Emily Thinks Public Education Needs to Change

Posted by: Michele Cohen

California native Emily Eggly has observed Philadelphia’s public education system and thinks things need to change. The rising senior Art Education major, recipient of this year’s Sis Grenald Endowed International Travel Fellowship, will travel to Finland for a week in September to study the country’s advanced public education system. The fellowship is awarded annually to an outstanding member of the junior class for advanced study and international travel.

“I honestly didn’t expect to win the award,” Eggly said. “I submitted the proposal because it went along with the work I was making anyway and I thought ‘why not try?’”

Eggly began researching the differences between the public education systems in the U.S. and Finland during her junior year at Moore. She developed an interest in Finland because it offers individualized paths for different learners.

“Once students complete ‘basic comprehensive school’ at age 16, they can choose to study a vocation or continue their academic track to prepare for college,” she said. All teachers are required to have Master’s degrees and are all trained under the same guidelines.

Eggly creates “statement art” reflecting the complex issues facing the U.S. education system. She has created pieces on school violence, the unequal treatment of English as a Second Language (ESL) students and the inequality of education between social classes.

“Bringing weapons into schools has become so commonplace that it’s almost not even news anymore,” Eggly said. “I stitched together felt key chains for backpacks in the shape of knives and guns because these weapons have become an accessory at school. It’s just accepted at this point.”

Eggly’s observation of these issues led to her search for answers. “I wanted to know if other countries were having these problems,” she said. The U.S. ranks 14th in the world overall in public education, while Finland ranks 5th, according to a 2014 global analysis of education byThe Learning Curve, a project initiated by Pearson, the world’s largest education company and developed by The Economist Intelligence Unit.

Through the Sis Grenald Endowed International Travel Fellowship, Eggly will be able to observe Finland’s schools first-hand. She will visit different schools to observe and talk with English-speaking teachers and the administration. She will present her findings to the Moore community in October.

“I’m compiling research for myself so that I can take what they do (in Finland) and incorporate it into my own teaching practice and philosophy,” Eggly said.

In the future, Eggly hopes to open her own school or become an administrator to implement a system of education that caters to a variety of learners, like in Finland, where students are not separated based on learning ability. “Most schools in the U.S. are made for one specific type of learner and success,” she said. “Education needs to be accessible to everyone.” Her more immediate goal is to become a teacher after earning her BFA in Art Education from Moore.

“Ever since I could come up with something I wanted to be, I wanted to be an art teacher,” Eggly said. “I learned about Moore’s Art Education program through a portfolio day at Cal Arts. In comparison with other schools, Moore’s program was well-established and students can earn a teaching certificate in just four years.”

Eggly has not yet done her required student teaching, but she has had experience teaching in Philadelphia. She taught art to fifth graders at James Rhodes Elementary School in West Philadelphia through Spiral Q, a nonprofit art organization that partners with Philadelphia public schools. She also taught at Greenfield Elementary School through Learning Through Photography (LTP), a community arts project through The Galleries at Moore. Lastly, she was an art teacher in the summer camp at Face to Face in Germantown, a nonprofit community group.

A recent internship at ArtWell, another arts education nonprofit group, sparked an interest in art therapy for Eggly, something she may pursue down the road. “I enjoy early childhood education, especially working with students with special needs or behavioral issues,” Eggly said. “Sometimes art can be a better learning tool for these students as opposed to book-based learning. I’m interested in possibly getting a Master’s degree in Art Therapy.”

Eggly hopes to do her student teaching in Philadelphia and upon graduation, stay and teach in the city. “There is so much need,” she said. “It’s frustrating to see things in the School District of Philadelphia go downhill, especially when it comes to arts programs.”