The US Education System has the potential to be one of the strongest in the world. However, a lack of resources within the system has led to a lack of qualified teachers, motivated students, and advancements within the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) field. Dr. Ajit Bhandal is an educator who’s worked within multiple sectors of the education system. His long-term reform plan for our K-12 system could lead to a nation of graduates with deep knowledge, higher graduation rates, home of innovations, high paying jobs, equal learning opportunities, lower crime, and prevent mass fatal accidents.
The education system in America is meant to build up future generations from childhood to adulthood to take on the world, find a valuable career, and achieve success. While the system is strong, there are a lot of areas that need to be reformed to create a more equal playing field for students of all kinds of backgrounds and abilities.
Dr. Ajit Bhandal has been working in education for decades. Originally working as a professor of chemistry in India, Dr. Bhandal came to the US in the early 80’s to continue his work in education and reform.
During his time here, as the years went on, his research showed that “Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMSS)” , American students were far behind in the Math and Science education compared to students of Asian and European nations. Additionally, one of the International Association for Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) showed that the United States ranked 27th out of 29 countries in the proportion of college students with degrees in Science and Engineering.
Dr. Bhandal began his professional career as college professor teaching chemistry in India from 1971 through 1980, a research and teaching specialist, then toxicologist at the University of Medicine and Dentistry New Jersey, USA from 1982-April 1986.
He obtained two doctor degrees: a PHD from American Holistic College of Nutrition, Birmingham, Alabama and Doctor of Naturopathy from the Clayton College of Natural Healing, Birmingham, Alabama, and Doctor of Naturopathy from Clayton School of Natural Healing, Birmingham, Alabama. He also has two master degrees in Organic Chemistry from Punjabi University Patiala, India and Nutrition, AHCN Birmingham, Alabama.
In 1988, he taught chemistry at California University of Davis as a teaching assistant. In 1990 through 2012, he joined the California Department of Public Health and retired as Chief of Laboratory Operations for the Genetic Disease Lab Branch and the Genetic Disease Screening Program.
After retiring, he continued his teaching passion until present day as a Math and Science tutor for K-12 students in California. Dr. Bhandal also used his time to further research, analyze, write, and publish articles and books about the current education system in America, and the areas where we need to see reform to lead to a smoother system in which all students can succeed, while maintaining a high level of motivation and interest in subjects such as Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).
His passion for reform led him to running for the local Board of Education, where he was able to get more involved in the political side of educational funding and programming.
His multitude of experiences and positions held throughout his career allowed him to see firsthand how the system worked from a teaching perspective, and his careers and learning experiences outside of the classroom taught him about the various branches that impact the ways in which these systems are created and implemented.
“When I was teaching Math and Science, while also researching and educating myself on the parts of the educational system, I learned that in the US, we’re quite behind in the subjects of math and science when compared to international standards (TIMSS) and the number of individuals who pursue careers within the STEM field.
“As I continued to educate myself, it motivated me to do something about the gaps in math and STEM education systems and progression that exist within the US.”
“As a teacher in the field who loves the subjects of math and science, I obviously want to see my students succeed and have that same passion, so my motivation to help US students succeed within the classroom, and beyond in the real world, was constantly growing.”
After retirement, his knowledge and passion for growth within the field of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math education continued, and he channeled it by writing a book named STEM, THE FUTURE OF AMERICA, that also describes the elements of a good education system.
“The need for STEM education will allow students to compete with the world and lead the world as the US does in so many other areas.”
Dr. Bhandal believes that to be competitive with international students, math (fundamental entity of STEM) instructions must be critical learning instead of problem solving to arouse creativity which would lead to innovations and deep knowledge.
This current method, according to Dr. Bhandal, does teach students how to solve problems directly, but it’s not exactly creative, which is key. When students are given creative ways to solve problems, not only are they more likely to remember how to do it, it engages them on a deeper level that could potentially lead to a desire to learn more within the field.
“Our education system requires immediate improvements to be competitive on local, state, national and international platforms. By strengthening parent, teacher and student coordination, creating greater incentives to teachers, improving school infrastructure, re-visiting curriculum, identifying and helping students with economic disparity, our nation will experience higher graduation rates, lower dropout rates and a higher number of students pursuing STEM education in colleges and universities.”
Dr. Bhandal’s K-12 Education Model:
Dr. Bhandal has created a set of reforms for America that through his years of research and analysis, would bring the US to a higher level of achievement in the realm of education and career.
“If we look at the current education system, we have to go back to where it begins for everyone; preschool education.
1. We have to integrate pre-school education to the K-12 education system (as 80% of a toddler’s brain has been developed by the first three years of life). If a child isn’t being actively engaged in learning, that development may suffer. Preschool education is very important, and impacts how the child will continue to grow and learn in future classroom environments. Specifically speaking, subjects like reading, writing, and learning through educational videos which can be rolled into Kindergarten, is integral.
Currently, third and fourth graders nationally are behind mainly in reading and writing, two subjects that emphasize utilizing the creative parts of your brain. So when a child enters into grade school, there needs to be a greater emphasis on these creative subjects,” Dr. Bhandal explained, referring to his K-12 education model.
2. The model shows that within the grade school environment, students need to be taught using a regular curriculum. As previously mentioned, for 1st and 2nd graders, there needs to be a focus on reading and writing to make sure 3rd and 4th graders will be reading at optimal level, so when they receive an introduction to basic STEM, they can continue to use those creative tools.
3. 4th graders must be exposed to various local, county, state, national and international academic competitions, and math instructions must be interactive, creative, and based on critical thinking.
