzle I feel compelled to try to solve it. I’m very literal, and I’m only satisfied with an abstract conversation when it’s anchored in observable phenomena. I crave specifics, and as both a learner and as a teacher I sometimes don’t see the forest because I’m busy inspecting the trees.

All of these characteristics make me think that being an education major probably wouldn’t have worked out for me. I love rigor and I love problem solving, and those two characteristics have been largely absent from the education coursework that I’ve taken…”

When persons imagine studies at university, there is usually some idea of rigor within it. Staying up all night studying and researching and sitting in long lectures include a few. In fact, it is almost normal to expect that university life is suppose to be a laborious task to earn a degree within a specific area of study and interest. If this is the case, many question if this can be said that teacher-training programs rigorous enough? In an article entitled “Do Education Programs Dole Out Too Many Easy A’s?” Rebecca Koenig seeks to highlight the views of persons within the education fraternity regarding a report of a study seeking to evaluate and compare a degree in education at the undergraduate level to specific standards that would be expected of all university degrees of numerous campuses over the United States of America. As a student of education, it should therefore be understandable why I, and others who are within the education fraternity as a student or lecturer, would have an interest in understanding what is being said about those who graduate from Education programmes.

Education is an Easy A 

It has long been common place to believe that education majors and courses are the easiest forms of study. If one were to do a quick search on the internet of the easiest university majors and courses, one would consistently find that education is one of the top three (3) courses being cited, along with some humanities and social science courses. In direct contrast, the hardest areas of study seem to be linked to the pure, applied and medical sciences. On the Top List Network website, Jose Martin author of a web page about the Top 10 Easiest and Hardest College Degree, where Education courses are cited as the easiest degree, highlight that “those students who arrive in college with the lowest average SAT scores and graduate with the highest grades tend to be education majors. While is it not true that those who can’t do must teach, this is confirmed by years of studies” (Martin, 2015). This view is shared by many persons as they believe that “education students face easier coursework than do their peers in other departments, according to the study, and they’re more likely to graduate with honours” (Koenig, 2014). Koenig quotes Kate Walsh, the then director of the NCTQ (The National Council on Teacher Quality, a Washington-based think tank and advocacy group) believes that “teaching is probably the hardest thing in the world to do, but we’re making it so easy to get in and out of, in terms of prep…” (Koenig, 2014). She therefore agrees and believes that teacher education does give out way many more A’s than other majors. This view may be supported by what is described as a significant number of persons who graduate from the department.

The number of students who graduate from the school of education is seen as generally high in nature. Based on a report of a study entitled ‘Easy A’s and What’s Behind Them’, releadownloadsed by the National Council on Teacher Quality, it stated, after the council’s examination of more than 500 institutions across the US. Their results found that “30 percent of all their graduating students earned honours. But when it came to education programs, 44 percent of students did so” (Putman, Greenberg, & Walsh, 2014). This suggests that of a group of 1000 grandaunts, there is a likely 300 individuals who have graduated with honours, 132 of whom are from the faculty or department of education of that institution. This can be seen as highly significant compared to other areas of study. There is often times the question of the forms of assessment used within the education departments or faculty.

The Criteria of Education Courses

The ability of so many students being able to graduate so many persons is linked to the criterion of the course assessments and products. The report argues that “there is a need for more objective curriculum for teaching candidates would better prepare them for careers in the classroom” (Putman, Greenberg, & Walsh, 2014).The article highlights that for the conclusion is as a result of, “the council analysis of syllabi across multiple majors to determine whether their assignments were ‘criterion-referenced’ or ‘criterion-deficient’… [and] it found that criterion-deficient assignments were more common in teacher-preparation classes than in other disciplines” (Koenig, 2014). The NVQ report describes assignments that are judged to be criterion-referenced as “focus on a clearly circumscribed slice of knowledge and skill-based content, facilitating the instructors’ own ability to provide substantive feedback within a defined area of expertise, as well as enabling comparisons among students as to the relative merit or quality of the completed assignments” (Putman, Greenberg, & Walsh, 2014). This is in direct contrast to the criterion-deficient assignments which “although they may be based in knowledge or skills, cover a broader scope of content, [the assignments] often with an emphasis on student opinion” (Putman, Greenberg, & Walsh, 2014). The report furthered that “the expansive content of these assignments makes it more difficult for the instructor, no matter what the subject matter of the course, to offer expert, critical feedback, and to compare the quality of students’ work products” (Putman, Greenberg, & Walsh, 2014). In essence, as it regards to the education courses, it is believed that the assignments and activities are more subjective by nature and may not suggest that at the end of a course or a degree on level of rigidity is attained.

