Falling behind: America’s failing education system

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Falling behind: America’s failing education system

Students in a classroom preparing for a test during their seven hour school day.

Students in a classroom preparing for a test during their seven hour school day.

Photo provided

Students in a classroom preparing for a test during their seven hour school day.

Photo provided

Photo provided

Students in a classroom preparing for a test during their seven hour school day.

Clayton Hedges, Memorial Staff Writer

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America is said to be the shining city upon a hill, the world’s most powerful nation and the epitome of democracy; many Americans have believed this for years but as it currently stands the good ole U.S. of A. is failing to keep up with other countries in, arguably, the most important area needed to continue being a successful nation: education. 

U.S. high schoolers are currently ranked 40th on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) which tests students from around the world. Roughly 30% of the tested Americans were below the baseline average for the math portion of the test which has shown a consistent decline in the past eight years. 

The main complaint that students and parents have when it comes to the U.S. education system is standardized testing. There is little proof that it is effective and has changed the way U.S. teachers instruct; instead of teaching the basic knowledge on a subject, teachers now have standards they must meet and decide to teach to a test.

 However, many Asian countries like China, Japan and Singapore all use standardized testing programs and consistently rank among the most educated students in the world, so it begs the question: why is it not working in America?

The answer is that there are many cultural differences between Americans and East Asia. Taught that the community is above the individual, eastern cultures are more willing to shed their individuality than westerners; meanwhile, Americans grow up hearing about the “American Dream” and the self-made men and women that founded this country. 

Truthfully, if people in the U.S. don’t want to do something, then they won’t. That’s where Finland makes its entrance into the discussion. 

The Finnish government has recently revamped their education system, focusing on a more holistic approach and allowing students and parents to decide if their child’s education should start in pre-k and kindergarten or if it should continue past the age of 16. This new system has made them one of the top five countries for primary and secondary education. 

On top of this, Finland has decided to make schools start later and has left more time for their students to eat while only having one standardized test throughout their education. Making students buy into their own education has put them just under the likes of China and Japan and they’re gaining on them. 

The government has no say on what and how teachers educate their students, as teaching in Finland requires a master’s degree and a rigorous training program; pair this with the fact that these teachers stay with the same students for upwards of six years, students learn to trust them which also helps with the learning process. 

Comparing that to the respect teachers receive here in the U.S. where, in many states, there are thousands of jobs that have to be filled by emergency certification, paired with the fact that many teachers live right at the poverty line based on their yearly income can lead one to see that there is more than just the education system at fault for its current state.

Yet, the chance of a change seems fairly bleak, as there are many prominent public figures and politicians that are backed by lobbyists from testing companies. These said companies make hundreds of millions off the backs of standardized testing and are staunchly opposed to the idea of a change similar to that of Finland. Until the American government decides to invest more into its future, this great nation will continue to fall behind its competition. 

Contact Clayton Hedges at [email protected].

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