Debate and Discussion

US Education vs rest of world: We suck?
JillyFoo at 12:01PM, Dec. 7, 2013
posts: 627
joined: 1-2-2006
I'm hearing it all over the news again. The USA education system is lagging behind rest of world mostly Asian countries (but Poland too). Probably the real reason is our joyous three month summer vacation.
But what I really wonder is do we have to be that perfect and do what other countries do to be that up there? For instance I've heard of cram schools after school for children, Saturday classes, and kicking bad students out of the school system by Middle school to eliminate their scores from the adverage.
What do you think? If you are in another country what do you think your schools do to get great scores in math, science, and reading?
Why do you think the US education system lags behind other developed countries in education?
Faliat at 11:29PM, Dec. 7, 2013
posts: 584
joined: 10-17-2006
Depending on which country in the UK you live in the educational standards, results, qualifications and holidays are different. So far we're round about the same as the US as France but that's only on average.
Scotland has summer breaks earlier (late may) and they finish earlier (late august) than England so when I moved down here I had an extra month of waiting for the start of classes. Of course I'd already been out of school for four years by then, out of college for a year while waiting to move and didn't do the subject before so I dunno how much it affected me. But my health was already really bad so I was doomed to fail that class, anyway.
From what I've heard and seen the English high-school uniforms are more formal but the system itself is a lot better managed and less strict (some of the kids I knew actually LIKED their uniforms and teachers). There's also a separate college for those over 16 or 17 called a “6th form college” where it's kind of like a school but everybody's older and they're all specific to one type of education like arts, media, business, etc.
It depends on the school but mine was basically one building for everyone over 11/12 and under 18/19 no matter what age or lesson and there was NO focussing on the subjects you wanted to persue or progress in. You had to put just as much effort into classes you didn't need or want because then it would fill their quota.
Your first two years of high school there are basically tasters of what you can take later on for the next three to five years and at the age of about 13 you are forced to choose from categories.
Maths, RE, English, Gym and French are compulsory but can only pick two sciences and one from each other list they gave you.
Not sure which ones were against which but my available choices were Spanish, Home Economics, Modern Studies (Politics and how society is run by idiots), IT (How to run powerpoint and make spreadsheets), Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Technology (learning to use drills and saws and shiz), Design (designing products in 3D computer programs) Art and Music.
And damn wasn't I good at all of them (except technology because fuck going near those saws and drills with people that have already stabbed me, thrown chemicals at me and taken joy out of destroying my work!) So my choices were hard. And WRONG.
I was in the top of every class and as a result, given crazy amounts of homework for each. And despite sitting at the table from the end of dinner at 6pm to 3am finishing everything off for three different lessons I still wasn't able to complete the rest on time.
My maths teacher even had the audacity to suggest my parents hire a private tutor for me at home. How the hell was I supposed to get one if there was no time spare for me to have one because of all the homework I was doing?
A year before final exams you get preliminaries (prelims) which is where you basically get your backup qualifications in case you fuck up on the main tests. These are treated way more seriously than the actual standard grades and you only get a 5 min break in between tests. That's not enough to go get something to eat, use the bathroom or get a drink from the vending machines with the 5 other years (with between 4 and 8 separate classes of 20 to 35 students for each) having to use them the same time as you so basically during this time there's no food and liquids going in or out of you for a whole day until you get home.
This lasts for a whole fucking week in some schools.
My results were great for my prelims… but then I got pulled out of 50% of my classes (left only with Art, French, Maths and English) and put into a lower-ranking class for maths because my teacher was fed up with me complaining about being beaten up with books and spat on all the time so my highest achievable result for that was also lowered.
So yeah. Never get into the Scottish education system. It's a black hole of child sweatshop labour where instead of shoes, they're churning out cryptic grades and chunks from their souls.
And even if you get into a non-shite school it's still not worth it. Because a lot of foreign and even domestic universities won't understand your qualifications and you'll constantly have to go through extra tests to prove on paper you're not lying (even when the people asking the questions believe you).
I have no idea where Scotland would be on the table if the rest of the UK wasn't counted with it, but I bet if it was on it's own you'd run out of ink trying to print the whole list of westernised countries before you get to it.
So don't feel so bad, Americans. Scotland's having a referendum for independence next year.
If they get it, the horrifying, dreadful, un-diluted truth will come out and you guys will have nothing to worry about. Be it the lack of education, suicide rates, obesity rates, murder rates… You guys only have high numbers because you're so monstrously big. Scotland is tiny on it's own and it's still a major competitor in all the above societal diseases.
Some Scots are PROUD of that because we're at least better than somebody at something… Even if it is at being worse than them.

