views updated Jun 11 2018


Educational leaders and policy makers have called for revolutionary changes in schools. National and international school reform initiatives involve more challenging expectations for learning, high-stakes accountability, high performance standards, collaboration, and new roles for teachers and students (Adler and Gardner 1994).

Agrowing number of children, youth, and families are being affected by persistent poverty, unemployment, and discrimination. These same factors predict child abuse, including needs for child protective services and out-of-home placements. Children's learning barriers, emotional difficulties, and health risks also stem from these problems. The education system not only has a special interest in the well-being of children and youth, but it also shares an interest in the health and well-being of families, neighborhoods, and communities.

During the closing decades of the twentieth century, schools in the United States were being pushed to dramatically change the way they operated. Similarly, schools outside of the United States began to examine their formal policies in close cooperation with families and the communities in which they lived. In the 1980s shifts in Norwegian economics influenced the business of education (Hagan and Tibbitts 1994). Concern about international competitiveness and higher levels of unemployment resulted in a combination of child-centered policy, curriculum reform, new roles for teachers, and respect for the autonomy of parents and the local community.

The unique cultural history of Norway has resulted in child-centered policy that focuses on family support and community education. Educational reform in the United States relies on themes similar to those of Norway's grass-roots movement: parent and community involvement, a holistic approach, and collaboration between the school system and community-based organizations (Hagan and Tibbitts 1994).

Shifting social and economic realities have called into question the fundamental role that schools play in serving the growing number of vulnerable children and youth. To a large degree, in the United States and in Norway, the role of the teacher has always been premised on parents being actively responsible for the well-being of their children. However, when parents behave irresponsibly, teachers are being called upon to intervene. For some teachers, this has resulted in role conflict. Already overburdened and lacking resources, teachers continue to question the limits of their role as educators and the role they can play in coordinating services for children.

Although both Norway and the United States have acknowledged the need to form partnerships with parents and the community for the welfare of the children, neither country, in examining the role that families and teachers play in restructuring, has explicated the changing role of the student and the implications of school culture during educational reform.

School Culture

The latest wave of school reform in the United States has emphasized a change in the way organization of school cultures. A common theme throughout the literature on the subject in the United States is a redefining of the roles and relationships embedded in school cultures with the goal of improving learning conditions for all students and reducing student alienation.

Philip Cusick's Inside High School (1973) focused on a large semiurban public school to determine what students do in school and how they make sense of their lives in school. He concluded that the school organization was failing its students:

It has not accepted them as active participants in their own education; rather it has systematically denied their involvement in basic educational processes and relegated them to the position of watchers, waiters, order-followers and passive receptacles for the depositing of disconnected bits of information. They, in turn, have responded by paying only minimal amount of forced attention to the formal educational processes. . . . (p. 221)

Surprisingly, the literature on school reform reflects little on the role of student. Michelle Fine (1991) has taken this criticism further by suggesting that schools take part in a "ritual of silencing" which is "a systematic commitment" (by the school) to "not name those aspects of social life or school that activate social anxieties or engage in conversations about controversy, inequity, and critique" (p. 33). Critics of education reform have challenged teachers to examine their own attitudes toward those excluded from power and authority and provide a voice for silenced groups (Lowe 1998).

In the 1990s the central focus of American education was economic growth, equality of opportunity, and meeting the basic academic and psychological needs of students. International economic competition with Germany and Japan and educating the workforce were also concerns. For example, nations are often engaged in educational competition. International competition has resulted in beliefs about one nation being better in some areas than other nations. Educators argue that Americans are more creative and innovative than are other nations. Some educators, however, assume that the Japanese approach of rote learning inhibits creativity and individual thought (Westbury 1993).