To be or Not to be – Reflective

With the work of the students produced as subjective in nature, there is a question in terms of the level of rigidity. The article highlighted reflective activities as an example of an assignment that the group found to be “criterion-deficient” (Koenig, 2014). Recently, there has been more emphasis on becoming a reflective practitioner in education (). A reflective practitioner os described as “someone who, at regular intervals, looks back at the work they do, and the work process, and considers how they can improve” (Judge, 2012). Jennifer Moon points out that “thinking about what has happened is part of being human. However,
the difference between casual ‘thinking’ and ‘reflective practice’ is that reflective practice requires a conscious effort to think about events, and develop insights into them. Once you get into the habit of using reflective practice, you will probably find it useful” (Moon, 1999). This is especially encouraged in the case in teaching as critical reflection is crucial to becoming a successful teacher (Moon, 1999). It is not seen as a skill that is particularly practiced in most disciplines and is therefore to be taught and encouraged in practice. This however was under scrutiny. The article alluded to Julie Greenberg, the report’s co-author and a senior policy analyst of teacher-preparation studies for the advocacy group who described a “literacy-history timeline” task that prompts students to reflect on how their own reading skills developed. In her view, “[e]ven if that had relevance to teaching reading, it wouldn’t be the best way to teach anything”. She is further quoted as speaking on the behalf of the advocacy group as “somewhat dismayed by how little many of the assignments seem to connect with the content and skills teacher candidates are really going to need once they enter the classroom” (Koenig, 2014). This is however not the shared view of other stakeholders to education. The article referred to Peter Kloosterman, a professor of mathematics education at Indiana University at Bloomington, who believes that “exercises in reflection can have value if done correctly” (Koenig, 2014). In practice, “he talks with his students about their personal experiences with math education, although he said he doesn’t grade them on those exercises” (Koenig, 2014). Jodi Roffey-Barentsen and Richard Malthouse posits that the act of reflecting will lead to number of skills which will lead to improving your teaching practice, encourage problem-solving, critical and creative thinking skills and  improve on your own personal organizational skills (Roffey-Barentsen & Malthouse, 2009). Although the act of reflection does allow for many significant benefits, Moon also points out that “Reflective practice is one of the easiest things to drop when the pressure is on [however] time spent on reflective practice will ensure that you are focusing on the things that really matter” (Moon, 1999). The view of education and the courses involved has not gone unnoticed.

Improvements are on the way

There is work that has been put in place to improve the view on courses and majors within the education field. The article alludes to Sharon Robinson, president of American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, as saying that “the teacher-preparation community is already working to improve education-student assessment” (Koenig, 2014). This includes the edTPA portfolio program “which education students submit their work for grading by a national pool of trained scorers, and research being conducted at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor on “high-leverage” teaching practices” (Koenig, 2014). It should be noted that the report also pointed out, albeit in a footnote, that “the study does not prove that criterion-deficient assignments lead to higher grades” (Koenig, 2014). This however leads to some discrepancy being raised by the report which is to be viewed.

Problems with the report

There is a question of the methodology of the study produced the report. The article highlights that Robinson raised a potential flaw within the methodology as “The report asserts that, at a majority of the institutions studied, ‘grading standards for teacher candidates are much lower than for students in other majors at the same campus.’ But in a footnote, it acknowledges that there is no evidence that lax grading standards are more of a problem in education programs than in other departments” (Koenig, 2014). For Robinson “[g]rade integrity is the subject of quite widespread work throughout higher education” (Koenig, 2014). This therefore does not let the report seem as reliable as it could be. Further readings posit the same view. Donald Heller, the author of another article from the Chronicle of Higher Education comments on the same report. He questioned how the NCTQ group would have been able ascertain the graduates. He suggests that their systematic procedure was by “the organization obtaining the spring 2012 commencement booklets from approximately 500 colleges and universities and then counted everything up” (Heller, 2014). This is quite questionable as this is not even close to rigorous in approach to gather the data. He also points out that the standards to the report were also flawed “to meet the standard, a teacher-preparation program had to have a proportion of its graduates that was within 10 percentage points of the proportion in the university as a whole. In other words, if 30 percent of students across the university received academic honours, the proportion for the teacher-preparation program had to range between 20 percent and 40 percent in order to meet the council’s standard” (Heller, 2014). This suggests that out of some technicality, schools fall into the area of not being rigorous due to the number of graduates from education in comparison to the total number of persons who graduate within the same batch.