Call that jumped up metal rod a knife?
Watch mine go straight through a kevlar table, and if it dunt do the same to a certain gaixan's skull in my immediate vicinity after, I GET A F*****G REFUND! BUKKO, AH?!

- Rekkiy (NerveWire)
last edited on Dec. 7, 2013 11:54PM
ozoneocean at 9:49AM, Dec. 8, 2013
posts: 26,045
joined: 1-2-2004
OMG Faliat wall of text! ^_^
That's a shame about the murder rates and obesity and stuff… more the “trainspotting” type Scottland and less of the “brigadoon” :(
All the stuff I've heard about the modern US school system as an outsider is that the problem is that the current system focuses on achieving high score on test results and almost nothing else. So ofcourse things will be pretty shitty. Focussing resources, studying and training specifically to get better test results is the most obviously, utterly, extremely moronic thing possible.
Tests are only ever supposed to be an adjucnt, not the main show:
The main focuss of schooling is to try and get kids to learn the subjects. The purpose of tests is to see how much they learned and evaluate that. But if all you're doing is trying to study to do better at the test then you've completely failed. Missed the point of education entirely.
It's taking a shortcut… Like a house builder making a hollow prop home out of canvas and wood frames and expecting to be paid the same as if he built a real house, because hey, he made something that looked like the fancy photo you picked out from broucher, who cares if it's real or not, as long as it looks the same?
…shame you can't actually live in a fake house though. :(
So yeah, they need to completely scrap that “no child left behind” shit and scale back on standardised testing and putting so much focuss final on test results.
In all my years of learning the type of evaluation that worked by far the best was when they evaluated each project I worked on- so over a semester your final might be divided amongnst all your assinements, 5 for the small ones and 25 for the big ones… That way you're motivated to do a good job on them and actually LEARN while you do it!
ayesinback at 5:26PM, Dec. 12, 2013
posts: 2,061
joined: 8-23-2010
I've heard a lot of disparagement about “teaching to the test”.   My response is:  how good is the test?  If the test asks for valuable information, especially via calculation and essay, then the students are going to at least be exposed to valuable information just to take the test.  If it's T/F, well, then it's really just a gambling event.
I think the real problem is that public education has become very standardized to try to be equal for all.  Not a bad goal, but when only 60% (more? less?) of the student population is “standard” – you leave both high and low “achievers” on the sidelines.
Learning methods are often untapped because curriculae are formulated by experts who are generations out of touch with what students are doing outside of school.  It's a big problem now with kids accustomed to smartphones and tablets and don't know how to discuss topics, only comment (obv-y, totally cra cra).
And the people in the houses
All went to the university,
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same
kawaiidaigakusei at 7:53PM, Dec. 12, 2013
posts: 428
joined: 3-23-2007
I can only speak from my point of view of having attended Public School in the USA from kindergarten to the University level and then working alongside the Unified School District system for two years.

There is an emphasis on standardized testing from a very young age, but the same test is administered to every child in that grade the same year. It takes no account for the rigor of the curriculum a school decides to place on its students: basic, magnet, or GATE. This makes an unfair advantage because “gifted” students who are one year ahead of the test will score higher.

