I REFER to the letter "A US education opens many minds" (NST, Dec 4). We need to recognise that the purpose of education is the preservation and enhancement of knowledge, the development of character and the cultivation of human potential which will best prepare the individual for the evolving cultural, social, economic and political conditions both at present and, more importantly, in the future.
Secondly, we need to empower "players" within the education system (policy-makers, administrators, teachers, students and community representatives) to pursue achieving excellence and to ensure that everyone who passes through the system has access to all that's needed -- without compromise, impediment or discrimination -- to pursue that goal.
The American education system aims to establish and achieve the highest standards through a variety of measures. These include:
Textbooks that will emphasise student understanding;
Student assessments that will test whether students understand and can use at high levels the knowledge and skills in the specific content area;
Instructional programmes and methods that will emphasise not only the basics but also reasoning and problem solving;
Teacher education and professional development that will prepare educators to teach to challenging levels; and
New technologies that will increase learning to meet standards geared to internationally competitive levels of performance.
Achieving high academic standards requires an education system that is rigorous, dynamic and intellectually arousing in content and methodology, has adequate and quality resource support and is regularly monitored and evaluated for corrections and upgrading.
Also, students should be facilitated to be an active part of a system that systematically applies higher order thinking skills combined with creative assignments and projects, and continuous objective assessments based on a broad range of criteria.
In any area of human endeavour, we know the great value of holding those concerned to the highest standards and unless we expect and demand those standards, it will not bring out the best in anyone, or in any enterprise or system.
That's true for the education system as well. When we do not hold all concerned to the highest academic standards that are in the context of the needs of the times, the result can be low, distorted achievements and the tragedy of students emerging, at various levels from such a system without ever having been challenged to fulfill their potential.
Establishing high standards lets everyone in the education system know what to aim for. They allow every student, parent and teacher to share in common expectations of what students should know and be able to accomplish.
Students will learn more when more is expected of them, in school and at home. And, systematically and progressively maintaining high standards will help create coherence and complementarities in educational practices by aligning teacher education, instructional materials and methods and assessment practices.
High education standards achievement doesn't occur by pitching it at a high level and expecting every student and teacher to cope with attaining expected goals. Rather, it starts from preschool years to make certain that all children will start first year at school ready to learn.
Through the school system, every child must be supported and provided all opportunities to graduate, having completed secondary school.
All students should be facilitated to complete their schooling having demonstrated competency over challenging subjects including the national language, English, mathematics, science, pupil's own and foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history, and geography,
The nation's teaching complement must have access to programmes for the continued improvement of their professional skills and the opportunity to acquire the knowledge needed to instruct and prepare our students for the 21st century.
Every school should promote partnerships that will increase parental and community involvement in promoting the social, emotional and academic growth of children.
It is, therefore, essential that for the education system to be one of, if not the best, we need to make sure that our children always get the most out of it at different levels, from preschool to primary, secondary and through colleges, universities and trade and technical schools.
Simply put, every school must be geared towards ensuring that all students learn to use their minds well, so they are prepared for further learning as they proceed to tertiary levels, to expand their knowledge and later specialise in selected fields; exercising their rights, duties and obligations as responsible citizens; and, using their knowledge and skills to fulfill productive employment needs in the nation's modernising economy.
Rueben Dudley, Petaling Jaya, Selangor | email@example.com New Straits Times Letters to the Editors 18 December 2012