A closer examination reveals quite the opposite. Qualitative research studies provide evidence for the student-centered nature of Japanese classrooms (Letendre 1999). Teachers appear highly sensitive to student interests, emphasize creative problem-solving, and work to increase students' curiosity about their world. It has also been argued that Japanese schools provide more equal access to a problem-solving curriculum than do their American counterparts. Little evidence supports the claim that the Japanese focus on the elite class. Compared to Germany and the United States (where formal tracking and ability grouping occur very early), the Japanese system is more egalitarian regarding issues of creative problem-solving. The first step towards using comparative educational data more effectively would be to abandon beliefs about the superiority of one country's schools (Letendre 1999). International comparisons can lead to a more critical awareness of educational practices without such judgments.

During the mid-1980s the U.S. National Center on Effective Secondary Schools reported that "the effective schools literature in the U.S., and indeed most of the rhetoric about school improvement, had neglected the most salient issue (student disengagement) for both teachers and students each hour of the day" (Newmann 1992, p. 2). According to Fred Newmann (1992):

The most immediate and persisting issue for students and teachers is not low achievement, but student disengagement. The most obviously disengaged students disrupt classes, skip them, or fail to complete assignments. More typically, disengaged students behave well in school. They attend class and complete the work, but with little indication of excitement, commitment, or pride in mastery of the curriculum. In contrast, engaged students make a psychological investment in learning. (p. 3)

Schools must deal with such issues as cultural diversity, the special needs of students, school violence, and distractions that compete with a student's emotional investment. For example, the problems facing U.S. and Japanese educational systems are deeply rooted in the social and economic structure of each nation. As evidenced by trends in teen pregnancy, substance abuse, and school violence, the United States has significant problems to deal with, as do Japan and other countries.

Overall social conditions such as poverty appear to have a significant impact on student achievement. Increasing student academic motivation is supported or constricted within a given organizational setting, family, and community (Letendre 1999). Finally, when students are not engaged in the learning environment, they are more likely to drop out of school. The problems facing schools today that have been identified by educational policy makers (i.e., attendance rates, drop-out rates, low student achievement) are not the actual problems, but the consequences of other fundamental issues within and outside of school.

Truancy and School Dropouts

Truancy is defined as being absent from school without permission. The education of adults and the presence of a school in the community have a significant impact on school attendance. According to UNICEF and World Bank policy research, females and the poor in Niger, Egypt, Morocco, India, and Pakistan are disadvantaged in their opportunity for education. India has a 17 percentage point difference between the school enrollment of girls and boys from the ages of six to fourteen. In Benin, the enrollment rate for boys is 63 percent higher than girls aged six to fourteen. In Colombia, the enrollment rate is 98 percent higher than that of girls (Filmer 1999). Morocco has 538,000 child laborers in the country, and most of these children are under fifteen years old and follow the tradition of working in the fields. Tens of thousands of these children are sold as domestic servants in the cities. More than half of the child laborers in Morocco are female. News reports suggest that the government is trying to return children to the classroom (BBC News 1999).

The World Declaration on Education for All (1990), issued in Thailand, affirmed a commitment to universal primary education. Access to education is seen as a prerequisite for progress in developing countries and in the reduction of poverty everywhere. However, more children are working rather than learning. As described by Clare Short, Secretary of State for International Development, "one hundred and thirty million children around the world do not or cannot go to school" (BBC News 1999).

The combination of low school enrollments and a lack of access to quality education restricts progress towards improved literacy in developing countries. Programs such as the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative—launched in 1996 by UNICEF—have begun to establish comprehensive poverty reduction strategies geared toward the creation of conditions for economic development and universal access to education and basic social services (UNICEF 1999).

In comparison, in the United States, school for some students has no intrinsic value, and it has no connection to the larger social context within which students live. In some classrooms, students are not provided with the opportunity to use personal experiences as a context for applying knowledge. The education movement of the 1990s valued the premise that "all students can learn." But many teachers failed to believe in this philosophy of education. There is often a lack of understanding about different cultures and the lives of students outside the classroom.

Nearly half of black children in the United States are poor, and more than one-third of Hispanic children live in poverty. Minority group students have higher drop-out rates regardless of socioeconomic status (Steinberg; Blinde; and Chan 1984). There appears to be a strong association between race and ethnicity and the likelihood of dropping out of school. What has become increasingly clear to education professionals is that children have multiple needs.