In my opinion, this report does not seem to meet its purpose. The methodology to arrive at its conclusion does not seem reputable. Whilst one may agree with comparative with some assignments to others, especially those which have reflective activities, to say that they useless or do not add value to the teachers is not quite a valid statement. Personally, I have seen the benefits of reflections especially in dealing with similar activities or course requirements. I was able to improve on my work the next time(s) around. It does make one wonder how is it going to improve so as to meet the idea of being rigorous.

 

 

Works Cited

Heller, D. (2014, November 14). ‘Easy A’s’ Gets an F. Retrieved from The Chronicles of Higher Education web site: http://chronicle.com/article/Easy-A-s-Gets-an-F/150025/?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en

Judge, K. (2012, November). Definition of ‘Reflective Practitioner’. Retrieved from Research Dissertation on Systems Intergation Information: http://www.sharpy.dircon.co.uk/index_files/ReflectivePractitionerDefinition.htm

Koenig, R. (2014, November 12). Do Education Programs Dole Out Too Many Easy A’s? Retrieved from The Chronical of Higher Education Website: http://chronicle.com/article/Do-Education-Programs-Dole-Out/149947/

Martin, J. (2015, April 9). Top 10 Easiest and Hardest College Degree Majors. Retrieved from Top List Network: http://toplistnetwork.com/top-10-easiest-and-hardest-college-degree-majors/

Moon, J. (1999). Reflection in Learning and Professional Development: Theory and Practice. Lindon: Kogan.

Putman, H., Greenberg, J., & Walsh, K. (2014). Training Our Future Teachers: Easy A’s and What’s Behind Them. Washington: NCTQ.

Roffey-Barentsen, J., & Malthouse, R. (2009). Reflective Practice in the Lifelong Learning Sector. Los Angeles: SAGE.

 

Easy A’s for Education

Are Degrees Failing Jamaica?

Freelance journalist, mentor and barrister, Sashakay Fairclough, wrote an interesting piece for The Gleaner of March 23, 2016.  In her article “Are Degrees Failing Jamaica?” Ms Fairclough noted the saying, “It is better to fail at something you love than inevitably fail at something you don’t particularly like” (p. A4).  She intimated that if she had known that expression when she was at high school she probably would not have done Law.  She has come to realize how saturated the legal industry was becoming, so much so that most of the attorneys and barristers she knows are unemployed or forced to find jobs outside their profession.

Fairclough postulated that people are of the opinion that a degree is the way to escape hardship. According to her, when the government decided to follow the Western world and encourage the majority of school leavers to go to university, the job market was flooded with degrees, making them less exclusive and, essentially, devaluing them.  She opined that too many students are going to university and the vast majority will only end up with a piece of paper, extensive debt and no real prospect of employment.  She contended that academics should no longer be put above technical learning as the world is changing and a university education is no longer the way to escape poverty.  In fact, she opined that a degree appears to bring persons closer to poverty; it is simply not the great equalizer anymore.  Continuing her lamentation, Fairclough indicated that tuition fees have increased enormously yet the value of the degree has decreased significantly.  To make matters worse, most people take courses that won’t necessarily take them to the path that they envisaged when initially choosing them. She stated that medical, engineering, and scientific careers should be encouraged, but political studies, music, history, media, etc., are a waste of time, and people would be better off going to community college and getting a manual job as there simply aren’t enough jobs for the number of graduates coming out of university each year.

Fairclough suggested that there should be an increase in vocational training, so guidance can be provided for future trades people in order to meet our country’s needs. She believes programmes like entrepreneurial skills, baking, tailoring, fish farming, money management, photography, jewelry making, should be taught in all schools. She stated that we need people to unlock the genius in our youth and make sure they reach their potential. However, it will not, and should not, always be academic.  Fairclough said it is time that the higher education industry desist from misleading the public about its benefits.  Not all degrees are equal, she said.  “Look for courses that are relevant in today’s society that can create the foundation for a job” (p. A4).

