Countries as Positive & Negative Role Models: The Link Between Education and the Economy

Photo courtesy of The New York Times
Photo courtesy of The New York Times

In the spirit of comparative studies in general and comparative education in particular here is yet another example of what countries like Vietnam can learn from countries like the United States in terms of what road(s) not to take – with ap0logies to the American poet Robert Frost.

The American work force has some of weakest mathematical and problem-solving skills in the developed world. In a recent survey by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a global policy organization, adults in the United States scored far below average and better than only two of 12 other developed comparison countries, Italy and Spain. Worse still, the United States is losing ground in worker training to countries in Europe and Asia whose schools are not just superior to ours but getting steadily better.

The lessons from those high-performing countries can no longer be ignored by the United States if it hopes to remain competitive.  (Excerpted from a 17.12.13 New York Times editorial entitled “Why Other Countries Teach Better – Three Reasons Students Do Better Overseas.”

1.  Teacher training in Finland:  “…But the most important effort has been in the training of teachers, where the country leads most of the world, including the United States, thanks to a national decision made in 1979. The country decided to move preparation out of teachers’ colleges and into the universities, where it became more rigorous. By professionalizing the teacher corps and raising its value in society, the Finns have made teaching the country’s most popular occupation for the young.”

2.  School funding in Canada:  Public school funding in the U.S. is based on property taxes, which results in inequality.  “Three of Canada’s largest and best-performing provinces — Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario — have each addressed the inequity issue by moving  have each addressed the inequity issue by moving to province-level funding formulas.”

3.  Fighting elitism in Shanghai:  “One of its strengths is that the city has mainly moved away from an elitist system in which greater resources and elite instructors were given to favored schools, and toward a more egalitarian, neighborhood attendance system in which students of diverse backgrounds and abilities are educated under the same roof.” 

oecd logoThe above analysis is based on Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) data.  As part of its Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), the OECD collects and analyses data that assist governments in assessing, monitoring and analyzing the level and distribution of skills among their adult populations as well as the utilisation of skills in different contexts.  The Survey of Adult Skills, carried out in 24 countries, and the Education and Skills Online Assessment for individuals are part of the package of tools available to support countries develop, implement and evaluate policies that foster both the development of skills and the optimal use of existing skills.”


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