The United States, Norway, and Canada, among other countries, have begun to examine more closely the cost of traditional programs that only address truancy and dropouts by imposing laws and standards. Educators and health and social service providers are forming new partnerships to help improve the lives of children, youth, families, and communities (Adler and Gardner 1994). Educational leaders are also increasingly aware of the connection between a child's success in school and individual and family empowerment. Some nations have realized that it makes better sense to develop programs that focus on retaining youth in school rather than dealing with the costs later.

A key objective in school improvement efforts is raising the levels of achievement of underperforming groups of students. Increasingly, educators are realizing that the factors that put children at risk are varied and cumulative. Canadian and American critics point out that schools and human service agencies cannot work in isolation. Schools alone cannot solve the multiple needs of at-risk children. Critics of the American educational system conclude that traditional approaches pervasive in educational policy and children's services have resulted in fragmented responses doomed to fail. To address the need for integration of services, collaborative community programs are being developed.

Collaboration: Linking Schools with Social Services

The incentive for collaboration in Canada arose from similar problems to those that established the context for proposed joint efforts in the United States. In Canada, an estimated 30 to 40 percent of children in urban schools are at risk and have special needs; in rural schools, the figure is 15 to 20 percent (Mawhinney 1994).

According to the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services (1992), one in every six children in Ontario is in a family receiving social assistance. Mirroring efforts to improve education for all students through holistic approaches that integrate social services currently being practiced in the United States, several Canadian provinces have developed policies for interagency collaboration.

Collaborative practices in both the United States and Canada have documented the need for more inclusive, capacity-building strategies that result in shared outcomes for children, youth, and families, along with responsibility and accountability for the stategies. Successful collaborations such as California's State Partnership for School Linked Service involves schools and community partners in restructuring services to children and families. Schools must be prepared to nurture the healthy development of all children and their families. In the future, educational initiatives will ask teachers, parents, community members, health and social service workers, and students to be the lead designers of changes that occur within school walls. Communities need to remove the barriers that prevent children and their families to receive the support, resources, and services that they need.

Since the 1980s, Japan has experienced much social change. As in the United States, family structure and social conditions have both been modified. Japan is experiencing increasing urbanization, and more women are joining the paid workforce. Many of the social changes experienced by Japan are common to other nations making the transition to a postindustrial economy. Similarly, the People's Republic of China has been undergoing a shift towards a market-oriented economic system. The United States, Japan, and the People's Republic of China have acknowledged the importance of equal educational opportunity for all students and universal education (Cleverly 1985). Researchers bear the responsibility of documenting the impact of social change on cultural values and education.

Further research is needed to identify aspects of classroom and school processes that encourage student engagement. This research should focus on factors that affect the perseverance of engaged behavior in relation to those students who have been labeled at-risk. The effects of inviting marginalized students to become involved with school-change initiatives should be explored. In sum, priority should be given to understanding why many students disengage from school and to increasing efforts to involve students in school change initiatives (Lowe 1998).


As nations continue to examine the goals of education, systemic reform will encompass a variety of strategies that will require everyone in the educational system to change their roles and relationships. There are cross-national perspectives that present models from research that encompass collaboration and integrative services. The challenge for policy makers and educational leaders is to develop programs that will create, nurture, and sustain healthy learners, families, schools, and communities throughout the world.

Neither top-down nor bottom-up approaches to reform will, alone, effect reform. Genuine reform cannot be forced. Reform strategies must be tailored to political environments. Each country is different; consequently, each country engages in reform for different reasons.

