By Noel Hincha – School is school is school. Education is education is education. From the cavemen, since the Greeks, and to modern day, learning proves to be important – if not essential – to developing decent human beings and cultivating intellectual advancement. However, not all schools or educations are equal, and so vary from city to city and country to country.
It’s no secret America does not place considerably high in education rankings; when compared to the rest of the world our system is not the best, but it is not the worst. On a global scale, countries simply possess different educational systems that produce different educational outcomes.
Here is a mirror and pair of glasses:
- Freedom: Perhaps the basis of Americanism, but some students find the very aspect a major – no pun intended – difficulty in college when figuring out the meaning of their life endeavors at the ripe age of 18, especially within liberal arts. Almost incomprehensible to the American mind, other countries allow their students to choose a career pathway from as early as middle school age. France, in high school for example, sorts students into social studies, literature, or science concentrations where they consequently focus on their desired path. A system like the French may decrease “undecided-major-young-adult-crisis” stress. But what is better: depth or breadth?
- Language: Arguably, the most integral aspect of culture and a vital factor in an increasingly interconnected world. Of course, immersion and bilingual schools exist throughout America; however, numerous countries normally and absolutely require the learning of English as well as another foreign language. Some schools in France require two languages at a minimum: English and Russian, English and Spanish, English and Italian, English and Chinese – the list continues indefinitely. Then, in China and many Asian countries, English is a rigorous requirement. So, back to the mirror: most American high schools require only two years of a foreign language, and Marquette only requires a minimum of foreign language up to the intermediate level depending on one’s major.
- Price: In a most informal manner, all I’m saying is that Marquette’s collegiate expenses are about the equivalent of the America’s median household income while Germany’s tuition costs an acceptance or rejection letter – free; I’ll just leave this here, ponder the politics.
- Time: The allocation of time varies from culture to culture across the world, and the educational system feels the impact. In China, students take a noon nap to rejuvenate lost energy. In France, students take an hour to two hour long lunch break to appreciate cuisine and socialize. In Niger, students walk miles and miles to find water and bring it back to their home before school. In Israel, students attend school from Sunday to Friday. In America, students spend hours before, during, and after school working on extracurricular activities and part-time jobs. Schedules vary from sunrise to sunset. Priorities differ and a war between interest and requirement evolves, but in summary: every culture aptly uses their time.
- Tests: Sometimes grades cannot be the highest priority; sometimes grades are the only factor. In an ideal world, students are not their test scores and GPA; however, the world is less than ideal in this regard. An indefinite, ever-growing means of quantifying human intelligence persist throughout the international scene. In consequence, the stress and well-being related to such means persists. A question up to the leaders of education: what is better? Testing students consistently to adjust curriculums, stimulate competition, and conduct analytics? Making one test’s grade determine the future of a student’s career, socioeconomic position, and honor? Or, something in between?
With a capitalistic mindset, it is easy to make education a competition; with a stubborn attitude, it is easy for education systems to consequently lag behind others. There is not a simple answer as to what makes one country’s schools better than another’s; there is not a simple plan detailing how to advance American education. Infinite factors exist that contribute to the advancement or decline of a country’s educational system. What works in one country might not work in another without severe political and socioeconomic changes. So, where does one plant their roots or take a leap of faith?