In the past I had a very from-the-outside-looking-in kind of opinion about public education. I used to think that it was all about the quality of education. But, all that changed after I started getting an insiders view of public education in the US through my wife’s experiences as an elementary school teacher.
One of the first things I realized was that public education shapes a nation. It is the most powerful establishment through which future generations are shaped and readied to keep a country striving forward. But the key for any country to be able to achieve this is to make sure that public education is available to each and every child, that there is an established standard and infrastructure for education, and community involvement.
The second thing I noticed was that it’s not about the quality of education. It’s all about every child receiving 12 years of education. More than how good US kids are in math as compared to Indian kids, what matters more is that, as a percentage of population, more US kids are educated than Indian kids. Having most of the young generation going into adulthood with at least a high school education is the best thing public education can offer.
Thirdly, it’s not about being good in certain subjects, it’s about having the freedom to learn and experience everything. Public schools should not only be centers for learning math, science, geography etc. but also where children have the freedom to grow their own personalities, explore their talents, and other avenues of interest and curiosity. It has to be an all rounded education.
Fourth, think local and national. Public education should not ignore the local culture, languages, civics, traditions, history, geography etc. Along with the national agenda, state governments and local communities should have room to introduce local curriculum into the education system. It’s a way for safeguarding local knowledge, languages, culture, and traditions; from being erased by a National agenda.
Finally, the most important of my observations–public education is the ultimate equalizer. One of the key ingredients for Freedom is equality, and public education if done right, can create a level playing field when children finish high school and enter into adulthood. The equating factor is that everyone received the same kind of 12 years of education. They may have other differences based on wealth, religion, race, color, caste, language etc. but when it comes to paving the path to the future through higher education, their professions, businesses, day to day interactions, public services; a nation can be assured of an equality established by public education.