Recently, there has been a lot of debate on improving our school system to allow the U.S. to compete better with other countries. I love that there is a push to make education better and improve teaching practices while involving technology in education. However, I am very grateful for the school system that we do have.
While teaching English in Cambodia, I had an interesting conversation with a few of the students who could speak English well. They told me that there is a lot of corruption in their school system, and claimed they could spend five whole days talking about it. At first it caught me off guard, as I usually hear of corruption referring to government or business ideals. Schools always seemed clean and wonderful, so how could they be corrupt? The students explained that bribing and cheating is very common. The students who pay more money are ranked at the top of the class and sometimes don’t even have to take big exams—they automatically pass. In addition, students have to pay to go to school in the first place—there is no free public education.
I was very disheartened to learn all of this. It seemed so unfair and strange to me since I had grown up in such a different kind of school system. While there are problems in American education, and there is probably occasional corruption and cheating, I became much more grateful for a school system that generally tries to be fair and condemn cheating. We are so lucky to be able to learn and teach in such an environment, and I too often take it for granted.
So next time I think a test was unfair, I am discouraged with my schoolwork, or I don’t like the score a TA gives me on an essay, I will try to stop myself and remember how lucky I am to be in a good school where we don’t have to bribe teachers to get a good grade.