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Editorial: Making education the priority

Rowan-Salisbury Schools Teacher of the Year Cassie Thompson and Kannapolis Schools Teacher of the Year Lindsay Cooney had their own kind of study abroad this summer when they visited students and schools in the tiny country of Singapore.

If their impressions of the educational approach they witnessed in Singapore could be summed up in words or phrases, it might go something like this: family pride in education, excited about learning, bilingual, respect, unity, community buy-in, well-planned, motivated, cultural awareness, good teacher salaries, professional development, character education and buildings designed for learning.

The striking difference between schools in Singapore and schools here is “they are pouring money into their educational system,” Thompson told Post reporter Jeanie Groh.

“As a nation, they know their future is in education,”  Thompson added.

For decades, candidates and elected officials at all levels of government have told us children are our future but how often have they delivered on this statement, which is always delivered as a promise? Comparing the United States to Singapore is definitely an apple-to-oranges exercise, but it still serves as a reminder that huge strides could be made in education were it made everyone’s priority.

Thompson and Cooney were heartened by something they saw in Singapore. They expected Singapore students to be way ahead of their own schools in terms of technology. But that wasn’t the case. The tools Singapore teachers were using in their classrooms are the same as those employed here.

Last year, Rowan-Salisbury Schools gave each child in the third to 12th grades a digital device — third- through eighth-graders received iPads, while high schoolers worked with MacBook Airs. This year, the “one-on-one” program is expanding so that students in kindergarten through the second grade will have personally assigned iPads, which stay at school.

Andrew Smith, director of digital innovation for Rowan-Salisbury Schools, says the digital conversion wasn’t always easy, but it was justified. The students are doing “vastly different work” and the learning atmosphere is changing, he adds.

Rowan-Salisbury Schools start a new year next Monday. One new thing this year will be a “digital citizenship curriculum,” which over the  course of a student’s years in school exposes him or her to more than 200 lessons on how to be responsible online.

In conjunction with those efforts will be a push for more parental involvement — parent nights devoted to teaching adults how to use the digital devices and how to check behind their children.

It all goes back to the kinds of things Thompson and Cooney saw in Singapore. Character education, respect, community buy-in and family involvement. As for the money pouring into education, it won’t happen until we pay more than lip service to children being our future.

 

 

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