The election of Donald Trump has left the United States and the world in the state of shock. It isn’t quite clear what kind of policies Trump will enact, because he can’t be considered a traditional republican or even a conservative. During the transition period, cabinet appointments will provide much clearer image of what’s to expect from the new administration. Choosing Betsy DeVos for the Department of education might be the first clue.
As a candidate, Trump has promised to break up the public school system, which he considers to be a monopoly. That makes Ms DeVos a perfect choice for the job. She has worked tirelessly to change the public education system and to replace it with charter school programs. Critics have claimed that these programs will disenfranchise African-American students, as well as students with learning disabilities and other underprivileged groups.
While this may seem like a uniquely American problem – it most definitely is not. Australian public schools are in a lot of trouble as well, as declining educational standards continuously show.
Pisa survey is a test used to determine proficiency in math, science and reading. It’s administered in 70 countries around the world. Australia is participating for 16 years now and the test scores are getting worse every year. At the same time, other countries, especially in Asia, are making rapid progress.
The assessment shows that Australian schools are now worse than those in the US, which were for a long time considered the worse among “western democracies”. What’s e even more interesting – the results are declining among students of all ability levels. This means that the best and the worst students in Australia have equally deteriorated in the last 16 years.
It’s seems that education is becoming increasingly monolingual . Three years ago, less than 10 percent of the students have been studying a foreign language for their HSC. It’s the lowest percentage in history. Interestingly, less than 800 students in the entire country are trying to learn Chinese (600 of which are of Chinese origin). A decade ago, that number was twice as large.
At the same time, all around the globe (especially in Asia) children are learning English from a very young age. The courses are constructed to teach kids about American culture and customs as well as the language itself. This obviously puts Asian students in a significant competitive advantage. The market is more global than ever and native English speakers have less to offer than their foreign counterparts.
There’s no way around it – most of educational problems are actually problems with funding. James Heckman, Nobel prize winner has proven that education spending has a great return on investment, especially if the education starts in early childhood. That’s why we need more organization like the Harding Miller Education Foundation which provides children with tools and resources needed to achieve full academic potential.
Change in the debate around spending in education is also needed. Now the focus is on how much money is being spent and at which level of government. Discussion should be about how the money is spent, what specific programs are being implanted and how are they helping the kids. For instance, when Germany had bad results on PISA tests - it was a call to action. Education was on the front page of every newspaper for months and soon those conversations became public policy.
It’s important to use education to make the economy more competitive in an increasingly unified world. But, that should not be the only goal. Quality education makes good citizens and improves lives. These aspects should always be in view when designing educational policy.
James D. Burbank has worked for years in traditional as well as online marketing. He has worked in Central Asia, Europe and Australasia in recent years.