The education and business sectors are on the same page when it comes to what they want from “all people”–critical thinking and communication skills. By “all people” the business and education sectors are, of course, referring to employees and students.
The education and business sectors are on the same page when it comes to what they want from “all people”–critical thinking and communication skills. By “all people” the business and education sectors are, of course, referring to employees and students. Critical thinking and communication skills, as both sectors are keenly aware, are very important for both academic and workplace success. The ability to understand difficult information and complex ideas and then to explain, incorporate and implement this information from and to other people is the very essence of what the employer wants and the teacher strives to instill. In this 21st century, more than any other time in modern human history, the ability to think critically and communicate effectively, both orally and in writing, is highly valued and rewarded. In this era of information, understanding and appreciating that the incredible volumes of business data has placed a renewed recognition and higher premium on the importance of the following skills: reading, critical analysis, synthesizing and communicating data/information in a way that facilitates better understanding and informed decision-making.
The shifting or better stated, shifted, Latino student population in our public schools requires a shift in instructional practices to meet the needs of our Latino students. As stated above, the education and business sectors share aligned interests when it comes to what they desire and need from “all people,” mainly critical thinking and communication skills. Therefore, businesses and educators desire people with excellent listening and question-asking abilities. The application of the aforementioned skills is a great place to start.
At all levels in our education institutions there is insufficient discussion, attention, and most importantly, instruction as it pertains to helping students discover the career that best fits their interests, strengths and weaknesses. In short, there is an institutional failure to question our Latino youth, in particular, about their educational, career and life aspirations. Generally, the vast majority of high school, college-bound and college students struggle in deciding what to major in. For example, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, around 80% of college-bound students have yet to choose a major, around 80% of college students change their major at least once, and on average, college students change their major at least three times over the course of their college career.
For many Latino students, the struggle is poignant, unfortunate, and tragic–as evidenced by the unconscionable achievement gap statistics. The current push to standardize curriculum, arguably, is not solving the problem, and tragically may quite possibly make the Latino students’ decision-making regarding their educational path more difficult. Or in the worst case, result in educational and career failure. Therefore, the relevant question is what pedagogical changes need to be made in order to deliver effective instructional strategies that will help Latino students discover where they can: 1) do their best work; 2) make their greatest impact; and 3) be most appreciated and valued as a result.
The primary responsibility of educational leadership, at all levels of the public education ladder, in addressing the Latino Education Crisis must be to create an institutional culture that values and prioritizes helping Latino students to develop conscious, deliberate control over the mechanisms of their own learning. This entails going beyond simply conveying recruitment information and providing mission statement inspirational rhetoric and calling and/or labeling such efforts as “institutional engagement.” It means believing in and articulating an institutional ethos that all students can – and will succeed – with the opportunity to learn and grow; regardless of cultural or socio-economic obstacles that may stand in their way. In recognition of the exponential growth of the Latino student population, moving beyond rhetoric and embedding a pedagogy that delivers a straightforward and pragmatic instructional guidance to help Latino students take responsibility for their own learning is a requirement.
In a rare display of consensus among a broad range of leaders in education institutions, business organizations, government, non-profit foundations, political think tanks and advocacy groups, all parties agree and advocate that education should focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs and students should choose their course of study in the STEM area. Effective instructional strategies require that: 1) Latino students participate in the planning and evaluation of their learning; 2) the use of the Latino student’s real life experiences as the basis for learning; 3) the establishment of the relevance of the instruction to the Latino student; and 4) the use of student centered problem-solving, not in lieu of traditional content centered pedagogy, but as an effective pedagogical approach to merge the basic principles of critical thinking and strategic planning into an updated 21st century education that inculcates a respect for education and an appreciation of the application of fundamental self-directed learning principles that Latino students can believe in.
According to Public Policy Institute of California, fewer than 4 in 10 California high school students are completing the requirements to be eligible for the state’s public universities, and that once students who drop out or do not finish high school in four years are removed from the equation, the proportion of public high school graduates who met the UC and CSU entrance criteria in 2012 drops to 30 percent statewide, 20 percent for Latinos and 18 percent for African-Americans. Furthermore, according to the report, “Advancing the Success of Boys and Men of Color in Education,” Latino young men are seriously behind when it comes to graduating from both two- and four-year colleges, from 2009 through 2012 only 45% of Hispanic men graduated from four-year colleges within six years. For two-year colleges, only 30% of Latino young men who received a certificate or degree or who transferred to a four-year college over six years.
Of course we should encourage and not discourage people from going into a STEM related degree or career. However, although there is an overall consensus that education should focus on STEM and students should select their course of study in the STEM arena, the education and business sectors are currently misaligned in developing an action plan for the Latino student population. This is due primarily because of inadequate communication among and between businesses, the education system and the Latino student population that both the businesses are attempting to recruit and the education system is trying to teach in the United States. Latino student academic engagement should be measured by the degree to which these students can develop conscious, deliberate control over the mechanisms of their own learning. After all, isn’t this the very definition of an independent critical thinker?