Parents are very concerned with their children’s education, attending parent-teacher conferences and analyzing grades in order to gauge their child’s progress. They claim that they’re acting in the best interest of their offspring, but their chief aim is receiving favorable report cards. For most parents it doesn’t matter whether their child understands long division, World War I or proper semicolon use; they simply want their child to get good grades so they can enroll in a reputable university and earn more good grades.
But are grades really a trustworthy measurement of understanding? As we’ve already discussed, testing in schools often more accurately measures memorization and study tactics than authentic comprehension. Also, we know that students are often graded on knowledge and abilities that have little or nothing to do with the subject of study. For example, it is common for students to be asked to draw pictures, record and edit video, give presentations and create posters in classes such as English and social studies. These tasks are often explained as an avenue for artistic students to succeed in classes that aren’t artistic in nature. In other words, we want students with a poor understanding of the subject matter to do well. In addition, we also know that our education system does little to prepare young people for adult life, namely raising a family.
So what if we actually wanted to measure, with some objectivity, the quality of the education a child is receiving? In order to properly assess the situation, we must look at both the efficiency and the effectiveness of our educational system, for we must consider both the resources and time spent educating students as well as the results of that education if we are to determine the success of our schools. Let’s being by examining educational efficiency.
There are about 195 school days every year, with students spending about 6 hours of each day in class. This regimen echoes 12 times, allowing each student about 15,000 hours of education by the time they graduate. However, this number doesn’t account for time spent studying, doing homework or participating in any extra-curricular activities. As for the funding, the total projected education expenditures in the United States for the 2012-2013 school year is $571 billion. With about 50 million primary and secondary students enrolled nationwide, the annual cost per student works out to approximately $11,500. Now let’s examine the fruit of this expense.
American College Testing exams are designed to measure comprehension of English, reading, math and science in an attempt to determine the level of preparation for post-secondary education. Recent scores indicate that only 1 in 4 high school graduates are prepared for college in all four areas. These findings are corroborated in a study produced by the Alliance for Excellent Education, which revealed that 1 in 3 young adults are unprepared for life after high school. The study asked employers of recent graduates to rate them in certain areas. Around 80% of employers observed deficiencies in communication, work ethic, critical thinking and basic writing skills.
This apparent lack of effective education could even translate into a national security issue, according to the United States Secretary of Education. Today, nearly 25% of young people are unable to pass the U.S. Army entrance exam, which asks basic science, reading and math questions such as, “If 2 plus x equals 4, what is the value of x?”
So after 15,000 hours at school and $150,000 spent, we should expect high school graduates to be flexing some mental agility and confounding their elders with the volumes of knowledge they retain, but as we’ve seen, this isn’t the case. The failure of this educational model becomes even more stark when contrasted with an alternative to traditional education: homeschooling.
Studies have repeatedly confirmed that children taught at home outperform their publicly educated peers on standardized tests. They are also spared from many temptations and adversities that public school students encounter, resulting in reduced teen pregnancies, drug and alcohol abuse and bullying. A common criticism of homeschooling is that children are sheltered from society, leading to deficiencies in communication and social awkwardness. These assertions have no legitimate foundation, since studies show that homeschooled students are significantly more likely to vote, involve themselves in the community and identify themselves as happy. Besides, if parents were really concerned that their children would miss out on the social aspects of public education, they could simply reject and berate their children throughout the day.
So homeschooling is clearly more effective than traditional public education, but how efficient is it in terms of the time and resources invested? The average cost of homeschooling is about $500 per year, which is about 4.3% of the cost of public education. Homeschooled students also put in less time, usually requiring only 3 to 5 hours per day, or around 67% of the time a public student will take.
Homeschooling is clearly far more effective and efficient than public education, revealing just how unsuccessful our schools have become. For if a facility with a library, gymnasium, classrooms, computers, educated teachers and administration, special needs services and counselling can be outperformed by a concerned parent with a textbook, then our approach to education is seriously dysfunctional.
If instead of spending $60 per day to send our child to public school, we were to homeschool them and put the difference in a savings plan, our child would graduate with a better education, a happier life and about $190,000 in the bank.