While Ms Fairchough is correct in some aspects of her pronouncements, there are several issues that need to be addressed, the first one being our mind-set.  Deeply rooted in our colonial past is the perception that a degree in technical/vocational education is not on par with a degree in academia. How much ‘status’ does learning a trade give you as against pursuing an MBBS? Doesn’t technical education belong to the lower class?  The lawyer takes his car to the mechanics for him to do the dirty work. I do not know any parent who would rather send her child to St Andrew Technical High School over Campion College or Ardenne High School!

Apart from the stigma that is attached to tech/voc education, I do not think you should deter persons from following their dreams.  If someone wants to do a law degree, let him go ahead by all means. No degree is a waste of time. He can always branch off into something else. For instance, a Law background is always a solid foundation and can be utilized in whatever field one is employed.  As a matter of fact, I know persons in librarianship, management, and business who are pursuing or have pursued a law degree. None of them plan to practice law. All they want is the legal background in order to improve their operations.

With regards to the other degrees, as in Ms Fairchough’s case, we are not only training persons for the local market. Every so often other countries, notably the USA, UK and Canada, recruit professionals from Jamaica. If we do not keep engaging our people in higher education those who migrate would leave a gap that we could not fill. And yes, the country benefits from those working overseas in terms of remittances which grow the Gross National Product (GNP).  Where there is no “real prospect of employment” we can devise our own. Even a degree in the Arts is worthwhile if we are creative thinkers and willing to make our thoughts a reality.

I suggest that the delivery of higher education in the various disciplines be altered to include training in skills like entrepreneurship (how to create a business from the programme one is pursuing) so that graduates can master the art of generating employment for themselves and others. No, I do not think the problem is with the number of degrees coming out of university each year, but rather, there needs to be more diversification of degrees so that more people can pursue higher education in technical/vocational areas or any area of choice. Since we will always have persons doing baking, gardening, tailoring, furniture-making, etc., we could consider offering broader and more advanced training in these areas, and where this is being offered, make it more accessible to students leaving high school so they too can obtain higher education. For example, gardeners could learn pest control, furniture-making could include ergonomics, and so on.

As a country, we also need to do more manpower planning, study the job market, see where the country and the wider world is heading, and publish the areas where jobs will be in demand in a few years so that training can be geared toward these areas. Indeed, the playing field will soon be level as, according to Elkins (2015), some experts are predicting that robots will be taking over many of the jobs being done by blue-collar and even white-collar workers in the not so distant future.  Who can tell? Perhaps in another twenty-five years we will not need human barristers, auto-mechanics, surgeons, or lecturers in Education. That means we need to start training our people in areas such as computer programming, graphics and animation so they will be ready to make the next generation of robots for the workforce.

What are your thoughts?

References

Elkins, K. (2015, May 1) Experts predict robots will take over 30% of our jobs by 2025 – and white-collar jobs aren’t immune. Business Insider, n.p. Retrieved 19 April 2016 from http://www.businessinsider.com/experts-predict-that-one-third-of-jobs-will-be-replaced-by-robots-2015-5)

Fairclough, S. (2016, March 26). Are degrees failing Jamaica? The Gleaner, p. A4. Print.

Are Degrees Failing Jamaica?

Plague of Unpaid Tuition Afflicts Colleges in South Africa

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Blog by Melisa Anderson

Who would think that a private university can be cash- strapped to the point of permanent closure? Where is the government’s intervention in this higher education crisis? The cry for equity, quality and increased access to higher education appears to be mere hypocrisy. It cannot be disputed that having a higher education will essentially improve the economy of a country. This contemporary global economy, therefore calls for more students to be enrolled in higher education institutions. As such, many governments are trying to close the gap of unequal access to higher education by investing more in the education sector. Many have increased state funding of universities while providing avenues for grants and scholarships. This however, appears to be quite contrary in South Africa as students struggle to gain access to higher education.  In the article, “Plague of Unpaid Tuition Afflicts Colleges in South Africa,” Boroughs (2013) postulated that, there was a shocking move at St. Augustine College in South Africa, as the students failure to pay school fees has left the schools management with no choice, but to inadvertently close the door of the barely decade year old institution. This resulted in chaos and uncertainty as the students became very much unaware of their study prospects and most staff were left without jobs.

