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The Impact of Social InstitutionsAssessment

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¶ … social institution -- school -- in present-Day society.

Schools since World War 2

In the aftermath of the Second World War, America's population grew significantly, a phenomenon popularly known as the 'baby boom'. A similar boom was witnessed in higher education, with the passing of the 1944 GI Bill, which provided war veterans with subsidies for attending colleges/universities. More than ten million war veterans made use of this facility, leading to a considerable rise in number of college-completing individuals. With growth in proportion of school-goers, there was increased demand for teachers and educational facilities. This heightened demand for teachers led to lowering of teacher certification conditions; in some instances, the conditions were nearly eliminated, i.e., minimal-to-no professional education was required for teaching school children (AMERICAN EDUCATION, n.d). This trend, however, reversed itself subsequently -- where there was, earlier, a shortage of educators, they could, now (i.e., in late 60s-early 70s) be found in excess, prompting a renewed rise in teacher certification conditions. There was a call for establishment of more schools, in order to contain the progressively growing number of kids of school age; further, smaller school districts combined to form bigger ones, better-equipped to bear increased costs of capital and administration. America witnessed a near-disappearance of its rural single-room school houses, in which a single teacher taught students of all grades (normally first to eighth grade); this was because building larger schools and transporting students by bus to central spots was more economical.

The political focus during the sixties underwent a shift from a global/external focus (Cold War, for instance) to internal affairs (i.e., the 'War on Poverty' campaign of President Johnson, and civil rights). President Kennedy, during his 1961 inaugural address, requested Americans to think not of what the nation could do for them, but what they could do for the nation, heralding a new age of consciousness with regard to the true meaning of poverty alleviation and equal opportunity (AMERICAN EDUCATION, n.d). Johnson as well as Kennedy assigned large amounts of funds to various fields, including education, for the purpose of severing the poverty chain. Initiatives like Head Start, Title One, Job Corps, and subsidized lunches at school were launched. A novel curriculum emphasis characterized educational reform. School teachers were urged to be creative and innovative, making education more fun, and ensuring increased student involvement in the learning process. Instead of mere, boring textbook-learning (which was the 50s schoolroom trend), children could choose, and were given personalized instruction, non-graded institution, and flexible scheduling opportunities. The 60s curriculum reform program, however, failed to improve educational outcomes as desired; instead, it brought about a drop in test scores and school enrollments, resulting in loss of society's confidence in educators. A powerful back-to-basics campaign ensued, placing emphasis on arithmetic computation, reading, and writing, together with accountability of teachers (AMERICAN EDUCATION, n.d). The next decade was marked by economic concerns --the OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) oil crisis of 1973, high unemployment, two-digit inflation, and high rates of interest. These economic conditions also affected schools, since public education funding was decreased. In the 80s, there was an escalation in criticisms directed at teachers and public education. The 1983 national report, A Nation at Risk expounded the miserable failure of American public school structures. A consequence of the above report was increased, and rapid, school reform campaigns, with many states passing laws that mandated improved standards, and expected more from students.

The fundamental focus of 90s education was school reform. The Congressional effort, Goals 2000, was intended for instituting educational standards for the nation. Most educators concentrated on reorganization of schools for meeting the diverse population's demands and increased global competition, owing to rapid technological changes. Teachers, on the whole, have responded to the challenge, assuming leadership roles and guiding the educational sector into the twenty-first century (AMERICAN EDUCATION, n.d)

