The Past, Present, & Future of The Western Education System, & Why It Is A Problem
And is there a solution?
The Western education system has been around since the 17th century and has grown and evolved since its beginning. While there have been some steps taken for progression concerning student learning, there have been many decisions made that have caused the education system to take a turn for the worse. In this post I will give a brief summary of the past and present of the Western education system and the problems that I see in the coming years, as well as what you as a parent (or educator) can do about it!
Western education in the 17th Century essentially taught children how to read and write, do mathematics, and study religion. As time went on there was a general acceptance that education was created to teach the rules of society to children and show them how to fit into the world around them.
In the early days, classrooms were smaller with different grades often being taught together. The 20th century brought the idea of “education for all” to the classrooms. The government took over control of the curriculum and schooling was eventually provided for almost every student in Western society. Science became an important part of learning as did liberal arts.
Post-secondary education was still only a possibility for the wealthy, but over time more and more focus was placed on the additional schooling required for students, depending on the career they wished to have.
In the past there were tests to pass in order for a student to prove comprehension of the work that was given to them. If they could not pass these tests, they were not permitted to move to the next grade level. Rules in the school system were strict, and education was very much a one-size-fits-all arrangement.
The present school system in Western society has an acute focus on social politics. In traditional public schools, the government in power is eagerly pushing its social agenda into the classrooms. Parents are less a part of the current school system and they do not tend to have much say in the happenings in the local school. The teachers in the education system often encourage students to divulge information to them, even personal issues that may be happening at home.
Students are taught to trust their teachers before their own parents. They are also told that the teacher is always right. The teacher is believed to be the expert on whatever topic is being taught, even if it is against the fundamental principles taught in the student’s home.
Certain logical and moral thought is no longer accepted in many schools. If a student voices an opinion that is against the mainstream ideals, that student may be disciplined by the governing teachers. Teachers are censored even more so in the present school system as the government grows stricter with what is and is not permitted to be taught to children.
One of the most obvious changes in Canadian schools is that a child can no longer fail a grade. More and more schools are incorporating this standard (or lack thereof). This means that children are being moved from grade to grade without proper understanding of basic literacy or math. Some schools of thought believe that children moving from one grade to the next even if they are unprepared will help their self-confidence. I say that the children caught in this predicament are actually losing their self-confidence, because they are not learning anything. These children can graduate without being able to express themselves through writing, or without being able to read. From there, they are left on their own, as colleges and universities are very critical of grade point averages. Failing is still very possible in the post-secondary education system.
The curriculum itself is still a one-size-fits-all system. Children who cannot find a spot inside of it are labeled with behavioral problems, or attention issues. They may or may not find one-on-one support depending on where they live. The current curriculum favors children who are visual learners. There is an expectation that every child will enjoy coming to class and sitting in one spot to hear a teacher talk about a certain topic. The student is expected to be interested in whatever the teacher or professor is teaching. Then the student is supposed to successfully complete the assignment given to them based on the topic of the educator’s choice.
Post-secondary education is incredibly expensive at this point in history and is only on the upward drive to remain costly. Although teaching has recently transitioned to online channels, students are still expected to pay full price for their college or university tuition. They pay the administration fees, transportation fees, room and board, and fees for books and other academic materials. Even though we are in the 21st century, post-secondary education continues to successfully throw each new generation into debt.
The Future and It’s Problems
What does the future look like? If the education system stays on its current path, the future does not look pretty.
There will be more children graduating without any real knowledge of academics, which will leave a gaping hole in the workforce: uneducated adults will not be able to perform certain functions required to have a career, business, or job in society. This will shed a negative light on the school system, but it will take some time and more than a few gutsy people to push the government to place a priority on only passing children who are ready to move from one grade to the next.
The children graduating will be much more emotion-based and will have an unpleasant surprise when applying for post-secondary education. Their first failure will come as a shock since they have not been allowed to fail from junior kindergarten to grade twelve. They will have to learn this outside of the school walls.
Continuous liberal social politics will be pushed into the classrooms, taking more rights away from the parents as the government’s agenda becomes the curriculum of the day. This will play out in having citizens who can fight for everyone’s rights but cannot write down a grammatically correct sentence, let alone a speech, to prove their point. It produces a student who can care about discrimination in another country but cannot figure out how to get out of debt.
An education system that causes rifts in the family unit is a danger because a strong family unit benefits society by producing children who are socially, academically and emotionally strong and aware.
The curriculum will stay the same with minimal changes made only to its social political aspects. Children will drop through the cracks as the gap between academic and applied groups widens. The decisions children make in grade 9 will affect their career choices for the rest of their lives. Labels will run rampant on children who misbehave, and the teacher will most likely not try a different way of teaching. Support may or may not be available, depending on the government’s priorities.
Post-secondary education will continue to cost an arm and a leg. There is too much money being made in that industry for them to stop now! Universities and colleges will overcharge for degrees such as Early Childhood Education, and Business or Creative Arts. Post-secondary administration will keep trying to present themselves to parents as the best choice for their children. They will continue to feed that sense of accomplishment that comes with spending thousands of dollars for a signed paper confirming a student’s "intelligence," which in reality is nothing more than a paper stating your privilege to have a certain job in a certain field.
The solution starts with you. As a parent, teacher, or alternative educator, you can begin by advocating for the child or children within your care. Let your voice be heard, especially when it comes to the development of your child or student within the school system.
Take action. This may be in the form of choosing alternate education for your child. It may mean having a conversation with your children’s teachers to inform them of what way your child learns best. It may mean taking the curriculum home to help your child through it whenever you have spare time. It may mean looking for outside help - something Star Students specializes in.
As a teacher, you may want to find resources that offer other teaching methods that you can incorporate into your classroom. Take action and do whatever it takes to provide better education to the children within your sphere.
Take time out to teach your child or children the importance of life lessons. Build that trust with your child by teaching them the skills needed to excel in life such as money matters, assertiveness, self-confidence, communication, time management, organization and health and nutrition.
When it comes to post-secondary education, try your best to ensure that your child is deciding based on what they are passionate about and what they can truly see themselves doing in the years to come. At the end of the day, this choice is going to be up to your child, but if you have done the groundwork of being a key part of their education, you can rest assured that they are going to make the decision that is best for them.
And don’t be afraid to let them fail. At the other end of failure is success. Failure is simply fuel for motivation.
*Some research in this blog was pulled from the following online sources! 1. “A Brief History of Western Education”, accessed June 28, 2022, https://www.slideshare.net/lodgek/a-brief-history-of-western-education.
2. “The History of Education (19th Century to 21st Century), accessed June 28, 2022,
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