The U.S Education System in a Globalized Context

Today's post is authored by Education Project Group Member, Sowmya Satagopan.

The United States prides itself in being superior than their counterparts in almost every aspect. Freedom, patriotism, media, wealth, opportunity, and health to name a few. But one thing that the US cannot take pride in is its education system. Even though we spend more money per student on education than all other countries, the results are not up to par.  The problem in the United States is not about the funding, rather it’s about how the government obtains the money from the people.

Millions of laid off American factory workers were the first to realize that they were competing against job seekers from around the world with far better skills than them. This will be the same fate for workers who are in technical fields unless this country learns to prepare them to compete for challenging work that the new economy requires. The main problem with the American workforce is that they have some of the weaker mathematical and critical thinking skills. In a survey conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, adults in the United States score below average in problem solving skills in comparison to two underdeveloped countries, Italy and Spain.  

One of the major problems for students in the US is that the education curriculum varies from one state to another, which is a disadvantage because everyone is learning different material; therefore, when they have to take a standardized test their scores diverge drastically. In Finland, however, they have a national curriculum which allows their students to all be at the same pace, and have the same knowledge. Finland also provides high quality teacher training; preparing their teachers by professionalizing them with the values of society. Finland’s teachers do what they do for a living out of pure passion and dedication to educating their students. In the United States, most teachers do not need to go through extensive training which results in them having one of the lowest salaries, even though they put in extensive amount of work. This is the difference between Finland and the United States, the Finns provide their teachers with necessary education and a fair amount of salary, however in the US sufficient training is not required which results in low salaries, which then turns into strikes and riots.

Like I said before, the problem in the United States is funding of schools, rather, it is about the government and its laws on how one should pay for schooling. American schools rely heavily on tax income, so the city with the highest tax rates usually has the better school system. In most States, the wealthiest, highest-spending district gets to spend about twice as much per pupil, than the lowest-spending district, according to a federal advisory commission report. Contrastingly in Canada, the money is given to the district based on its size and needs, therefore the system evens out the tax base and ensures that the resources are equally distributed among the districts. This makes sure that the education is not unequal between the poor and wealthy districts.

Although it appears as though the United States is lagging behind in education, there are several initiatives that are being taken to remedy the situation. One important initiative that was passed by the Department of Education is the Excellent Educators for All act which aims to help states and districts in providing talented educators for the students who need them the most. Another project that the Department of Education is trying to bring about in the education system is more useful assessments and data, the Obama administration has invested 360 billion dollars in assessments that focus on critical thinking, problem solving and writing to eliminate traditional bubble tests.  A more local initiative would be the Education Committee in MedEq, whose purpose is to promote education in Detroit by going to various high schools and talking about the importance of education and how it correlates with stress, and success later on in life.  

References:

http://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/u-s-students-compare/

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/18/opinion/why-students-do-better-overseas.html?pagewanted=all

http://www.ed.gov/k-12reforms

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