Get Educated, America

This country is dubbed the world’s leading superpower, which is no revelation, considering the country’s outstanding economic progress and superior education system. No, not America, but China. Although China has not officially surpassed the United States as being the largest economy in the world in terms of GDP, the Asian country’s remarkable skill in schooling significantly exceeds American’s below-average performance.

Compared to the thirty four countries involved in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), Shanghai, China achieved the top scores in reading, science, and math, while the United States ranked 17th in reading, 21st in science, and 26th in math. According to PISA, rising scores indicate a growing economy. America’s educational system must be rethought to ensure that the future of this country consists of well-educated citizens and a prosperous economy. To fully understand this dilemma, three aspects must be examined: the PISA world study, America’s current education system, and possible solutions to mend it. OECD’s website gives insight to the PISA program, clarifying that it is an ongoing survey of how well fifteen year olds can reproduce and apply knowledge in unfamiliar settings.

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Lasting about two hours for each student, the assessment was a paper-based test with a mixture of multiple choice and free response questions. The goal of PISA is to offer insights for education policy and practice. In addition, the assessment oversees students’ academic trends in different countries. Aiding schools across the world, the findings of PISA allow countries to discover their own students’ knowledge compared to other countries and learn from techniques applied elsewhere. This well-respected study, started in the year 2000, has been found credible by the more than seventy nations – all planning to participate in the next survey in 2015.

Even though America’s rankings could be slightly more than previously stated, the numbers still expose our country’s startling educational weakness. The question, “Why is our educational system lacking?” needs to be answered. America is known as “the land of opportunity,” but being an American citizen, one quickly realizes that opportunity is scarce. Diminishing the already narrow opportunities for our youth, inequality in the United States has Americans turning a blind eye. Our unequal social system rains adversity on American students and the educational institutions they attend. According to the New York Times in 2013, American schools rely heavily on property taxes for funding, so richer districts with higher property values will earn more money than less financially stable districts with lower property values.

The result is contradictory learning experiences for kids around the nation; due to minimal funds, not every child is getting a proper education. Out of the issue of unequal schools stems another dilemma. An elitist system has formed, where elite teachers go to elite schools and teach elite students while poor districts receive mediocre teachers and obtain merely an adequate education. And another problem arises: American teachers do not all acquire equal competence in teaching. To mend the accumulation of issues within our educational system, we must look to other countries for a successful framework.

Canada, China, and Finland hold the solution for America’s failing educational structure. From the article “Why Other Countries Teach Better,” written for the New York Times in 2013, the three reasons that other countries produce higher academic achievements are balanced school funding, diminished elitism, and properly educated teachers. Canadians can teach Americans more than being apologetic. Americans can learn to apologize for creating inequality in schools by establishing state-level funding formulas, similar to the approach of Canada’s provinces. Each state would be able to determine how much money each of their districts collect, depending on the size and needs of the district, to ensure resources are distributed equitably. Meanwhile in the world’s leading country in education, China can be America’s tutor in combating elitism.

Following China’s example, America can close poor schools, reorganize them, or merge them with higher-level schools. Plus, moving city teachers to rural areas and vice versa could be beneficial to solving elitism in the United states as it was overseas in Asia. After solving inequality in Canada and battling elitism in China, we can fly over to Finland and extract their knowledge of teacher training. By developing a more rigorous education system for teachers and professionalizing the teacher corps, teachers have become more valued in Finnish society. Because of this, teaching has became the most popular career in Finland and only the top applicants are recruited for the profession.

If this method were practiced in the United States, it could close the gap between teachers’ skill. Together, all three of these strategies could be utilized to devise a new foundation for our education system. America’s disappointing PISA survey results, why our school system is failing, and the solutions to repair our educational structure capture the urgent need to fix schools around the country. The United States must take action to improve our education system before we fall severely behind the world educationally and economically. Implementation of foreign policies is required to correct our education system. By adopting techniques proven effective in other countries, we can work our way back to the top of the educational list.

We should not be discouraged by China surpassing the U.S. in the 2012 PISA survey, but should instead become motivated by the outcome. America has accomplished remarkable feats when effort and focus prevail. We are going to have to swing on our backpacks and take the bus around the world to get educated on how to maintain our title as a great world power.