High school is where the majority of memorization and regurgitation takes place and that is because a TON of tests are administered in those four years. AP, IB, SAT, SAT II, ACT, State Exams, and the High School Exit Exam are all qualifiers to get into a good college after graduation. There was a lot of emphasis placed on the transcript and I believe a driving force behind much of the studying was to get good grades to get into a good school in the hopes of moving to a better city.

Now, it was not until I worked in the inner city of Los Angeles where I discovered issues that never crossed my mind when I was a student. Some of the issues urban schools face are immigration (deported, language barrier, lack of citizenship), bad influences (street gangs, drugs, questionable parenting), and lack of commitment (teenage pregnancy, dropping out to work full-time). Teachers are expected to keep test scores high and are let go if their classes continually fall below the expectation bar. It is not constitutional to fire teachers on the basis of test scores, ESPECIALLY when there are social factors outside of their control. Usually when budget cuts happen, the younger, passionate, energetic teachers are the first to receive pink slips while the older teachers with tenure keep their jobs.

The reason a school in Los Angeles is unable to keep up with the public education system in Finland (which is the same size, yet has one of the top education systems in the world) has to do with the poverty gap. Some school districts have so much money pouring into their public schools that it is the equivalent of attending a private school. Many public schools depend on their test scores to continually stay above average in order to receive funding from the State, which in turn, leads to the emphasis on standardized test scores.

The answer to the problem is like eating an elephant…and there have been multiple ideas to remedy the issue. However just pumping money in the system to yeild better results is not the answer.
last edited on Dec. 13, 2013 12:12AM
El Cid at 5:48PM, Dec. 14, 2013
posts: 1,046
joined: 5-4-2009
I always cringe a little whenever I see someone make these pointless international comparisons as if they never learned what ceteris paribus was all about in their statistics courses. And also, while it's certainly possible to dissect aggregate test data nationwide and get statistically valid results, the United States isn't nearly homogeneous enough in terms of demography, curricula, etc., for the results to be meaningful in any real-world sense. There's no such thing as a “typical” American student. It's a popular fiction we're all just trained to accept as somehow relevant.
It's interesing that Asia was mentioned. I think it would be very interesting to see a comparison of how well Asian students do in the United States as compared to in their countries of origin. That would be somewhat closer to not violating ceteris paribus, at least, and would give a better picture of just how much of a role demographics plays into all of this. Is Japan so much further ahead of the U.S. because they have a better education system, or do they just have more Japanese students than we do? I'd imagine it's a combination of both.
(And for those who need handholding, no that's not a suggestion that some groups of people are genetically smarter than the rest of us. That would be nonsense. However, there are very distinct cultural differences in terms of how certain cultural groups, en masse, value education and deal with their intellectual and developmental responsibilities. These diverse approaches will manifest themselves in the form of diverse educational outcomes. It should not be surprising to anyone that a public school in inner city Los Angeles does not compare favorably to schools in Japan or Poland.)
ozoneocean at 8:24PM, Dec. 15, 2013
posts: 26,045
joined: 1-2-2004
Concerning the cultural sterotypes for Indian students- When I was doing my post grad studies at uni and learning PHP, web programming, 3D animation etc the Indian students would coppy work from me.
These guys could not grasp the concepts at all. Programming was absoloutely alen to me and as opaque as stone, I'm an artist and just had no understanding at all… but I studied my books like fuck every single day, reading and re-reading whole chapters even on the train there and back, doing tutorials on the net at home and looking at real world examples… and eventually it clicked and just by reading a page of PHP or javascript or whatever I could see in my mind exactly how it would function and work on the screen.All the 3D stuff made sense and I made complex characters and little animatted movies for fun at home.
The Indians, even those doing computer sceince didn't have that dedication or the understanding that came with it, all they cared about was cricket.
I'm not joking.
For them their families would have been paying thousands to have them there…
SO there you go, just an anecdote about learning culture and sterotypes.

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