Thanks! I left the few typos
“A nation should require all of its students to study the same national curriculum until they enter college”
Requiring students to study the same national curriculum up until a given point has been a mainstay of educational systems for generations. The notion of providing each individual with a strong and universal foundation of knowledge is admirable and has enabled civilization to grow and thrive. However, the amount of such standard knolwedge to be imparted is a issue for debate. Providing students with too few years of standardized curriculum may hamper their ability to grow and excel later in life, or even inhibit their capacity to perform basic tasks such as algebra. However, on the other hand, the notion that students should study the same national curriculum for 12 years and until they enter college provides them with knowledge on a range of topics that is a waste of time and resources, and robs them of the potential to allocate their time towards specific interests or professional pursuits.
First, studying the same national curriculum until every student reaches college age is a waste of resources that raises the bar for ‘general knowledge’ to include complex skills that the majority of students will never need. Does the general population need to study calculus? Does every person need to know basic microbiology? As an adult though, I can argue that though I did appreciate much of the general education I received, most of what I know today, was reacquired later on in life on a needs basis. This standardized test is a perfect example as well. One studies the core components of this test throughout high school, but it is safe to say that most that, like me, undertake the test 20 years later, need to relearn it all from scratch. Thus, much of the knowledge acquired during the later years leading up to college most likely do not meaningfully contribute to most people’s professional careers down the line. Does a future physicist need to know so much about history? And conversely, does a future history teacher need to understand so much about physics? This is only more significant for students that do not intend to go to college - the statement in of itself implies that all students will enter college, but this is patently false. Thus, by imparting students with a lot of information that they will likely not make use of, studying the same national curriculum until students reach college age is a waste of resources for the state, the student, and does not meaningfully contribute to the economy down the line.
Second, beyond the question of whether having the same national curriculum is a good idea or not, there is the debate surrounding whether having access to a breadth of standardized information actually helps students explore more topics, and thus discover what they would like to do in the future. However, would it not have been preferable for students to spend this time focusing instead on what so many now do in college, namely, discovering what they would like to do when they grow up.
For a long period, and still to this day in many countries, compulsory education lasts until one is 16 year old. Past this point, it is possible to then go on to professional development or vocational training. Though I am not stating that this is necessarily the right age, would it not be a better use of resources for students to spend this time engaged in other pursuits? For example, if someone is sure that they would like to become a doctor, should they not be shadowing a doctor and following a focused curriculum from a younger age? Surely that would benefit them and society the most.
Finally, there is the argument that students do not know what they want until later - that they are not mature enough, and by allowing them to decide, it will hurt them in the future. To this, I would counter argue that engaging in pursuits that one finds boring is not productive either. It leads to ennui, to lacklustre effort, and can severely hinder a young mind. It also is akin to saying that students should be afraid of failure. To take the prior example of someone that wants to be a doctor from a young age and shadows a doctor. If hypothetically speaking, that student began that focused journey at 12 years old, only to realize at 20 that they would like something else from life, is that such a bad thing? Failure is the greatest teacher, and the experienced gained along the way would be invaluable for that student. It is doubtful whether forcing the student to stay in the national curriculum until 18 and only then to pursue first an undergraduate degree in biology, followed by then going the medical school would have necessarily changed the end result. Instead, the more likely outcome would have been for both the student and society to have squandered yet more resourcces.
To conclude, it is important to mention that in general, the notion of a standardized curriculum, is one to be applauded. Prior to the age of universal access to education, there wa a major gap between those with the means to send their children to school and gain crucial skills such as reading and writing, algebra, and knowledge of the natural sciences, and those less fortunate that sent their children to work from a young age. The latter group ultimately ended up remaining with less access to advanced jobs and the pursuit of purpose and meaningful engagment, instead being relegated to the ‘rat race’ of basic survival and scrapping by doing thankless tasks. Thus, though in this essay I argue that students should not study the same national curriculum until they enter college, the argument specifically focuses on the end of the sentence, namely the extent of time that the national curriculum should cover. Enabling them to pursue their interests from a younger age would ultimately have more benefits for them and for society.