IAP NEWS UPDATE July 28th – August 30th, 2012 Publication: Center for American Progress Title: The Competition that Really Matters Author: Donna Cooper, Adam Hersh, and Ann O'Leary Website: http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/economy/report/2012/08/21/11983/the-
competition-that-really-matters/ The U.S. economy is weakening relative to our global competitors. Recent economic growth is 40 percent below any other growth period since World War II as other economies around the globe draw in more investment, both foreign and domestic. In contrast, despite still being the world’s leading recipient of direct foreign investment, business investment overall in the United States between 2001 and 2007 was the slowest in U.S. history. Meanwhile, competition is on the rise. From 1980 to 2011 China increased its share of world economic output from 2 percent to 14 percent. And India more than doubled its output during that period, from 2.5 percent of global production to 5.7 percent. The U.S. share of the world economy fell to 19 percent from 25 percent. While increasing global competition is inevitable, lackluster U.S. performance need not be. Indeed, rising growth and incomes in other countries present potential new opportunities and markets for American workers and companies. But if the United States means to continue to lead the world and to share our prosperity with it, U.S. policymakers must deploy an American strategy that is responsive to modern economic challenges—a strategy that makes it possible for every American family to ensure that children entering adulthood are prepared to find a successful place in the global economy. What should the strategy be? Economists of all stripes point to a robust pipeline of skilled workers as the essential ingredient of a strong and growing economy. Indeed, the two countries most rapidly gaining on the United States in terms of economic competitiveness—China and India—have ambitious national strategies of investing and promoting improved educational outcomes for children to strengthen their positions as contenders in the global economy. The good news is that the successful history of the American middle class since World War II offers crucial insights for how to grow the world’s best-skilled, most innovative, and most dynamic workforce. Those insights, combined with best practices being employed in other developed economies, offer the parameters for a winning American economic strategy. That’s what this report attempts to do. It takes stock of our own nation’s human capital challenges, explores the competitive strategies underway in India and China, then uses a comprehensive review of the economic literature to create a broad set of principles for U.S. lawmakers and policy experts to
tackle the greatest economic challenge in a generation: How to ensure that all American children have the opportunity to become high-skilled workers prepared to compete in a global economy. This is obviously a sweeping and complex topic, which we document in detail in the main pages of this report. But here is a brief summary of the report’s findings and recommendations. The U.S. competitiveness problem and the case for investing in children Competition from rapidly growing countries such as China and India are changing business norms and the links between national economies. We are quite familiar with what economists call “global labor arbitrage,” the substitution of high-wage workers in advanced economy countries with low-wage workers in developing economies. That’s led to a global re-ordering of production, jobs, and growth. More recently, technological advances in telecommunications and transportation, as well as skills development in the developing world, are dragging more U.S. industries—including computer programming, high-tech manufacturing, and service sectors—into international competition. This development is feeding a mounting demand for high-skilled labor around the world. To position the United States for the future, substantial investments are needed in research, infrastructure, and education. The most important of these areas to address is education. Why? Because as this report shows, the overwhelming economic evidence points to education—and human capital investments, generally—as the key drivers of economic competitiveness in the long term. Harvard University economist Gregory Mankiw, for example, has shown that in advanced countries such as the United States, human capital investment had three times the positive effect on economic growth as did physical investment. And educational investment is particularly important in early childhood development and learning, according to growth economists. The return on investment from interventions such as prenatal care and early childhood programs is higher than for virtually any class of financial assets over time, according to Nobel Prize winning economist James Heckman. The academic literature also shows that failing to provide broad opportunities for nurturing, learning, and productive development harms economic growth and national competitiveness. Having established the primacy in human capital investments as the key to U.S. long-term economic competitiveness, it’s important for policymakers and the public to understand how American children are faring today, and where they need to catch up. The state of U.S. children from a global competitiveness perspective It may seem counterintuitive to hold up Chinese and Indian children as a challenge to U.S. competitiveness, as this report does. After all, the United States is the world’s wealthiest nation, one that invests more in education, provides more access to quality health care, and enjoys far less inequality than either of the Asian giants. Indeed, the state of America’s children has improved dramatically in the last century. We have fewer kids living in poverty, more children have access to health care, and more are graduating from high school and college. Our national determination to promote the American Dream—a society that promotes equal opportunity and chances for success—has led to unparalleled investment in public health, safety, and educational infrastructure for children. These investments for generations have fueled the engine of U.S. economic growth.
