I have been teaching for quite some time and in a few different countries with different cultures and perspectives.
The two major differences in the approach that I have seen is a standardized testing versus the non-standardized testing.
Looking at the outcome of the two systems one would ponder which is better and why.
Ultimately every school board is looking at the success rates of its students and want them to meet the provincial standards.
Education and skills overview here is the link states that Canada is only second to US and its college completion rate and is second to Finland among 17 other nations, but what about the rest of the world and their performance at the universities.This is what I see happening in Canada.
By the year 2000 the new Ontario curriculum was in place and the teachers in the schools put a lot of effort in integrating the 13 year curriculum into a 12 year one. This did matter a lot especially in the sciences and math areas. The province wants a 70 % average for its students, so that is the bench mark. So how are the students really doing in science and math? Universities report that there is a consistent drop in performance in the math and science areas this can be validated from many sources(not mentioned here)
One of the thoughts is that the curriculum is content intense and hence the students do not get a chance to really develop analytical skills and hence resort to memorization, this has an adverse effect on enrollment of students taking physics, math and chemistry as they are unable to process information and ultimately drop the course. The drop out rate for these courses are increasing and will continue to do so. My concern here is that this is typically a Canadian concern as most countries in the world students graduate at 17 from high school and they have been found to do better in math and sciences at the universities. Refer to international students enrollment requirements for many universities. This indicates that there is no parity when comparing Canadian students with the international students. An there is no rationale in saying that our curriculum in content intense.
Socioeconomic, societal and lifestyles have changed quite a bit. Video games and online activity has taken away skills like reading, sports etc. out of their lives. Use of calculators for trivial calculations has become the norm; relation between quantities, space and time do not exist. Creativity is declining, writing papers involves “copy and paste”.
Now the norm is that boards like the ministry wants all schools to attain the provincial average. So how is this to be achieved?
One easy way is lowering standards, how this is done
1. Summer school
2. Night School
3. Modified assessments to meet provincial standards (accommodations) not academic standards
4. Get teachers with incorrect qualifications to teach science and math
5. Incorrect placement of students in the different courses (Guidance is responsible for this)
If you have taught night school or summer school you know what I mean. Recently I had a student who earned a 35% Mark in the semester work for science achieved a 67 % mark from the summer school. The student has no clue of what he is supposed to know and wants to drop the course as s/he has not met the required standard.
How do you deal with a class of wrongly placed students, modify assessment to meet the provincial standards. An applied level student should remain with a group of applied level students to attain his best possible potential, if he is placed along side academic students neither will achieve their fullest potential.
Another interesting fact is, I know teachers with arts qualification teach sciences, how can you justify this. Most European and Asian schools only let subject special teachers to teach a particular program. Here in Canada if you have 2 credits in a subject you can teach the subject and become a specialist, where as in other countries it is 4 credits. Overseas high school students do not learn science but physics, chemistry, biology,ecology etc. This makes it possible for graduates in the relevant disciplines to teach their specialty as it is to be taught. It makes a difference because Asian students do better than the North American counterpart.
The trend among newly qualified teachers is to depend on the web for class work. They do a scavenging of the web for worksheets for a given topic and that is the lesson for the day. Half the time they do not have a clue as to what the intent of the work sheet was.(This is not the case for all the teachers but quite a few who should be forming concrete ideas in the young mind)
At the same time there are exceptional teachers with experience who do an excellent job, if it was not for them the system would have collapsed.
At the same time I should complement the top 5% of students who do an exceptional job they are meant to succeed and a good teacher will only augment their success.
Change is possible if change in perspective is attained, think globally and not locally.