Saturday, June 30, 2012

Paying the Price

Paying the Price / Yoani Sánchez
Translator: Unstated, Yoani Sánchez

restauranteTo brag about the achievements of our children and to crow
about the good grades they got on a test are some of the pleasures that
we can't forgo when the opportunity presents itself. June comes and we
bump into a neighbor or a friend and the obligatory question is, "How is
your child doing studying for the final exams?" The heat takes a
backseat, and summer's apathy gains some mystery with the questions:
Will they pass or fail? Will they be promoted to the next grade, or not?
Long nights are spent solving math problems, the tutors can't keep up
with so many students, and outside the schools they post the listings
with the standings. The year-end vortex sucks us in… but this year there
are several new features.

After testing one educational method after another, now several batches
of students trained in these teaching "laboratories" have come to the
university. I am referring to those who, from the first day of junior
high school, faced those so-called "emerging teachers" at the
blackboard; the same teenagers who, for years, received 60% of their
classes through a television screen. My son is a good example of this.
He benefited from the abandonment of the "high schools in the
countryside" program — excellent news — but he suffered from the
restructuring of the school program, plagued with misfits, lost hours,
and the poor academic preparation of the educators. He has also been
affected by the high desertion rates among the ranks of teachers whose
salaries remain on the symbolic, if not the ridiculous, plane. Added to
this is the presence — excessive and continuous — of an ideology that
pervades even subjects and materials as far from the political spectrum
as possible.

These winds are now bringing real storms. The lack of educational
quality is bumping up against an increasing rigor in the final exams for
high school. The result: entire schools where they are barely able to
pass three or four students; complete groups who must cram and take the
test second time, and even a third; parents on the edge of nervous
collapse on learning that their "intelligent" child doesn't even know
the Pythagorean theorem. To the lack of control comes the firm hand; the
delirious educational system starts to see reason. But we're not talking
about numbers here, it concerns young people whose learning has been far
below what now appears on the test. People for whom volunteerism and
school experimentation have been shown to fail.

29 June 2012

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