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The schools closure was not only seen to have educational implications but it also impacted the South African economy.  St. Augustine College is a catholic school which is solely non-profit and depends largely on the fees collected from students for its smooth operations. This school is self-financing and is similar to other institutions such as Yale and Harvard amongst other prestigious schools which seeks to meet the increased demand of the growing population for higher education, as the public sector fails to provide sufficient access to education. These indigent students were denied government financial aid and were forced to accept the fallacy that they were not a university, despite the college’s accredited degree programs ranging from bachelor’s to Ph.D. According to Boroughs (2013), “no private higher education institution in South Africa, can call itself a university.” This seems to me to be no more than a selfish political exploitation and the quenching of power amidst ignoring the greater good of a society. The St. Augustine College was therefore not able to market itself as a university, this certainly had implications for its enrolment and sustainability. Less students would apply and consequently, less funds would be generated to maintain its operations. Mosia (as cited in Boroughs, 2013), alluded that, St. Augustine College, despite having a small enrolment of 230 students, is an excellent private provider. Should struggling schools that produces such high quality of education be refused assistance from the government?

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Perhaps being a religious institution and emphasizing its spiritual ethos has exacerbated its downfall, or maybe, being a private non-profit organization makes it an irrefutable outcast despite its wrenching efforts to produce 21st century graduates. It is rather questionable as to whether South Africa has joined the global market in the widespread effort to make education accessible to all. The South African government has not only spoken loudly but serves as a perpetuator of poverty. The sustainability of higher education, is vital to any society. As such, when assistance is needed by private educational institutions, the government has a vital role to play. It would appear that some private colleges including St. Augustine requires state funding due to the many financial challenges.

d3Some may argue that, impoverished students should go to public schools where they can receive financial grants from the government. Some may ask, why are poor students attending private schools when they cannot afford to pay? Access comes into play here, the public institutions do not readily provide access to all. As such some students are coerced to join private institutions which may be due to strict entry requirements at the government institutions. Should tax-payers like ourselves be burdened with the responsibility of keeping the school doors opened? Investment in education is certainly crucial and is often referred to as “smart economics” as the long term benefits to the economy are numerous. The issue of poverty and unequal access to higher education is not limited to the South African economy. Jamaica is also facing similar challenges as more poor people struggle to be enrolled in universities. The strict entry requirements for government funded universities has elicited a rise in the number of students attending private universities. Additionally, some students struggle to pay these exorbitant fees without much income or other financial support. Should these students be denied the opportunity to successfully complete their studies? Perhaps the government could look into providing financial aid for these private schools as was raised by Rowe (as cited in Boroughs, 2013) who claimed that the issue of closing down the school would have never been raised if the government was assisting.

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Mind you, the students and their parents also have a part to play. Some students may take it for granted that they do not have to pay tuition and therefore withdraw their efforts because there is no penalty. The school should have stringent measures of collecting monies from students, flexible and feasible payment plans should be enforced and contingency plans should be put in place in cases of failure of students to pay tuition. The religious ethos of the school could be such that they are catering to the needs of the poor. This is quite inspirational but the reality is that management should be responsible when it comes to managing the financial operations of the institution. Could this be a schools management issue, or is the South African Government at fault?

The issues raised are that of access, the government’s role in higher education and the viability of these private institutions. What are your thoughts?

 

 

 

Plague of Unpaid Tuition Afflicts Colleges in South Africa

A New Kind of Study Seeks to Quantify Educational Quality

Cartoon

More recently, the number of students attending schools as increased but yet, access to education is still a growing issue. Even when children do have access to education, the teacher to student ratio is absurd, some lack the opportunity to learn because they are unable to read and write, while in some parts of the world  lack of drinking water and adequate sanitation pose great threat. Additionally, the lack of qualified teachers and infrastructures, as well as no or little access to learning materials are of the more obvious challenges to quality education/educational quality.

What is this “quality education/educational quality “that is being spoken about? I read over 5 sources in an attempt to locate a formal definition of the concept and it was a daunting task.  So let me start by zooming in on the word “quality”. Quality can be defined as a degree of excellence (Goldman, 2000).  However, in the education context, it is somewhat difficult to define the quality of education since quality in itself implies that it can change over time or even due to factors such as individuals, organization, society, or the country in which it is being addressed.   According to Adam (1993), the meaning of educational quality is grounded in values, cultures and traditions; it may be specific to a given nation, province, community, school, parent, or individual student.  He further noted that, even if there is lack of agreement on what quality education is, there often is an agreement that it should be approved.

