Yesterday at the Global Education Competitiveness Summit, American officials explored what they could learn from the best-practices of the highest performing countries from around the world. Two examples, from Singapore and Finland, top the list. While these nations achieve their high performing status in different ways, as the article below indicates, both have very high standards for teachers. In both cases, teachers need master’s degree, are part of a professional and societal “elite”, and receive many hours of professional development and career track challenge.
What if we start to look closely at why so many new teachers drop out in the first five years of teaching? What if we had much more of a rigorous filter for students who want to become teachers in the U.S? What if we emphasized overall critical thinking and problem-solving strategies and cultivated a culture of future teachers who embrace rigor and challenge? What if we rebuilt the curriculum emphasized in most schools of education, which is arguably not meeting the needs of today’s students or young teachers? What if we imported some of the teachers from the world’s highest performing nations to help us make these kinds of changes on the ground level?
In addition to the educational performance success of countries like Finland and the city-state of Singapore, it is important to also ask:
1) what is the unemployment rate in these countries?
2) How many citizens have health care?
3) What is the crime rate?
4) How many citizens are in prison?
5) What are the taxes?
6) What emphasis does the society as a whole place on education?
Surely, for the United States to radically change educational outcomes and compete for the 21st century, some of these other societal areas will need to be dealt with and improved simultaneously. A healthy, vital nation has a far greater chance of having strong teachers with world-class graduates than a nation that is tapped out, unhealthy, uninsured and in many areas, impoverished. We can and should work on each of these fronts for long term gain.
By Sean Cavanagh
American education officials trying to learn from the policies and practices of top-performing nations seem to have two exemplary models in Singapore and Finland.
Yet in some respects, those two nations have risen to the top in very different ways.
That was one of the lessons that emerged yesterday at what was billed as the Global Education Competitiveness Summit, which brought state officials and business leaders together here to discuss lessons from high-achieving countries that could be applied to U.S. school systems—an omnipresent theme in American education circles these days.
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