But U.S. gains have begun to stagnate in recent years, even before the Great Recession of 2007-2009, and educational attainment and achievement gaps that track income and race groups have become more entrenched— and more worrisome. These gaps do not portend well for future U.S. competitiveness because groups with disproportionately lower education achievement and poorer health—including African Americans and Hispanics—will soon comprise a majority of American children. The family structure that was once the foundation of a child’s education is crumbling, with more children raised in single-family homes. Meanwhile, our workplace policies are ossified and inflexible, making it difficult for modern parents to be with their children when their children need them most. This report describes in detail the progress and lack of progress in U.S. child development across the areas economists and experts believe are the best indicators of human capital development: education, health, family income and childhood poverty, and pro-family workplace policies. Here is a small sampling of the data to underscore the challenge: • •
Half of U.S. children get no early childhood education, and we have no national strategy to increase enrollment. More than a quarter of U.S. children have a chronic health condition, such as obesity or asthma, threatening their capacity to learn.
More than 22 percent of U.S. children lived in poverty in 2010, up from about 17 percent in 2007.
More than half of U.S. post-secondary students drop out without receiving a degree.
Only 11 percent of workers have paid family leave, making it increasingly difficult for dualearner and single-family households to properly care for children.
American children coming of age today will work in a global, technologically advanced economy, competing with peers in India, China, and other countries around the world. Their ability to compete for high-skill and high-paid jobs is a direct function of our willingness to adopt policies that will boost child education and health, reduce child poverty, and increase parental support and care for their children. That’s what policymakers in China and India are doing, as this report’s two main case studies show. Both countries are rapidly increasing their share of children enrolled at all levels of the education system— from early learning programs to high schools to universities. These investments have propelled the countries to the top two in the world by number of children educated. The rise of China’s skilled labor force In the late 1970s, leaders of post-Cultural Revolution China made a renewed commitment to education as the core of its economic revitalization strategy. China’s economic boom since 1978 and its increasing human capital investment developed hand-in-hand. Consider: In 1978 China spent less than $2 billion on education, health, and other social investments. By 2006 that number was $117 billion, a 58-fold increase. Today, public commitment to early childhood, educational, and technological development in China is accepted as an integral part of a national economic strategy, unlike in the United States. In 2007 China surpassed the United States in the numbers of college graduates focusing on science, math, engineering, and technology fields. Three years later, it became the world’s largest provider of higher education.
By 2030, China will have 200 million college graduates—more than the entire U.S. workforce. Chinese national goals are ambitious and inspiring. By 2020 China plans to: • •
Enroll 40 million children in preschool, a 50 percent increase from today Provide 70 percent of children in China with three years of preschool
Graduate 95 percent of Chinese youths through nine years of compulsory education (that’s 165 million students, more than the U.S. labor force)
Ensure that no child drops out of school for financial reasons
More than double enrollment in higher education
Double the share of the working-age population that completes higher education to 195 million workers.
To achieve these goals, China is deploying a coordinated set of strategies that directly track the policy levers economists and experts have identified as critical to boosting human capital and economic competitiveness. Specifically: •
Families and early childhood education. The 1988 “Act of Protecting Female Staff and Workers” gave women, employed by public enterprises, a minimum of 90 days paid maternity leave, and covered related medical costs, which was increased to 98 days in 2011. The 2010 “National Plan for Medium and Long Term Education Reform and Development” established a target of near universal coverage for one year of kindergarten over the following decade. Kindergarten-through-12th grade education. Chinese children compete in a global economy. Foreign language classes, often English, are often begun in the third grade and studied through middle school. The government’s goal is for 90 percent of eligible students to be enrolled in high school by 2020, up from 80 percent today.
Higher education. In 2010 China became the world’s largest provider of higher education— and will grant degrees to more than 200 million people over the next two decades. It’s improving its state-run universities accordingly. Today, China ranks sixth in the world among countries with the most universities ranked in the world’s top 500 universities.
Teacher quality. China is improving the quality of its teachers, even as their numbers explode. The number of teachers with bachelor’s degree has increased 66 percent in just eight years, with almost two-thirds of primary school teachers with a higher degree. There are nearly 6 million secondary school teachers in China, up from about 3 million in 1980. And the number of university-level teachers has grown to nearly 1 million from 250,000.
