Since Sunday I have been attending a local high school here in Muscat. The education system here is quite the departure from my school back in the US. Though I have not been here long enough to observe the long-term effects of both teaching philosophies, by putting both styles in context, I have been trying to see the benefits of both systems as well. Having come from a progressive, experimental boarding school on a farm in Vermont, the minute a Cambridge IGCSE textbook was placed on my desk I began to quiver.
I must add that the Cambridge Exam is a very well respected system, and has won much acclaim through the years for its direct teaching approach. It is widely available across the globe in secondary education, and shares many similarities with its American counterpart, the IB system. For many, this course provides a free ticket past the first year of University. That is no small feat. The course is designed to mold a child from student to a working professional. By the time they enter the work force they are equipped with some very hirable qualities.
Americans culturally have a very casual attitude toward undergraduates. There is usually no expectation to have already chosen a career path, nor is there always access to such specialized majors in college. Hearing 10th graders discuss career qualifications and resumes was quite startling for me.
Just last year I was taking multi-disciplinary classes. To put it more abstractly, making connections from more obscure angles, while also examining the world from a microscope. It sounds quite vague, but it is truly an adjustment when for the first time I am being taught what I’m supposed to see. Having to readjust my mindset and learn to focus my self on mathematical and scientific functioning has proved to be very difficult.
However, though your education here may not be purely influenced by your personal pursuits, there is a very direct connection from your education to future business endeavors.
I do appreciate analytical work, but in this context, the way you apply yourself to such exercises is quite different. Although I’m sure kids end up learning just as much, I find for me at least, it is lacking in the personal connection and reward from both my internal and external connections to the material.
Since Science and Mathematics are placed at such a high standard, there are limited opportunities for creative outlets. This can be quite challenging for someone like my self. I have noticed that this stance also shows through in much of the testing process.
A large majority of the grade point average is taken from these exams. This test is the final measure of your achievements from the past year. The majority of class is spent familiarizing yourself with the course material with the Cambridge endorsed textbooks, and by the winter you begin consolidating your knowledge by looking over previous exams from past years. A good test score could award you with not only an international education, but also a government scholarship, and of course family pride. In the scenario a child does poorly on the exam, since the diploma comes directly from IGCSE, it could actually be more detrimental on the transcript, forcing them to retake the year.
My school in the states is more directed at project-based learning. Because of this you learn for the process not for the test. This would definitely be challenging without motivation or self-discipline, so in some scenarios it is easy to fall through cracks. However by taking out the competiveness, one is relieved of all social anxiety and emotional tension that comes with such structured courses.
It seems like most schools in the area take a more different approach. Part of living in a smaller country means the ministries will be more involved in creating school curriculums. That being said, the ministry of education has a much more of a personal relationship with the local schools as compared to in the US. It is not uncommon for teachers to attend meetings there as well. Even though there are more guidelines for the teacher, they would also have more input in the system than in a country the size of the US. There is some sort of flexibility in this system, but it also takes more of a group effort from the school administrations because many of the curriculum regulations are also in place for private schools.
Both systems pose interesting views on the way kids learn. There are definitely advantages in both philosophies, but adjusting from one extreme to another can be quite taxing for a student. Hopefully this will prove to be a good learning experience for me. Maybe I will find some insight on what education like this is relation necessitates with growing populations and fewer and fewer job opportunities. Also no matter where you are, or what curriculum you use, good teacher really make a difference. Everyone wants the best for their kids, though the resources you are given certainly play a role, at the end of the day it’s really what you make of it.