The Nation’s Report Card results have been released and it tells us that our students are not making the grade in Science and Math. The Pacific Rim countries are graduating students fluent in English and with better scores then we are.
Every time I turn around someone is saying how we are the source of innovation in the world and that might have been the case in the past. But to be able to be innovative in what we do, our citizenry must be able to think through problems. They must be able to think through the ramifications of their decisions. They must be able to dissect a problem to identify the root causes behind why it is a problem.
Instead we are turning out students who do not have the elementary skills to critically think through possible solution scenarios. We are turning out students who get into the workplace and can’t function because they do not understand what the problem is in the first place.
I periodically offer my time as a substitute teacher in the middle and high schools and have seen first hand students are given an assignment as simple as finding locations on a map, tell me that it is either too hard or they do not know how to do the assignment. What we are confronted with is an educational system which teaches to the test not teaching to develop critical analytical processes. I used to teach full time as a middle school science teacher and part of my lessons plans involved lengthy lab assignments to get my students to think through the results they were gaining. We don’t do that today we no longer challenge the students to think through scenarios.
So what does this mean to our human capital utilization. We have employees who flounder in our organizations, not because they are bad employees. The flounder because they do not know the right track to be taking. They flounder because as discussed in the book “The M-Factor” by Lynne Lancaster and David Stillman, they have not had the same training we did when we were in school. For example, the book discusses an employee who was not able to complete a project because the manager’s notes were in handwriting and she could not read cursive handwriting.
Innovation and collaboration are critical for us to regain our place in the world marketplace. We can not do that if we do not provide coming generations with the required skills to achieve that goal. We need to forget teaching to the test. We need to challenge our students to become viable parts of the global workplace. We need to provide them with the necessary skills to critical look at the problems in the workplace and seek new and innovative ways to solve those problems. We need to prepare our next generation to be able to compete with the Pacific Rim countries on an even keel. We are not doing that now.
The result are organizations that are forced to expend valuable resources to train the new employees when they join an organization, to gain the ability to exercise the skills the organization requires but were not given to them in their educational environment. We need to work as a team on both side sof the equation to solve this critical dilemma.