I am a firm believer in merit based education. As someone who has never felt adequately challenged in a classroom full of people who are my peers only with regard to their age, I am frustrated by the present system which encourages everyone toward academic mediocrity. While I understand the realistic hurdles implementing the below system would entail, I outline below the basics of what I think an ideal, merit-based educational system would look like. The entire system is understood to be public, funded in the same way schools are presently, with all people still having the option of private or home education. The system I describe would hopefully not only aid students in reaching their full potential and thereby cultivate for each generation the best doctors, lawyers, scientists, historians, philosophers, and artists but also properly allocate government resources so that the most tax money was being spent on those who were working the hardest in school and the least on those who are not. The present system which spends X dollars on the next Albert Einstein and X dollars on the next Big Mac “engineer,” while equitable is inefficient and inadequate in my opinion.
Merit-Based Education (An Ideal Scenario)
All education would be standardized, much like it is now in the USA, from Kindergarten to the 8th grade with a general curriculum oriented towards basic proficiency in English, Math, Science, and Social Sciences. Everyone, after all, in civilized society should be able to add two and two, read, write, know the capital of their own country, and understand that babies don’t come from storks. The only difference between the present system and the new system is that every year students would receive three different “grades,” or evaluations, instead of only one. The first would be the standard grade, based entirely on the performance of the student on work assigned and assessments administered. The second would involve teachers K-8 providing a subjective evaluation of each student based on personal interactions and perception of potential. The final evaluation would be in the form of a general, standardized aptitude test that would measure the various intelligences and objectively gauge a child’s potential. At the end of the 8th grade, a cumulative score would be calculated with the three scores from 8th grade having slightly more weight than those from the 7th grade, which in turn have slightly more weight than those from the 6th grade and so on. Every student would be ranked relative to the other students in his or her class, and be presented with four options.
1) A three year program that offers the entire high school curriculum at an accelerated rate.
2) A four year program that offers the entire high school curriculum at the standard rate it is given now.
3) A two year program that focuses on basic life skills and vocational training. It would provide the basics of a high school curriculum in a condensed form with heavy emphasis on electives that teach life and vocational skills.
4) A student may choose to withdraw from school altogether.
Based on the ranking derived from the scores accumulated in grades K-8, students would be given the following options:
- The top 15% would be granted automatic admission to the three year program, though they would have the option to pursue any of the four courses.
- The next 35% would be granted automatic admission to the four year program, though they could choose the two year program or withdrawal if they desired. Of these with automatic admission to the four year program, the top 5% could opt for automatic admission to the three year program on a probationary status with continuing enrollment being based on academic performance in the first year.
- The bottom 50% would be given automatic admission to the two year program, though they could simply choose to withdraw. Of these with automatic admission to the two year program, the top 15% could opt for automatic admission to the four year program on a probationary status with continuing enrollment being based on academic performance in the first year.
- Any student of any rank could prepare an appeal to be presented to an appeal board in an effort to gain admission into the three or four year program on a probationary status, with a certain quota of appeals required to be granted every year.
A program like this would hopefully solve some of the deficiencies in the present system: maximize potential both for students and tax payer dollars, reduce teacher burn-out, and still maintain a certain degree of charity for anyone who feels in some way disadvantaged by the system.