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Allocation of budgets and cost performance in primary education May 27, 2006

Posted by fukumimi in Education, Japan.
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From the Daily Telegraph (5/20)

Books are more than twice as effective as computers in raising standards among pupils, says a senior academic who spent 30 years training teachers to use computers.

Given that schools have a limited budget to work with, they need to look at the best use for their money. Whilst IT education is undoubtedly important in this day and age, basic education (the 3R's, etc) remains as important as ever. Without a basic foundation of solid skills in areas like logical thinking, comprehension and communication, no amount of IT literacy is going to add much real value.

Whilst there are IT related skills which are valuable in and of themselves, my personal opinion is that the most important value proposition of information technology is that IT can have a powerful gear/leverage effect in multiplying the expression of the products of fundamental intellectual capacity. Without the fundamentals in place, the gear/leverage has nothing to work on.

I  am a vocal proponent for a focus on core skills especially in the early years of education. Given that schools do not have an unlimited budget, I would hope schools give consideration to results like these. 

Critics of the findings may argue that the study is unfair because it is measuring the benefits of books vs computers in improving results in traditional tests whilst ignoring the benefits of IT education in areas which are typically not measured by these tests.
However, my personal emphasis in core skills leads me to think that we should not be sacrificing opportunities to increase levels in these areas in exchange for other benefits, at least at the primary school level. It seems undeniable that basic skills are in decline anyway, and I would suggest that IT skills are most effective when they are supplmental to a solid set of fundamental skills, not a replacement thereof. 

This philosophy is one reason I am against the increased level of English education at an early stage in Japanese schools. Given a fixed amount of time in schools, can we afford to reduce the time spent on (especially) basic Japanese, maths and science to accomodate English?

That is even before we get to the question of finding enough teachers who have an acceptable level of English. As part of the discussion of teaching reform, the government has set a target level of english competence for english teachers.

The target level is TOEIC730. 

I don't quite think that is a nearly sufficient for teachers. (yes, I am being sarcastic. I don't think it is anywhere near sufficient) Of course, setting the target at that level means there are many teachers who aren't even at that level. A shuddering thought, in this day and age. And it is just a target, nothing about getting rid of teachers who just not cut out to be english teachers (but somehow find themselves teaching english today).

For more laughs, the report/recommendations produced by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (isn't that a bit too long?) english education is here.

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1. ICT in Japanese Education » Blog Archive » Primary Education - Allocations of budget and cost performance - May 27, 2006

[…] Read at from the inside, looking in, my colleague Shinichiro Fukushige’s IT related blog. […]


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