January 12, 2012

Why compete with education in other countries?

I've never understood America's preoccupation with competing globally in education. Why is it so important for our students to outscore students in China or Taiwan on a standardized test? Will it raise my quality of life, if little Johnny's math grade is higher than his Japanese counterpart in the fourth grade?

Education Week's examination of how American education stacks up with education in other countries sums up the issue this way:
"Much of the debate centers on whether the U.S. education system has slipped from a position of dominance, or is holding steady, in areas deemed crucial to economic security, particularly the STEM subjects—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—and so-called 21st-century learning and communications skills."

Let's see if I have this right. If our students' scores on an arbitrary test are substandard, according to some bureaucratic bean counter, the economic security of the entire nation may be in jeopardy. I can't imagine anything more absurd.

I wonder if we were to focus our energies on creating opportunities to collaborate with other countries on best practices just how much better off all of the world's students might be.