Improving education part 5

A young teacher wrote to me: “As a new teacher, I want to teach new curriculum using new teaching method but many teachers in my school do not agree. They have been teaching the same curriculum for many years and do not want to change. We had many discussions but did not get any result and I am frustrated. Please advise.”

Answer: Curriculum changes and differences of opinion about teaching method such as what should be taught and how it should be taught always create conflict among teachers. One of the big differences is whether students should be taught practical skills versus academic theories. Many teachers do not like to train students for today's job market as they still believe that the goal of college education is to develop a “total person” not workers for the industry. Today the world is changing and education goal needs to change too. Few years ago, the society of teachers in several countries (U.S, UK, Germany, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Japan, S. Korea, and Singapore) have agreed to set new education goals: “Develop the skills and capacities so students can be productive members of the workforce and their communities; promote the assimilation of new knowledge to stimulate economic and social advancement; and encourage the desire and ability to learn throughout life.”

As new teacher, you need to understand that the real issue may not be “Do not want to change” but “Do not know how to change.” Today most teachers are too busy to deal with so much pressures in the fast changing world and improving teaching method or changing curriculum are not their priority. You should look into this as the issue of a global problem instead of a personal problem. Sometimes when you are doing the same thing, in the same job for many years, there is a tendency to form a habit that is not easy to change. My advice is you should find a common ground for faculty with different opinions to collaborate. Change takes time, especially tradition is something not easy to change so you cannot do it alone but need supports from school administrators and other teachers who share your concerns.

Some curriculum changes may need to come from outside the school. Although there are different opinions among governments on the direction of college education but sooner or later, many will come into the conclusion that STEM education is needed and “Learning by Doing” is more appropriated for STEM subjects than the traditional lecturing method. Even in the U.S. and Europe, there are different opinions in which areas in STEM are more important than others. Some people think school should focus on this but not that. (Science teachers always think science is better than technology) Other people may say, 'No, we need to do that and not this.” The debate will continue so you should not be surprised. When I discuss about curriculum changes, if a teacher feels strongly about certain subject, I always want to know why it is important to this person. I often ask “Can you explain to me why you feel so strongly about it?” By clearly understand the other person's opinion, you may come up to a common understanding to work together. After all, as teachers we all want our students to succeed.

Today the global job market dictates many things, a school administrators and teachers may believe subject “A” is more important but when their students could not get job with a degree in “A” then the school will not have many students enrolled due to high unemployed graduates. In the U.S. school ranking is one of the key factors for students' enrollment and the number of students graduated having job in their fields of study is one of the key ranking factors. Even in the worst recession, you do not see graduates from top universities having difficulty finding jobs because these universities stay very close with market's needs and update their training program accordingly.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University

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