See also:Academic Achievement; Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD); Childhood; Disabilities; Family Literacy; Homeschooling; Intergenerational Programming; Learning Disorders; School Phobia and School Refusal; Unemployment


adler, l., and gardner, s. (1994). the politics of linkingschools and social services. washington, dc: the falmer press.

cleverley, j. f. the schooling of china: tradition andmodernity in chinese education. london: allen and unwin.

cusick, p. (1973). inside high school: the student's world. new york: holt, rinehart and winston.

fine, m. (1991). framing dropouts: notes on the politics of an urban high school. albany: state university of new york press.

hagan, u., and tibbitts, f. (1994). "the norwegian case: child-centered policy in action." in the politics of linking schools and social services, eds. l. adler and s. gardner. washington, dc: the falmer press.

letendre, g. (1999). "the problem of japan: qualitative studies and international educational comparisons." educational researcher 28(2):38–45.

lowe, m. (1998). "the phenomenology of student engagement during high school restructuring." ph.d. dissertation. lexington: university of kentucky.

mawhinney, h. (1994). "discovering shared values: ecological models to support interagency collaboration." in the politics of linking schools and social services, eds. l. adler and s. gardner. washington, dc: the falmer press.

newmann, f. (1992). "authentic work and student engagement." in hands on teachers reader, eds. h. smith and h. walker. mountain city, ga: the foxfire fund inc.

ontario ministry of community and social services (1992). time for action, towards a new social assistance system for ontario. toronto: queens printer.

steinberg, l.; blinde; p. l.; and chan, k. s. (1984). "dropping out among language minority youth." review of educational research. 54:113–32.

westbury, i. (1993). "comparing american and japanese achievement: is the united states really a low achiever?" educational researcher 21(5):18–24.

Other Resources

"child labor rife in morocco." (1999). bbc news online:world. united kingdom. available from

"children in jeopardy." (1999). united nations children'sfund, new york. available from

filmer, d. (1999). "the structure of social disparities in education: gender and wealth." world bank policy research report. available from

mitzi a. lowe


views updated Jun 11 2018

school1 / skoōl/ • n. 1. an institution for educating children. ∎  the buildings used by such an institution: the cost of building a new school. ∎  [treated as pl.] the students and staff of a school: the principal was addressing the whole school. ∎  a day's work at school; lessons: school started at 7 a.m. ∎  fig. used to describe the type of circumstances in which someone was brought up: I was brought up in a hard school and I don't forget it.2. any institution at which instruction is given in a particular discipline: a dancing school. ∎ inf. another term for university. ∎  a department or faculty of a college concerned with a particular subject of study: the School of Dental Medicine.3. a group of people, particularly writers, artists, or philosophers, sharing the same or similar ideas, methods, or style: the Frankfurt school of critical theory. ∎  a style, approach, or method of a specified character: filmmakers are tired of the skin-deep school of cinema.• v. [tr.] chiefly formal send to school; educate: a scientist born in Taiwan and schooled in California. ∎  train or discipline (someone) in a particular skill or activity: he schooled her in horsemanship.PHRASES: leave school discontinue one's education: he left school at of thought a particular way of thinking, typically one disputed by the speaker: a school of thought that calls into question the constitutional foundations of this country.school2 • n. a large group of fish or sea mammals.• v. [intr.] (of fish or sea mammals) form a large group.


views updated May 29 2018

schools. The earliest elementary schools date from the Middle Ages. They consisted of song schools and reading schools, the former to train boys as choristers, the latter to teach youths to read and write. Education was free and the schools were usually endowed. From the time of the Reformation, there was a variety of private, petty, and parish schools, usually taught by people who had other occupations. The charity schools, particularly those provided by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, provided widespread elementary schooling for the poor. As urban and industrial changes took place in the later 18th cent., Sunday schools provided part-time schooling for working children. Rival religious bodies supplied the monitorial schools at the beginning of the 19th cent., the British and Foreign School Society (1808) and the National Schools Society (1811). The need for universal elementary education was recognized by 1870, when school boards were established to provide buildings where necessary. During the 20th cent., as the need for a more child-centred education was recognized, the elementary school became the primary school, catering for children up to the age of 11. Infant and junior departments, separate or combined, were established.

The distinctive feature of secondary schools from the earliest time was the predominance of Latin. To teach this the grammar school was established throughout England, varying in size and social intake. Alongside these, from Tudor times, were the private schools, usually kept by clergymen, with boarding facilities. In the following century, modern schools or academies, offering a literary and scientific education, flourished. These often catered for specific occupations, such as the army, business, or trade. Girls were almost exclusively educated at home, by parents or by tutors. The leading grammar schools during the course of the 19th cent. developed into more exclusive public schools. A new type of public school, the proprietary school, established by non-profit-making church and secular companies, received recognition in towns where alternative education was frequently not available.