To be sure, China faces massive challenges, including rising inequality and inferior educational quality and access to schools in rural and migrant populations. But despite these obstacles, China’s momentum and its education- focused economic strategy will make the country increasingly competitive in sophisticated industries—precisely those where U.S. workers now lead the competition. The rise of India’s skilled labor force In 1947 more than 80 percent of Indians were illiterate. Today, only a quarter are. Poverty in the country plummeted by 30 percent from 1981 to 2005. By 2017 India will graduate 20 million people from high school—or five times as many as in the United States.
As in China, this dramatic turnaround has been shaped by a national economic strategy focused on education. India’s public investment in education grew from $11 billion a year in the late 1980s to $44 billion in 2008. And as in China, India’s national policies to increase the skills of its young workforce are reaping dividends. The country is already producing more students with bachelor’s degrees than is the United States. Over the last seven years, India has tripled its output of four-year degrees in engineering, computer science, and information technology. To be sure, life for most children in India remains hard, with the World Bank estimating that 40 percent of Indian families live on $1.25 a day or less. But their lot is improving as India executes its national education strategy, which includes: •
Family and early education. India’s Integrated Child Development System is boosting the life chances of India’s 160 million children under six years old. This educational system proposes to boost the number of children who enter school ready to learn from 26 percent to 60 percent by 2018. The pre-school education system, while in need of much more structure and upgrades, reaches an estimated 38 million children under six. By comparison, in the United States publicly supported pre-school education reaches about 3.5 million children ages 3 to 5 years old. Grades 1 through 5. India’s effort to ensure universal primary school enrollment is the world’s most ambitious elementary school enrollment effort. The federal government has paid for the construction of more than 400,000 elementary school buildings; trained and hired 1.5 million teachers; and in an effort to get children to school, established a school lunch program that can feed over 100 million children a day. As a result seven times more children attend primary school in India than in the United States.
Grades 6 through 12. Only a third of India’s students today enroll in high school, compared with slightly more than 90 percent in the United States. But investments in lower grades are boosting high school attendance. The percent of Indian students finishing high school will rise from 33 percent today to approximately 47 percent by 2017, according to World Bank estimates.
Higher education. The government’s goal of enrolling 40 million Indians in college by 2020 will require spots for 26 million more college-bound students. India already confers more bachelor’s degrees than the United States, and by 2020 will be conferring 8 million a year, compared with around 2 million here.
Even if India only applies a modestly more intensive effort to increase educational access, it will produce twice the number of college graduates than the United States is able to produce annually. That’s a trend that will deliver great benefits to this rising economic powerhouse, as its labor force grows by a third over the next two decades (compared with just 1 percent expected growth on the U.S. labor force by 2030). Insights and best practices for the United States So what are U.S. policymakers to do with this information, other than worry? The first step is to identify the ingredients for America’s strategic investment in our next generation workforce, mined with insights from America’s successful middle-class and high-income families. We should also look at the “best practices” of systematic next-generation investments in European countries more similar to ours. Lessons from the U.S. middle class It’s no surprise that U.S. children from high-income and middle-class families are outperforming those from low-income families across a range of outcomes. Socioeconomic class is the best indicator of
future success because of the advantages wealthier parents can provide. High-income and middle-class youth graduate from high school and college at higher rates, and are more likely to be gainfully employed at age 25. They have higher earnings on average, and a higher probability of having jobs with employer-sponsored health care benefits. The evidence also points to a series of behaviors and actions taken by parents and youths associated with these successes—actions that are more prevalent as one moves up the income scale. The 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, a U.S. government survey of men and women born from 1980 to 1984, can help us understand what “inputs” are associated with successful education and development of these American children, who were ages 12 to 17 when first interviewed: •
Early childhood learning and education. Children receiving child care were more likely to graduate from college and obtain better jobs when entering the workforce, the survey showed. Children who attended prekindergarten child care also were more likely to be employed at age 25. Parental involvement in educational development. Children whose parents were classroom volunteers and created enriching home environments were more likely to score well on aptitude tests, get a college degree, find work, and earn more money. Teenage work experience. Programs such as job-shadowing, apprenticeships, and internships are strongly associated with better educational and work outcomes, even when accounting for differences in parental household income.
