A group I work with in my spare time, the Refugee Development Center, sponsored a team in a local youth soccer league. Appropriately, the team’s nickname is “Newcomers.”
It took the team most of the season to score a goal; and it was in its final game of the season that the team earned its first victory.
After one game, I was enlisted to transport three players to their residences. All three were Napali. I used this time to ask their opinions about the education they were receiving in the local public school.
They had no objection to the content of the courses, but criticized the conduct of their classmates. They cited a lack of respect for teachers, and a lack of discipline. They had experienced the discipline of the stick in their homeland, and believed it would be helpful to classrooms in the US.
These young newcomers also noted that their instructional day in Nepal was almost two hours longer, plus they were in school a half-day on Saturdays.
From this conversation I was once again impressed that much of what has been done in attempts to improve public education has overlooked the obvious: stronger discipline and longer days. Most of what we do in US public education is the envy of the world. What people from other countries wonder about is the lack of discipline and time on task.
Empowering and supporting teachers’ discipline and increasing the length of the school day and year are not sexy solutions to what ails public education. They are just simpler answers mostly overlooked.