Secondary schooling was reformed after the Endowed Schools Act of 1869 and provision made for the first time for the daughters of the middle classes. After the 1902 Education Act, the rise of the municipal grammar school increased the provision of secondary education. Comprehensive secondary schools replaced the majority of grammar schools from the 1960s. There are now other types of schools at this level, including sixth-form colleges, grant-maintained, and city technology colleges.

Peter Gordon


views updated Jun 08 2018

school Place of education, usually at primary or secondary level. In Western countries, there are usually two or three parallel school systems: one provided by the state and financed by taxpayers; one financed partly by the Church in conjunction with the state or parents; and a third, privately financed by parents. The term ‘public school’ is used of some private schools in the UK. See also comprehensive school; grammar school


views updated May 29 2018


the body of pupils in a school; a group of painters or musicians; the disciples of a teacher; a collective body of teachers; a company of thieves; a set of persons who agree on certain philosophical, scientific, or other opinions; a herd of sea mammals or fish.

Examples : school of abuse, 1579; of beggars; of bream, 1552; of card players, 1812; of clerks, 1486; of dolphins, 1615; of ducks, 1858; of experience, 1671; of fish, 1486; of gladiators, 1863; of gulls, 1894; of haddock, 1819; of hell, 1390; of herrings, 1578; of hippopotami, 1861; of oysters, 1665; of painters; of pamphlets, 1567; of patience, 1583; of patterers (thieves), 1859; of pheasants, 1592; of pickpockets; of pigeons, 1880; of pilchards, 1769; of politics, 1690; of porpoises, 1863; of scolds, 1589; of shallow coves (thieves), 1851; of smolt, 1863; of thieves, 1856; of troop of the Imperial Guard; of whales, 1585.


views updated May 18 2018

school school of hard knocks the experience of a life of hardship, considered as a means of instruction; the term is originally US, and is recorded from the early 20th century.
school of thought a particular way of thinking, especially one not followed by the speaker.

See also experience keeps a dear school, old school tie, never tell tales out of school.


views updated May 29 2018

school1 place or establishment for instruction; body of teachers of a subject in a university. OE. scōl, scolu, corr. to MLG., MDu. schōle (Du. school), OHG. scuola (G. schule); Gmc. — medL. scōla, for L. schola — Gr. skholḗ leisure, employment of leisure in disputation, lecture, (later) school; reinforced in ME. by aphetic — OF. escole (mod. école) — Rom. *scola.
Hence vb. XVI. schoolman (cf. OE. scōlmann learner) in medieval universities, one who treated of logic, metaphysics, and theology, XVI.


views updated May 21 2018

school Loosely, an aggregation of fish or marine mammals which are observed swimming together, possibly in response to a threat from a predator. More strictly, a grouping of fish, drawn together by social attraction, whose members are usually of the same species, size, and age, the members of the school moving in unison along parallel paths in the same direction. Sudden changes at the leading edge of the school are followed almost instantaneously by the remainder of the group, with the fish on the flank becoming the new leaders. In general, the overall size and shape of the school, as well as the cruising depth and speed, vary from one species to another.


views updated May 14 2018

school Loosely, an aggregation of fish which are observed swimming together, possibly in response to a threat from a predator. More strictly, a grouping of fish, drawn together by social attraction, whose members are usually of the same species, size, and age, the members of the school moving in unison along parallel paths in the same direction. Sudden changes at the leading edge of the school are followed almost instantaneously by the remainder of the group, with the fish on the flank becoming the new leaders. In general, the overall size and shape of the school, as well as the cruising depth and speed, vary from one species to another.


views updated Jun 11 2018

school, schooling Both an institution and a method of education. A process of learning and management of socially approved knowledge, involving an approved curriculum and pedagogy, paid professional educators, compulsory attendance of pupils, and school grouping.