Over the past year, I taught Computer Science to students in St. John’s Wood, a lovely section of central London in the United Kingdom. COVID or not, it had always been a dream to teach abroad and see how other countries educate students. No country’s system is perfect, but regarding achievement, UK students score higher on international exams in Mathematics and Science, and about level in reading. Why is this?
Of course, there are a variety of reasons that feed into this gap in performance. Holistically, the system is vastly different. The curriculum that is taught is nationally developed and assessed. It is common for schools to have a strict uniform policy and specific behavioral expectations. The expectation and standard for achievement is high as well. There is a very strong culture of safeguarding students and creating a professional environment.
Please don’t misunderstand me; I don’t believe that we should completely change our education system to match the UK’s. However, there is an overall spirit that is produced from this more simple, uniform environment that we should strive to mirror. If I’m not mistaken, it’s a spirit that we had in the US education system and have lost over time. I believe that spirit can be summed up in one question:
Please, can I just teach?
Ironically, it seems that, as our country shifted towards data and accountability to determine school and school district quality, our curriculum has become more politicized, and there has been more external pressure to push ideas onto students without even defining them. In the UK, I was under pressure to push students to perform – not adopt or cling to curriculum and ideology. Can I just teach and assess students on their knowledge of geometric shapes? Can I challenge them to adopt extended metaphor in an original poem? Can I lead a student discussion on any controversies that come about in current events without being pressured to pick a side? Please, can I do what I love to do? Please, can I just teach?
That’s one of the many great reasons why I’ve joined the team of administrators at Riverstone United Christian Academy in West Chester, Pennsylvania. We want to prepare students for future success, and we want to use innovative practices that help students achieve. We just want to do what we love – we want to teach!