New (school) year resolutions

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | A world-wide study published earlier this year (in Britain's Guardian, 31 March 2011) linked low education rates with poor health, poor nutrition, and low family income. These linkages were found in every country studied, differing only by the numbers -- rich and poor, developed and under-developed, north and south.

Rich countries, like the USA, have as serious a problem with poor education levels and health, as do the poorest, like Nepal. Intelligence or "competitiveness" are irrelevant, in large numbers.

The research uncovered another unexpected link: "Children drop out from disinterest as much as for economic reasons." Boys, especially, lose interest in their education more often than do girls.

With family income, nutrition, and general health so important, no surprise the study found those societies with meals in schools, or meals delivered through supplements to parents, had better school success rates than societies where everyone is on their own. Parents favoured meals delivered in the school by either the school or a contractor over income supplements to the parents to buy and prepare better lunches.

A second common comment was that schools do not consult or involve parents enough. Those systems with strong parental involvement showed a higher rate of success than those without, in public or private systems.

Interesting too, and contrary to our experience here in Quebec, the results of private and public systems are roughly equal in terms of students succeeding in later levels of schooling. In Britain the public system out-delivers the private, in primary education.

Contrary to the views of many Quebec liberal-minded parents, private education systems seem to do as good a job in providing both a high-quality education and the non-curricular needs of students: Meals and nutrition, physical activity, and esteem-building, as do the public systems with their greater resources and experience.

The study did contain data showing that the American voucher system, where the state subsidizes parental purchase of private education, benefited the institutions selling their education (mainly religions) more than benefited the students.

It also showed, to the gratification of the liberal-minded, that calls for "more choices, more variety" and for "market-driven efficiencies" in education come almost exclusively from the upper and upper-middle classes.

In many instances, the delivery of good education has little to do with funding, especially in sciences, and more to do with personnel, teacher attitude, classroom size, and "good management."

Scarcity leads to bribery and corruption, the study found. In poorer regions, people with wealth can buy better education for their children, and often shift resources to the schools of the wealthier areas.

Many of these linkages do not apply to our schools (our private system is tiny, and corruption is non-existent), but others definitely do and merit consideration by Aylmer parents and educators. Parental involvement in classrooms, trips, homework, projects -- and in their kids' nutrition and health -- makes a huge difference. A new school year is two months away -- a perfect time for new year's resolutions.

Copyright © 2011 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/06.11