In the article entitled “A New Kind of Study Seeks to Quantify Educational Quality” (Berrett, 2014), Ms. Campbell who is an assistant professor of higher education at a teachers college at the Columbia University along with a team of 10 graduate students who were pursuing degrees in higher education, carried out a study on a public and a private research institution in the spring of 2013. The duration of the research was for a week in which the research team observed 153 courses and analysed 149 syllabi, subsequently allowing them to make conclusions about academic rigor (which was dependent on the assessment of the course complexity, quantity and complexity of work assigned to students, and the level of expectations set for students’ preparation for and participation in class) and teaching quality (the ability of the teacher to introduce key concepts, to elicit students’ prior knowledge and assist students to make connections between their prior knowledge and new knowledge learnt).  The article also highlighted that students in a class size of 25 or less as well as a longer class length of 1hr or more were exposed to more academic rigor, better teaching quality, and produced more benefits. Overall, both institutions (private and public) involved in the research scored the same point of a little more than a half on a 5.5 and 5 point scale for both academic rigor and teaching quality respectively.

I agree that the above mentioned methodology allowed for further incites on academic rigor and teaching quality based on numerous observations; firsthand experience, which is lacking in conventional research tools such as: student surveys, standardized tests and faculty self-reports.  It is clear that the “one size fit all” belief is preposterous. After all, no two students are alike and students learn in different ways. It is clear that traditional methods of assessment will not capture a true reflection of the quality of education experienced by each student.  Conversely, there is more to the quality of education than just academic rigor and teaching quality.

Often times, when we speak of quality education, we automatically think about the quality of teachers.  Yes, teachers are crucial to improving learning, and wholesomely education. Teachers do indeed have an influential impact on the quality of student learning.  Although this may be true, it is the students who are the most significant stakeholders of education. As a result, education should be student-cantered. So what about respect for human rights, critical thinking and problem solving skills, societal and emotional skills, social benefits, behavioural change and values? What about the state of the education environment; is it safe, is it clean, is there sufficient educational materials and resources?  Parents and communities provide support to students and it is only fitting that this factor of support should also be included when quantifying the quality of education.

Colby and Witt (2000) assert that quality education includes:

  • Learners who are healthy, well-nourished and ready to participate and learn, and supported in learning by their families and communities;
  • Environments that are healthy, safe, protective and gender-sensitive, and provide adequate resources and facilities:
  • Content that is reflected in relevant curricula and materials for the acquisition of basic skills, especially in the areas of literacy, numeracy and skills for life, and knowledge in such areas as gender, health, nutrition, HIV/AIDS prevention and peace; „
  • Processes through which trained teachers use child-centred teaching approaches in well-managed classrooms and schools and skilful assessment to facilitate learning and reduce disparities; „
  • Outcomes that encompass knowledge, skills and attitudes, and are linked to national goals for education and positive participation in society.

In the same breadth, quality education enables the learner to develop all of their attributes and skills to achieve their potential as human beings and members of society (What is quality education, 2013).

 

Elements of Quality Education  Quality education is a powerful tool; it is more than just students’ going day-to-day to school and absorbing all the content imparted on them to gain an education. Quality education is the key to reducing poverty, improves health, foster economic prosperity, empower citizens and enables them to contribute to the maximum extent possible to the social and economic development of their communities, and making appropriate decisions in order to shape a better world. In essence, quality education serves as a foundation for equity in society, and as a fundamental in fostering the conditions for global peace and sustainable development.

It is imperative that changes are to be made and not just individually as a teacher, department within a school, or school (whether it be primary, secondary, or tertiary), but as a community, as a country and as an educational system globally.  We can improve quality education by training, equipping, valuing and supporting quality teachers, improve/update date collection and design curricula for an equitable world, especially with the advancement in technology to our advantages. Setting the right policies/laws/goals as priorities, transforming classrooms in to collaborative communities, increasing global investment in education, and providing sufficient and engaging learning materials are just a few suggestions.

Given these points, it is unorthodox to solely quantify educational quality on the basis of just academic rigor and teaching quality. The study carried out by Ms. Campbell and her team of graduate students failed to address the other aspects of quality education. It is not enough to measure what learners learn via traditional assessments and how they are thought (teacher quality); it is essential to target the classroom experiences that fundamentally shape student learning, and emphasize the range of skills required for lifelong well-being and societal cohesion. In addition t, the support received from teachers, peers, learning resources, parents and the community at large in equipping them with the relevant skills and competencies for 21st century employment opportunities as well as the state of the education environment (World education forum 2015, 2015).

However, I must commend Ms. Campbell for acknowledging that her pilot study may not be broadly applicable since it only looked at two institutions and noting that a subsequent  study will be conducted using a larger sample size.

