Archived Story

Education must be relevant to world [UPDATED]

Published 9:59am Friday, October 11, 2013 Updated 12:04pm Friday, October 11, 2013

I recently read an article in “USA Today” titled, “Americans’ basic skills lag.”

The article asserted that in a comparison of 23 industrialized nation’s workforces, 16-65-year-old Americans lag behind the world in problem-solving ability, reading skills, and math skills.

The article went on to state that our oldest Americans are among the best and brightest in our workforce and as they leave the workforce, they are being replaced by workers who average lower than their international peers in problem-solving and basic skills.

These are some pretty scary statistics that paint a less than flattering image of the American Educational System and our ability to train a world class workforce for the 21st Century.

As an educator and school leader, I have always felt that the role of school is to connect students with their dreams by taking students to their highest potential.

Our role as educators is to equip our students with the knowledge and skills to not only function, but to thrive in life.

To this end, we must strive to produce a top quality workforce that will move our nation forward.

Last month, I was afforded the opportunity to meet with a few area employers and business personnel and asked what they looked for in employees and what the school could do to better prepare students.

The desired attributes for an employee that were stated by this group were items such as reliability, communication, initiative, team work, and a desire to do “quality” work.

This group also gave me some advice on what graduates should be able to demonstrate: communication, problem solving skills, critical thinking, and accessing and integration of information.

While this was a lot of information to digest in one meeting, I felt that these employers/business personnel hit the nail on the head.

The future American workforce will need to have people who demonstrate these qualities and have the work ethic and tenacity to complete in an ever changing world.

American schools need to rethink the process of education and focus on embedding 21st Century skills such as problem-solving, communication, critical thinking, and accessing/integration of information into the curriculum.

We need to go beyond simply covering standards to focusing on the application of these standards.

Schools need to engage their students in thinking critically about what they are learning and avoid passive teaching and learning activities.

We need to make education relevant to our student’s lives and develop opportunities for students to learn valuable workforce skills.

I believe that we can affect change and that the American workforce can rise to become the best workforce in the world once again.

I also believe that for this change to come about, the educational system of our country must lead innovation of the teaching and learning process.

America’s schools are the backbone of our workforce and must be pushing for continuous improvements.

It is my hope that this next generation of students will be the problem solvers, innovators, thinkers, and entrepreneurs that we so desperately need.

They will become the citizens that possess the desired attributes to be called the “greatest generation yet.”


Jeremiah Olson is the superintendent of Underwood School.

  • BillSchulz

    Thoughtful piece. But, may I suggest that instead of coming up with expensive new technologies and training for teachers, you study what it is that the foreign school systems, who are beating the pants off American teachers and students, actually do to educate their students. What topics and subjects do they emphasize? How do they teach not only useful skills, but impart a sense of being a valuable and productive employeee, a contributing member of their communities, and not just hedonistic narcissists absorbed with themselves and their own pleasures? Learn how the foreign school systems involve parents in motivating their children to achieve in academics, in community service, in personal development. Learn how to teach the teachers to keep their classrooms concentrated on subject matter and restrict the intrusion of matters of purely social distractions which have a deliterious affect on learning.

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