“Education is the foundation … “ March 4

Date:           5 March 16

By:               Frank Gue, B.Sc., MBA, Burlington   905 634 9538

For:              Letters The Spec

Re:                “Education is the foundation … “ March 4

 

Dear Lee:

 

Columnist Brasseur is correct in his repeated emphasis upon improved curriculum as one of the main means of improving the quality of education in the developing nations.

 

Now we need someone to place the same repeated emphasis upon improved curriculum in our own vaunted “developed (‘Western’) world” schools.

 

Why?  Because we are surrounded by recent high school graduates many of whom speak and write poorly, cannot count, add or subtract, and know little of science; and because many commentators misplace the blame for this on high schools when the blame starts in Grade 1 or earlier.

 

Ontario’s education system leans heavily upon the “progressive” model with such elements as “discovery” learning.  In this mode, the teacher, as they say, is no longer the “sage on the stage” but is simply a coach, helping students to “discover” the content of their subjects.   This mode has been authoritatively and totally discredited by many educational professionals such as ­­­­­­Kirschner, “Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching”, available on the Web.

 

Why “discovery” does not work is evident if one digs a couple of layers down in the definitions.  Consulting Wiki, we find:

 

“Mathematics[edit]

 

“Textbooks … omit many standard arithmetic methods, instead relying on students to construct their own ways to compute averages, and perform multiplication and division. Teachers are directed to discourage students who may have been taught how to regroup or take a sum and divide by the number of items to compute an average.”

 

“Discourage” is certainly the right word.

 

Think about that for a minute.  Humanity took thousands of years to arrive at multiplication and division and just the concept of the zero: and we ask seven-year-olds to “construct their own ways” to do it?  There now, dear reader, kindly take a few hours and develop differential and integral calculus.  Never mind those tedious geniuses Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibnitz; just “construct your own way” to do it.

 

Small wonder Canada’s math scores continue downward.  We have diminishing numbers of dedicated teachers who give direct instruction, assign practice problems, and test their charges for mastery of math; and who can, while doing it, instill respect and liking for math, which is “the key to the universe”, as one of my teachers of long ago termed it.

 

Let’s hear it for “regressive math” rather than so-called “progressive” math.  It would turn our Ontario math scores back up.

 

Frank Gue

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