American Form Compared to Two Other Countries

Japanese and American school systems differ in a few ways, including the number of days in an academic year, kinds of schools, and pressure on students for acquiring good grades. School children in Japan need to attend school for 240 days in an academic year, which is over 720 extra days over the same schooling period of 12 years. Spring holidays, while switching grades, constitute the only real holiday they enjoy (.Difference Between American and Japanese Schools, n.d). While they do get summer break, it is filled with activities, such as homework, to be completed and handed in when school recommences. Japanese school teachers also suffer -- they only enjoy two weeks' holidays in a year. All schools in Japan have an identical syllabus and curriculum. Children are excessively pressurized to work hard and gain good results. Though this pressure makes Japanese children excel in international examinations, it has also culminated in a few less desirable situations (e.g., increased suicides). Despite this huge pressure, it appears that Japanese high-school graduates have lesser knowledge than their American counterparts. Students in Japan undergo testing to gauge whether they are qualified to receive high school or college education. Students who fail this test have to enroll in career-orientated institutes, which teach skills that may lead them to work all their lives (Difference Between American and Japanese Schools, n.d). Though one may believe that schools in the U.S. can be relatively violent and crime ridden sometimes, or in some specific areas, the nation does have some excellent schools, as well. Similarly, Japan has good as well as bad schools. In U.S. schools, one can witness cultural diversity of students and staff, while Japanese schools are characterized by a homogenous culture. This fact makes the environment of Japanese schools comparatively well-managed and calm. Japanese kids learn from a very tender age to be respectful of elders, and younger children. Their parents give more importance to children's responsibilities than children's rights. Furthermore, children in Japan are reported to respect and care for their friends. The aforementioned societal and academic pressures aren't imposed upon students in America (Difference Between American and Japanese Schools, n.d). American school-goers also enjoy more holidays and lesser school days. One advantage of U.S. schools is access to advanced technology; Japanese schools employ technology on a relatively smaller scale.

The three-tiered educational structure of German schools begins following four primary-schooling years. As per a June 2011 Wall Street Journal article, top performers who seek entry into college/university attend gymnasiums; average performers who have to settle for white-collar occupations attend real schules; and, lowest scorers attend haupt schule, where they receive vocational training. In contrast, students in the U.S. don't have to deal with the career planning phase until high school. The newspaper reveals that efforts towards reforming Germany's school system have failed, in spite of protests that it is in the favor of the high classes of society (Heibutzki, n.d). Similar to the U.S., education policy in Germany is set by local authorities. German Way -- a website of all things German -- reports that the sixteen states of Germany govern all aspects of its educational system, including regulations mandating attendance of children aged 6-15 years. However, the option of home schooling allowed to American children isn't permitted in Germany. Germany does not have many parochial and private schools -- there are only 2,500 schools of this form in the nation populated by eighty million individuals. Schools in Germany are more study-oriented in comparison to American schools. Barely 10-15% of German school kids enroll in local extracurricular clubs, for engaging in drama, sports and other activities, according to a German student, Ruben Gehb, who was interviewed for the June 2013 newsletter of the University of Arkansas (Heibutzki, n.d). The teacher-student bond is also relatively formal in Germany; there is minimal or no communication between them outside of class. The annual school calendar of Germany comprises 220 days, 40 days more than that of the U.S.; however, students enjoy more frequent holidays throughout the academic year.

Positive and Negative Impacts

Clearly, children whose performance at school (indicated by exam grades or standard achievement test scores) is better, tend to advance in school and university. Also, net expenditure of improving quality of schools, if signaled through increased student attainment, is lesser than it looks (maybe even substantially so), owing to the resultant declines in dropout and repetition rates (THE IMPORTANCE OF GOOD QUALITY: WHAT RESEARCH TELLS U.S., 2005). Therefore, higher levels of achievement ensure continuance of schooling, which will result in improved schooling completion rates. Economic progress regulates the extent of improvement that can take place in a society's overall living standards. Furthermore, each individual's education can improve others' financial status (apart from individual benefits). A more erudite society can, in particular, translate into greater innovation rates, better overall productivity by way of organizations' ability to launch newer, more superior production techniques, and quicker introduction of novel technologies. It is also known that several years' education and training in cognitive skills (especially basic numeracy and literacy skills) have social and economic returns with regard to income… [END OF PREVIEW]

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