Basic STEM problem solving and lessons should begin in elementary school so when students enter middle school they’re more equipped and motivated to learn within these subjects and advance themselves.
4. In Middle School (typically grades 6-8) along with a regular curriculum students should be learning STEM at a moderate level by getting STEM homework that continues to engage their creativity: such as preparing kitchen recipes, house models, car models, rocket models, research projects such as stock exchange function, and healthy eating models.
Making subjects like math interactive will cultivate a greater desire to learn. Additionally, it would be beneficial for students to have field trips and appear in county, state, national, and international academic competitions.
In High School (typically grades 9-12) students should continue a regular curriculum with a higher level STEM instructions, and basic economics.
5. In Grade 9, students should make appointments with their school counselor, and complete quandaries indicating his/her future areas of interest. The school must advise the student what course work is appropriate to meet his/her goals of interest, and the student transcript must reflect the lab grades achieved.
Typical labs include math, chemistry, biology, physics, engineering, space, prototype technology instruments
6. By Grade 10, along with regular class work, students should visit science and math labs two times a week and write reports about their projects.
7. In Grade 11, along with their regular curriculum, students should perform various experiments on STEM projects and write reports to continue keeping their creativity engaged.
8. Finally, in Grade 12, students should have hands-on real world situations for 6-8 weeks. For example, if a student wants to pursue their career in law enforcement, he/she must attend 4-6 weeks of actual training workshops with the police/FBI to experience a real hands-on environment. Similarly, for pursuing a profession in medicine, a student must attend 4-6 week workshops in a hospital and so on. All of these workshops must be arranged by the school. Each level of transcripts must include the work performed by the student so that colleges, universities, or other academic institutions would know the student’s skill which could benefit them during admission acceptances.
The goal is to motivate and channelize students’ energy to the right direction with little or no suspense of their potential future goals that were established by the student in consultation with his/ her counselor in 9th grade.
Beyond the work that needs to be done within the classroom, systematically speaking, due to low wages of the teachers, there is a chronic shortage of qualified teachers especially in math, science, and qualified subjects. A good teacher will make all the difference in the way a child learns and develops, so without a solid foundation of STEM teachers, students will be less interested in those subjects by the time they get to college.
Certified Teachers: “There must be certified teachers and an easier path to get qualified on the job for non-certified teachers. The adults that guide a child throughout their education are integral to their development. This is also why it’s so important that on a systematic level, we need to be paying our teacher’s a higher wage.
So many teachers throughout this country work more than one job to make ends meet, which leaves them feeling less motivated when it comes to their students. It’s a ripple effect that will have major impacts if we start the improvements on that level. State/School Districts must have a bridge program/path for unqualified teachers to become qualified while working on their job as a teacher,” Dr. Bhandal explained.
Students/Parents/Teachers and Student Council: His model shows that there needs to be a strong coordination team of Students/parents/teachers and student council, with a focus on attendance, homework, test scores, and follow-up. Every school district must have a functional non-profit organization to support the smart, economically divergent, and physically/mentally challenged students. This could improve attendance, lower dropouts, and thus lead to a world of lower crime, and higher graduation rates.
School Managements: On the higher level of School Managements, individuals in power, like the principal and their team, are accountable to maintain discipline, implement effective protocols against bullying and discrimination, which would lead to a safe environment in learning, motivation, and long term could lower dropouts and crime.
Curriculum: A centralized curriculum implemented for each state in coordination with county and local education authorities is recommended. The state may be allowed to include additional educational elements to make the curriculum more stringent and effective in consultation with the federal government. Additionally, the curriculum must be reviewed and revised continuously by educational committees at county, state, and federal levels.
Health: These elements within a school system are so important for maintaining a solid classroom environment and progression of learning. For example things like school meals should be healthy, both quality and quantity wise.
Economically Disadvantaged Students: Economically disadvantaged students should be provided any additional support they need In the beginning of each class year to ensure they’ll have all the tools they need to succeed.
After School Program: Each school must have after school programs to help with homework. Student’s must complete their homework assignments. No exception.
Transportation: No student be deprived of the transportation to school regardless of the area where he/she lives.
Teachers’ development: Opportunity be provided to teachers to attend national and international educational workshops so that they are equipped with wealth of knowledge to share with their students.
Examinations: I recommend students annual grades (A, B, C… or numerical) should be mixture of internal and external assessments. This is one of the key components for students to perform better on the national/international levels.
School Infrastructure is also massively important: each school must be equipped with necessary tools such as safe buildings, adequate staff and furniture, educational tools (Computers, labs, videos etc.) cafeteria, stadiums, playgrounds, rest rooms, CCTV, and more.
Health And Safety System: Within the infrastructure should be a solid health and safety system, including an on-site health professional, routine monitoring for mental illness. Technology such as CCTV, and scanners 50-100 yards away from school main entrance to identify dangerous objects and deter mishaps.
Student Class Size: Class size is also an integral element of a positive learning environment. Statistics have shown that reducing class size, improve student grades. Optimal student class size must be established such as 20-22 students per class so that each student has chance to ask questions and teachers opportunity to verify student’s class work and homework assignments
“All of these elements aid the growth of the students, who are the future of our world, so why aren’t we cultivating educational environments that will give them the best chance of success?
These changes will lead to safer schools, higher quality education, graduates with deeper knowledge, more opportunities for qualified teachers, and give students of all backgrounds in America the chance to reach their full potential, in STEM education and beyond, and lead the world internationally in terms of educational achievement and success,” Dr. Bhandal concluded.
To learn more about Dr. Ajit Bhandal’s K-12 model on educational reform in the US, click here!
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at email@example.com.