There is the need for further research that explores the totality of educational quality.  We need to come together with the goal of creating quality education to make a better world. To help schools that are struggling by sharing resources and support schools that are performing stupendously, rather than to dispute and criticize. We should all strive for excellence, but not at the cost of another.

 

quality education-World education Forum 2015

Unite for Quality Education

 

References:

Adams, D. (1993). Defining educational quality. Improving Educational Quality Project Publication #1: Biennial Report. Arlington, VA: Institute for International Research.

Colby, J., & Witt, M. (2000). Defining quality in education. New York: UNICEF

Goldman, J . (2000). Webster’s New Pocket Dictionary. Cleveland, Ohio: Wiley Publishing Inc.

Understanding education quality. (2005). In EFA Global Monitoring Report (pp. 27-37).  Retrieved from http://www.unesco.org/education/gmr_download/chapter1.pdf.

What is quality education? (2013). Brussels, Belgium: Education International. Retrieved from http://www.unite4education.org/about/what-is-quality-education/

World Education Forum 2015. (2015). Incheon, Republic of Korea: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO.

 

 

 

 

 

A New Kind of Study Seeks to Quantify Educational Quality

Why is my professor still not black?

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“Why is my professor still not black?” is an article written by Dr. Winston Morgan who through the sharing of his experiences in his career, hopes it may shed some light on the situation involving ethnic minority academics in the UK (United Kingdom). Dr. Winston Morgan is a reader in Toxicology and Clinical Biochemistry at the University of East London at the School of Health, Sports and Bioscience. According to Dr. Morgan in a brief biography he splits his scholarly activities and research between “Bioscience research and research in outcomes for Black Asian and Minority Ethnic Students and Staff in Higher Education” (University of East London, 2015).

According to Morgan (2016), in the UK there are 8300 science, engineering and technology (SET) professors of which only thirty-five (35) are black; and to go a step further, the majority of these professors did not attend school in the UK. He noted that his white counterparts have more 1positive experiences as an aspiring scientist than he did. He shared that during a recent conversation with a colleague (a white professor), when he asked about the key figures involved in the shaping of his career; the colleague was able to readily provide him with a list of individuals who had either mentored, facilitated or sponsor his career. While in reflection of his experience, he noted that most of his time was spent defending himself against individuals who found it difficult to accept that he had the potential to be a good scientist. Also, the positive figures in his career were the individuals who helped him to pull through his negative experiences (Morgan, 2016).

Dr. Morgan noted some of the possible contributors to the low number of black professors. He pointed to the process of being promoted to a professor 2post; where most black academics do not work in institutions where they are able to network and build the reputation needed to be promoted to professorship. He cited that in order to be considered for promotion to professor,
one has to first be “suitably qualified” this involves being an author of a large number of “high-quality” publications, supervising PhD candidates and generating external funding (Morgan, 2016). He also noted that you would then need to gain support from your institution and obtain a list of “four referees who will support your application and certify that you are a leader in your field with an international reputation” (Morgan, 2016).

3Dr. Morgan in his article noted that a female professor with whom he had a conversation had similar experiences as his. However, there were differences as it relates to sex; where in the past “institutional” sexism contributed to the low numbers of female professors. Today this has improved as it is recognized that sexism does occur in academia, and as such there is less resistance when it is mentioned as a form of bias; However, it is the opposite for racism in academia (Morgan, 2016). Also noted was that, with the increase drive for more international students (diversity of student body), universities are now recognizing the importance of having professors from certain ethnic backgrounds that are either from a different country or home grown. Today one in ten academic staff are Asian, which is the same as white professors, while one in 30 black staff are professors (Morgan, 2016). I agree with Dr. Morgan that, if we want more black students to study science and to continue onto higher education and careers in the fields of science, engineering and technology; then these universities need to have more black professors and leaders in these areas of studies.

I have also thought of pursuing higher education outside the region and as such, the question posed by the article did grab my interest. I also shared the article with a dear friend of mine who pursued higher education in the field of science in a foreign country. Some of the issues raised in the article by Dr. Morgan, were things we previously discussed in many of our conversations throughout her tenure in pursuing her PhD. It was as if Dr. Morgan hit the nail on the head with his statements which highlighted what we considered to be the real issues which are often not spoken about. Often times we are told of the success gained and what I would like to coin as the “fairy tale stories”, but never about the process and issues faced based on sex and race. Below are a few exerts from our discussion including some of the experiences of my friend, we spoke about a lot of things but all could not be mentioned considering the specifications of this blog.