These data point to a set of middle-class norms that are highly associated with ensuring that stronger percentages of these children entered adulthood with a college degree and were able to command a stronger wage than their lowerincome counterparts. The educational and work related-norms of middle-class parenthood, and the quality of the schools educating these children, account for much of their success. Having mined the American middle class for particular “inputs” of success, a clearer picture emerges of what a coherent U.S. next-generation workforce strategy might look like. But policymakers seeking to turn goals into specific policy interventions can learn useful lessons from what our counterparts in the developed world are doing to remain competitive with emerging economies such as China and India. Best practices in European countries As in China and India, major European countries are making significant investments in children and families while simultaneously reforming their education systems. Many of these successful strategies offer readymade “best practices” that can be replicated or modified to address our own challenges. In general, large European countries have lower poverty rates than those of the United States, thanks to more generous social and pro-family policies including paid maternity and paternity leave, paid child care and other governmentdirected cash payments, and tax breaks for families with children. European students on average score higher on math, science, and reading tests than their American peers. While India and China are in a rapid “catchup” period of growth, the developed economies of the United States and Europe must grow through innovation or related strategies that tap existing resources more effectively. Among the specific European best practices explored in this report: •
Teacher quality. Finland has a remarkable teacher-quality strategy designed to get its top students to become teachers and to transform teaching into a highly selective, prestigious, and
rewarding profession. A few decades after the reforms began, Finland’s high school and college graduation rates have shot up, boosting the country’s leading growth rate and helping it diversify its economy into information technology and research sectors. National education standards and strong workforce apprenticeships. Germany’s federalization of education standards came in response to poor international test scores in 2000. Germany has since become the most improved country in math achievement, and the average student improved by 10 percent. By 2009, 17 percent of German students were competent at advanced math, compared with just 10 percent of U.S. students. We also profile Germany’s “dual education” system, which places a priority on links to workplace experience, and funnels 2 million students into three years of apprenticeship training in 400 occupations. Investments in early childhood education and family supports. The United Kingdom’s universal free preschool, combined with one of the most innovative family support models in the world, have led to integrated family services and early intervention in communitybased “children’s centers.” Begun in the late 1990s, studies show these investments in early childhood and profamily services have improved child social behavior, boosted learning skills, and promoted home settings more conducive to learning.
Recommendations Despite the varied nature of their efforts to prepare more young people for success in an increasingly competitive global marketplace, China, India, and several European countries are dramatically improving educational outcomes of their students. What they have in common is a new aggressive determination to:
Set realistic, yet ambitious national education goals to prepare students for college and for the careers of tomorrow Improve teacher quality
Invest in early learning and increase parental involvement
The problems in the United States, however, are not due to a lack of understanding of how to improve and focus our school system. The problems are related to the political will to do it. The times of excitement and commitment to change have waned since the first National Education Summit in 1989 hosted by President George H.W. Bush and attended by all the nation’s governors. This groundbreaking presidential summit with governors set in motion a more active federal role in education and numerous joint efforts by governors to boost student outcomes. While the governors have continued to push for reforms and some have increased investments, the state-by-state approach to progress means it is uneven. Even though, the Obama administration has put in place bold strategies to stimulate more state-level action, we still lack a coherent national policy for boosting student outcomes. Yet there are very promising signs in the United States, among them:
The commitment to Common Core national education standards by nearly all of the nation’s governors A bipartisan coming together on improving teacher quality
A recognition by the states of the critical importance of early childhood learning
But these efforts must be integrated to truly have an impact. Furthermore, they must not be abandoned due to the strain on the national and state budgets. Accordingly, our report calls upon the president of the United States in 2013 to convene the governors for a National Education Summit to make a renewed effort at improving educational outcomes in the United States—this time through a laser-like focus on improving teacher effectiveness, ensuring that states can move forward with a national early education system, and integrating these efforts into the goals set with the Common Core standards. Only with renewed leadership on education as a national priority and real investments at all levels of government will the United States hope to be able to remain economically competitive.
Publication: NCEE Center on International Education Benchmarking Title: Starting well: Benchmarking early education across the world Website: http://www.ncee.org/2012/08/global-perspectives-starting-well-benchmarking-early-
Starting well: Benchmarking early education across the world is a new report from the Economist Intelligence Unit commissioned by the Lien Foundation in Singapore. The authors of Starting well interviewed early childhood education practitioners, researchers and policymakers in order to provide an international perspective on this issue. In addition to interviews, the authors also debuted a new index of preschool accessibility and quality, in which they ranked preschool provision in 45 different countries, ranging from OECD countries to developing economies. While the policy recommendations made in the report are very useful, it is the index that is the real strength of this publication; not only does it create an early childhood education league table that ranks countries both in and out of the OECD, but it takes into account both quality and accessibility—issues that are equally important when it comes to preschool education, and must be deftly managed by national and state governments.
