Should Our Educational System Emulate Other Countries?

Should We Emulate Singapore, Finland, Canada, or Japan?

Dave Brown is on a mission to inform the public
about US Public Schools. Do you think it is a good idea to emulate Singapore, Finland, Canada, or Japan?

Maybe you'd like for us to exceed the high test scores of students from Singapore, who have done well on international comparisons. CNN journalist Fareed Zakaria revealed that the high-scoring Singapore students who reached adulthood weren't as productive" and "faded as they moved into real life 10 to 20 years down the road while Americans who trailed Singapore badly on the tests outdid them in every aspect of life."

Another country Americans used to be envious of was Japan, during the 1980s. That was then: Japan's economy diminished three times as much as the U.S. economy in 2008. After sixth grade, Japanese students take a highly competitive test to get into high schools. Up until that time, all children stay together in the same class and move at the same pace. There are no special reading groups determined by ability — they're all equal in Japan. Maybe we shouldn't look to the Far East for educational advice.

When pundits refer to the success of other nations' schools, they seldom mention the geographic size of those countries compared to the United States. Singapore is the size of the state of Kentucky. Finland, whose educational system Americans frequently praise, is the size of Colorado. Educational systems that small can't possibly be as challenging to manage as the U.S. system.

If pundits are anxious to compare Finland's and Singapore's educational systems with ours, then the United States must consider adopting some of their educational strategies. The entire cost, for instance, of training teachers at the universities in Finland and Singapore are paid for by the government — absolutely no tuition or other educational costs exist for education majors in those countries. Even in neighboring Ontario, the government pays about 66 percent of students' college costs if they are education majors.

Finnish students have scored well on some international tests. In examining the possible reasons for their success, researchers note,

What is a Good School? Find out more in Why Americas Public Schools are the Best Place for Kids

Schools are equitably funded, well stocked, and uniformly well supported; class sizes are fairly small; students receive food and health care as well as educational supports. In addition, teachers' instructional hours are short by U.S. standards (about 60 percent of the time U.S. teachers teach), so teachers have time for fashioning strong instruction, planning, meeting with students and parents, and grading papers, while also maintaining a reasonable family life.

An Amazing Advantage for Students and Teachers

Small class size, "food and health care," more time for teachers to plan lessons and grade papers, and a "reasonable family life" are an amazing advantage for students and teachers. It's a wonder anyone would choose to teach in the United States considering the lack of resources for students and the additional hours American teachers put in after school compared to Finnish teachers.

Unlike, U.S. students, who are tested almost every year they're in school, Finnish students take no external standardized tests except for a college admissions test designed by teachers. Finnish students do well academically without testing companies' intrusions into their learning experiences.