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There is no question that education provides constructive returns to society as more and better education leads to higher productivity and economic incomes. In fact, Margaret Spellings, former US Secretary of Education, pointed that education is the US chance to maintain lead in the global competition; she stated "education is the gateway to opportunity and the foundation of a knowledge-based, Innovation driven economy" (Kagia, 2006). The question then will be whether spending more money on education leads to better academic achievement by students in schools?
Dose Money Improve Academic Achievement
My first perception toward this topic is the money can't "buy" us better academic achievement or educational excellence. Form scientific point of view; there is a lack of reliable findings on weather money is related to the academic achievement. The research studies which tried to test this connection between money and academic achievement have came up with mixed results. For an example, Nyhan and Alkadry (1999), Picus and Robillard (2000) stated that there is no significant link between school spending and student achievement . Greenwald, Hedges and Laine (1994) found that the amount of available educational resources (secured by money) were positively linked to the academic achievement of students; the finding which supported by Verstegen and King (1998) who concluded that "resource input can and do make a difference in the student' educational outcome". From different angle and looking into the American experience, the increased spending in education has not corresponded with equal improvement in the performance of the American students (Lips, Watkins and Fleming, 2008).
Now, despite the lack of correlation between money or spending on schools and academic achievement, resources, as I strongly believe, are still an important factor in academic performance. Having this in mind and reflecting on other variables that are proven to affect the student achievement like the class size and teachers' quality and experiences lead me to think the relationship between money and academic achievements doesn't depend on "how much money is spent" but "how the money is spent". Money is important yes..but there must be a strategic plan to measure the performance gaps in the educational system that affect the academic achievement then allocate money to bridge these gaps. In their study, Greenwald, Hedges and Laine (1994) noted that the discussion of school reformation should start from assessing the current relation between input resources and academic outcomes then determine the best way to allocate resources more effectively.
Unfortunately, while most of the learning process occurs in the classroom, usually money is spent on non-classroom expenditures (administration, plant operations, food services, transportation, support services..). Hence, if we seek to see improvement of academic achievement as a result of spending more money, then the money should be allocated to classroom personnel (teachers, teacher assistants and substitutes, guests lecturers), learning activities (athletics, field trips, co-school cognitive contest), Tuition for private lessons (for students with learning difficulties), and most importantly for the instructional materials (Textbooks, workbooks, films, computer software..). Teachers and instructional materials are the most two important factors to look at when discuss money and academic achievement. We agree that teacher quality and experience affect the student academic achievement; then how money can enhance this dimension? Defiantly through increase spending in professional development initiatives and provide more training and learning opportunities for teaching professionals and this should include exposure to international experiences rather than only local training workshop. One more factor that is important is the teacher salary; as studies indicated positive and negative significance in relationship of teacher salary on student achievement (Hankla, Pate,Leech and Grubbs, n.d). It is simple as I believe and as it applies for any other professional filed, if seek highly motivated committed and productive innovative employees then you should satisfy their basic needs through higher income and better benefits packages. This, by the way, applies for the students as well since students' poverty is seen to affect their academic performance and therefore there should be initiatives to support poor students with indirect resources (classroom supplies, free mealsâ€¦).
Instructional materials, form other hand, is an imperative key in the learning process that has not received the sufficient attention for development. Money can be allocated to recruit instructions and curriculums experts if not for enhancing the creation design and contents of the materials, then to advise the instructional plans to transfer the knowledge in the classroom more effectively. This extends to the instructional aids like visual aids, computers and learning software. Incorporation of technology into learning process is rapidly growing and it is proven to enhance the knowledge transfer and therefore the academic achievement. In our local context, although there is general acknowledge of technology role in education, there is still no evidence of allocating money to implement technology-base instructions or to develop learning software.
Further, I have to emphasize that I don't underestimate the impact of school' facilities and services in the academic achievement. In contrast and in refer to the fact the class size affects the student achievement, I believe more money should be spent to reduce the number of students in the classrooms by building more the number of classrooms and recruit more teachers. The point I making is that money could make different in academic achievement if and only if spent on the real factors that are connected to the academic achievement.
I believe the education reform strategy should focus in providing more resources to improve education opportunities for student to achieve more. Money spending should be allocated to the classroom expenditures and mainly the teachers and instructions materials. This formula should work to improve both quantity and quantity of education and then it is the only way I would believe that money can achieve education excellence.