A formal education in the First World nations consists of structured programs whereby children of like ages are gathered together and taught first, basic skills and then specialized skills which enable them to earn their livings in jobs best suited to their abilities and interests.
The stages of formal education presently recognized are as follows:
Children of 4 and 5 years are enrolled in Junior, then Senior Kindergarten. This is their introduction to school life. They become accustomed to the new environment, to interacting with peers, to following routines, to listening to directions and to enjoying books and stories. They learn some basic skills such as rote counting to 50, and reciting the alphabet. The preschool experience is helpful to every child.
B. The Primary Grades
In Grades 1, 2, and 3, serious learning begins. Children learn to read, spell, add, subtract, and understand the concepts of multiplication and division. They learn to write simple sentences and later, short paragraphs. They are introduced to easy Science and Social Studies topics. Most children have no problems coping with the program. Those who do should receive remedial help, because it is vital to master the basics in order to proceed. These grade levels are helpful to every child.
C, The Middle Grades
The course content in Grades 4, 5, and 6 builds on the skills of the Primary Grades. The children read novels and answer comprehension questions based on them. They are challenged with more difficult Mathematics concepts and problems. They learn computer skills and are expected to write multi-paragraph stories and essays. Those who are not academically-minded will find these years difficult. If the region has adequate financial resources, every child who needs extra help will receive it. If not, some will be struggling and may fall behind their peers. Behavior problems will start to appear. Weaker students will begin to work out their frustration through rebellion or attention-grabbing antics. Still, for the vast majority the middle grades of elementary school are helpful.
D. The Senior Grades
These are the grades when each student’s future career path should become evident. Approximately the top quarter of the class have progressed well in all academic areas and should plan to continue on to high school and university.
The middle group, roughly 60% of all the students, will receive satisfactory grades and they should proceed to high school and college or university in coming years. For these two groups, continuing with a formal education will be extremely helpful.
There will be about 10 to 15% of the students in a normal school community who have grasped the basics but are just not academically-minded. They have been struggling since the middle grades and probably hate school. They may have artistic talent, be natural athletes, enjoy construction work, working with animals or have ability in any of a variety of areas.
At this point, continuing in the traditional educational structure for these young people will be a hindrance and a waste of time. They should be allowed to follow their particular career path and begin specialized training. They could enter an apprenticeship program, or work with an expert in their chosen field until they are skilled enough to proceed on their own.
Without the reluctant students, high school teachers will be able to cover the courses faster and have time to give extra help to those who need it. Everyone in the class will have the ability to be successful, and the high school years will be useful stepping stones to attaining his or her desired career.
Those needing further practical training in their chosen career will receive it in college. If, at any point, a student receives an employment offer he wishes to accept, he should be free to take it and leave college immediately. He should not be compelled to stay in school and finish the course just to receive a piece of paper, a diploma. For these students, arrangements could be made so that the diploma will be awarded after five successful years of employment in his chosen field.
These final years of formal education will undoubtedly be helpful to every young adult who chooses to attend university. They will gain specialized knowledge in their chosen profession, and the higher salaries they will earn after graduation will compensate them for the extra time, study and expense.
A basic formal education, up to and including Grade 8 is helpful for everyone. Laws which compel students to remain in school until a certain age, whether it be 16 or 18, turn formal education into a hindrance for some young people.
Frustrated and unhappy, they simply take up space in high school, where they impede the progress of the other students and discourage the teacher. After completion of elementary school, other options should be made available for those unsuited to continue in the academic stream.