4“As a black female who has taken the jump to study out of the Caribbean region, outside of my home country, I can attest to experiencing racial and gender discrimination. These experiences have deeply impacted the way in which I view the world and not in a positive way. As a child growing up I had never experienced a situation where it was expected of me not to try my best, but in these countries I was immediately assumed to be dumb, stupid; my colour excluded me from being thought of as capable and it was expected that I would not try, due to the stereotypes of black people being lazy.”

Being in the science field it is assumed that you are exceptionally gifted, but often what is forgotten is that science requires a lot of hard work and dedication and it is not necessarily something which rewards you financially immediately. Thus financial support is needed for someone to dedicate themselves to science which is what is necessary to be successful; even more so at the higher education level. Black people are not afforded this luxury as we have historically been lacking in the necessary resources and materials as well as financially. This could also be linked to what was mentioned earlier by Dr. Morgan regarding blacks not having the same or being offered the same support as aspiring scientist as is seen in other minority groups. Also the limited networking opportunities which is needed for collaboration and funding for research development. I think this may also be one of the contributing factors as to why many blacks shy away from science and higher education, compared to the arts and business. I also believe that lack of financial support is one of the main reasons why black people are excluded from accessing higher education.

“The negative experiences I have had have shocked me to my core, as I expected persons in higher education (professors) to be more intelligent considering that they receive more education than the general population. What I did not know was that many persons in higher education due to the lifestyle practices (or culture) despite being exposed to higher education, lack lateral thinking and are quite parochial minded. I have met professors who have no idea of world geography, who are quick to form stereotypical judgments without having the full knowledge of the circumstances around a people. Take for example a Japanese professor who went to South Africa and went back to his lab and made comments that black people in South Africa are lazy and poor; and that they depend on the white people to give them money without even knowing the history of south Africa and apartheid and the subsequent effects. And yes, this professor was trained as a medical doctor with a PhD in pharmacology.”

As a female she has been exposed to racial stereotyping, where she was once told that she5 was a party girl and not fit for science because the only thing black people know how to do is party and have fun. There was also an instance in which she made a minor error/oversight in a calculation and as a result, she was berated and asked if “simple math was not taught in your country”. No room was given for the fact that human errors occur; instead it was all attributed to her being black and coming from a third world country.

One of the things we considered that may have led to the statement made above about her being more suited for parties rather than science academia; was that there was a lack of sufficient female role models holding higher positions in higher positions in the field of science in higher education. Thus, the females who are present, because they know it is a “boys club” tend to be very hard on other females, my experience has taught me that the males are more willing to mentor, are more encouraging and supportive than females.

“I was also surprised that persons of black ethnicities even in 1st world countries experience the similar lack/reduced access to higher education. Whereas in Jamaica where I was accustomed to seeing black people in higher positions, I was surprised to find out that this was not the norm in England as I was informed by my friend who had recently 6been offered an assistant professorship in physics in a southeast England university. He was very cognizant of the fact that he was the first black professor in nanophysics to be hired as a member of staff at a university in England; I remember being very surprised when he told me that. We were also very aware of the fact that the reason why he got the position was because he had done a short stint as an assistant professor in japan and this was probably just a means for the south east England university to increase their research prospects by hiring someone who had contacts/links in japan, evidence of nepotism which is very present in higher education”. This nepotism does not favour blacks unless you are bringing money into the university.

7I know that the issue raised by the article is not a case at our university in Jamaica, as majority of our academic staff are black; and so our experiences in pursuing higher education where race and diversity is considered will differ significantly. However, the reality of diversity in school, work place, politics and many other arenas is a global issue and is currently a ubiquitous topic of discussion. Hence I was not surprised by the statements made by Dr. Morgan regarding diversity, and I do agree that the academic staff needs to be more diversified as well. Especially in the black community there is need for more black professors that students can identify with and aspire to be like or even greater.

Please note that views represented here are not necessarily of all individuals of colour; but it is based on our personal experiences and opinions.

References
Morgan,W. (2016). Why is my professor still not black? The Times Higher Education.      Retrieved from https://www.timeshighereducation.com/blog/why-my-professor-still-not-black    

Morgan, W. (2015.) School of health, sports and bioscience. University of East London.
Retrieved from https://www.uel.ac.uk/hsb/staff/winstonmorgan/

Why is my professor still not black?