Monday, June 30, 2008

Some more comparisons

The education system in the US seems unique in some aspects. Almost as if there are unique systematic results.

In Switzerland at age six you begin primary school which takes six years to complete. Then every canton has a different way of figuring where the student goes next, but it is always done through a difficult acceptance exam and/or based on your grades. This decision sends the student to one of three options based on their ability. The smartest would go straight to gymnasium (high school, not equal to US high schools), or secondary school A or B. After secondary school the six-teen year old student can choose to finish two or three more years at gymnasium or be done with school and start their career with an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships last usually around three years and during that time the individual also takes courses in their field of work. Nine-teen year old persons who complete gymnasium will normally always continue with studying at a university afterwards. Here is the biggest difference, the price for studying at a Swiss university is averaged 600-700 CHF per semester. They then complete five years and have a masters, although there is a much newer option of a bachelors degree lasting around four years. This different possibility doesn`t seem to be valued and is viewed more so as an incomplete. Now is when things get similar in the states, where depending on how good you are at writing proposals for grants to continue with your PhD determines your final potential. So in my opinion, every bright child in Switzerland gets the chance to go as far as possible academically without money restricting their opportunity.

Being in the middle of college in Colorado I believe I have a good idea of how fortunate I am compared to other children in the United States.

Public schooling from elementary to high school is funded primarily by the neighborhood's property taxes. School districts require kids to go to school close to where they live, hence you can`t travel an hour away just to go to a better school without major questioning from the school administration. This simply means that public schools in poverty (usually inner cities) will have less money for schools (which means: out of date or no textbooks, non-existent computer/lab supplies, low paid teachers, zero nutritional cafeterias, broken facilities and barely functioning buildings with overcrowded classrooms) when their districts are the most needy, and wealthier neighborhoods (the suburbs) will have more expensive houses and also higher property tax revenues to put into their already affluent school district (maybe two computers per student, in numbers). Jonathon Kozol wrote a book (Savage Inequalities: Children in America`s School) fifteen years ago with case studies researching geographic location and correlating the amount of money per pupil, the other obvious correlation was race to location. Even though this reference is out of date I`m pretty sure there still isn`t ONE high school made up of 95 percent or higher black students and averaging $4000.- per pupil, this amount of money per pupil exists but is at high schools made up of 95 percent or higher white students. This seems to me as though some people are given every opportunity to succeed and others are set up to fail.

I could continue with details of the difference in reality of these two Americas but do not think this is the appropriate place. I spoke of the states having a systematic result, and if you still don`t understand what I'm getting at, it seems as though capitalistic America is institutionalized to reinforce inequality while the upper-lower class gap grows. It isn`t just that these poor children don`t go to college and get a job to help them move away from poverty, but their depressing "community" quite possibly also hosting a toxic landfill in the back yards, creates a situation of despair that leads to a 50% high school drop out rate and the ones who do graduate are often barely literate. Imprisonment of these oppressed nations (in the States) is the other dead end where I think too many of the bright souls never get a chance to shine.

The middle class educational systematic result is usually debt, unlike here in Switzerland where five years with a 1000£ annual tuition accumulates to maybe six grand and a Masters degree. In the states many students get a BA and 50-100,000 dollar debt with no experience and in need of an internship before they start at the bottom of corporate America, which is currently dealing with a declining economy and a war important paradigm.
I`m really interested and open to hear comments from you guys on what you feel, think or know about this comparison within our homeland.


ryanpei said...

I enjoyed reading that, thanks for expanding on those topics

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