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11 Foreign Education Policies That Could Transform American Schools

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[caption id="attachment_22607" align="alignright" width="300"]The PISA Test The PISA Test[/caption] Research shows that on the Program of International Student Assessment (PISA), an exam given to 15-year-old students in countries around the world, American students perform in the middle of the spectrum (see results from the 2012 exam here). Why is it that students in many countries are out-performing those in the United States? There is no way to determine a definitive answer, but a good starting point is to compare the differences between the American educational system and those in higher-performing countries. The Huffington Post formed a list of 11 educational policies and methods that seem to work well in other countries, including:
  • Effectively teaching students how to conceptualize, particularly in regards to applying math skills in creative ways. *
  • Making schooldays shorter (Ex. Students in Finland, a high scoring country, spend 600 hours in the classroom per year compared to the average 1,080 hours). *
  • Diverting more government spending towards education (Ex. Singapore spends 20% of its national budget on education compared to the relatively pitiful 2% spent by the U.S. As a result, teachers in Singapore are actually paid more than their lawyers and engineers). *
  • Keeping students with one teacher and class every year. This is the norm in countries like Finland. *
  • Paying teachers more. Relevant to the point above about government spending, educators in Singapore, Finland and South Korea are paid significantly more than teachers in the U.S. *
  • Directing better schools to help out failing schools. This is a practice used in Shanghai referred to as "empowered administration."  *
  • Instilling a strong sense of belief and determination in students. It is deeply saddening that only half of American students responded that they believe they have the ability to succeed. Confidence can play a large role in achievement! *
  • Capping class sizes. Some classrooms in the U.S. have 40 or more students.  *
  • Making sure parents take a more constructive role in children's education. This is somewhat subjective, but studies have shown that parents in China are generally more engaged in their children's educations than parents in the U.S. *
  • Giving the kids a break (Ex. The school year in New Zealand is divided into four terms with two-week breaks in between, in addition to a summer vacation). *
  • Stressing engagement and positive relationships between students and staff (Ex. The attendance rate in Japan is 99.98%; in the U.S. it is 92%).
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