At the outset, the report’s authors take care to point out the differences between preschool and childcare. They point out that there is a growing understanding of the importance of the developmental phase of a child’s life between the ages of three and six, as well as research indicating that preschool programs help with child development and school readiness and serve to help level the playing field among children of different socioeconomic backgrounds. At the same time, enrolling a child in preschool has been shown to save money on schooling down the road, as children with a strong preschool foundation are less likely to need remediation or to repeat a grade. Another economic benefit of preschool programs is that they facilitate female participation in the workforce. The report cites James Heckman’s work on the economic benefits of preschool
education; he has found that government investment in preschool yields an annual return of 7 to 10 percent in the form of lifetime wages. Preschool also yields other lifetime social benefits such as reduced crime rates, lower welfare and education costs, and increased workforce productivity. Thus the report, and the index used to measure the strength of early childhood education systems, takes the perspective that a universally available, high-quality preschool system is the goal that governments should be working toward.
The index is broken down into four main categories: social context, availability, affordability and quality. These are weighted and the scores in each category are combined to make up the final score for each country. Quality carries the most weight, and accounts for 45 percent of the final score. Availability and affordability each account for 25 percent of the final score, and social context accounts for the final 5 percent. Within each category, there are several sub-categories indicating how the authors of the report arrived at the final score for each category. Social context measures the prevalence of malnutrition, the under-five mortality rate, the DPT immunization rate, the gender inequality index and the adult literacy rate of each country. Availability measures the preschool enrollment ratio at age five or six and for the relevant age group, early childhood development and promotion strategy, and the legal right to preschool education. Affordability measures the cost of private preschool programs, government spending on preschool education, available subsidies for underprivileged families, and subsidies for preschools that encourage including underprivileged children. The quality category is comprised of the teacher-student ratio, average preschool teachers’ wages, curriculum guidelines, the training of preschool teachers, health and safety guidelines, data collection mechanisms, the links between preschools and primary schools, and parental involvement and parent education programs. The scores for each country are derived from a combination of quantitative data and “unique qualitative assessments.”
By these measures Nordic countries fare best, and European countries in general tend to outperform Asian, North American, Latin American and African countries. The report explains the predominance of Europe in the top 20 countries on the league table (16 of the top 20 places, in fact) by pointing out that, “it is culturally and politically accepted in Europe that the government will assume a significant role in delivering preschool education.” Thus, the top countries are all countries that have, for the most part, been investing in preschool education for decades: Finland, Sweden, Norway, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Denmark, France, and the Netherlands. New Zealand and South Korea round out the top ten performers. In addition to finding that Europe commands the majority of places at the top of the league table, the report finds that the average income per person in any given country correlates strongly with the overall ranking – rich countries perform better than poor countries, for the most part, even within Europe. That being said, there are several countries, including the United States, Japan, Canada and Australia, that are ranked in the middle of the pack, despite being wealthy. Many of these countries, while having some very
high-quality preschools according to the index, do not have good policies in place to ensure fair and equal access to these programs, thereby accounting for their relatively poor performance.
Of course, the authors acknowledge that every country has its own particular challenges in achieving a universal, high-quality preschool system. Some have a diverse population made up of students of varying language, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. Others may suffer from lack of funding. Still others have large proportions of the population living in rural areas where it is difficult to establish programs. Less wealthy countries typically have to make a choice between expanding access and improving quality at the outset, and, when that is the case, find that it is particularly important to educate parents on the importance of both early child development and early learning.
The report provides policy recommendations in the areas of both access and quality. In terms of access, the authors and the experts interviewed recommend putting a system of subsidies into place, either in the form of “demand-side” subsidies (money or vouchers flowing directly to families) or “supply-side” subsidies (funds provided directly to preschools to incentivize enrolling children who cannot otherwise afford to attend). Although most of the top-performing countries generally pursue supply-side policies because the government provides universal preschool, the authors find that many countries might find it feasible to use a combination of supply and demand strategies to ensure access.
On the quality side of things, the report recommends several important policy changes: improving teacher training and teacher quality, establishing clear curriculum guidelines, managing the transition between preschool and primary school, improving teacher-student ratios, increasing parental involvement, having clear health and safety guidelines in place, and collecting data with “robust data collection mechanisms.” Teacher quality is perhaps the most centrally important component of providing quality preschool education, and varies widely from country to country, with Finland requiring a bachelor’s degree (many preschool teachers also have master’s degrees) and other countries hiring “literally anybody who is physically able and interested in working with children.”
This report makes clear that in order to establish a quality preschool education system, it must be treated, for the most part, like the primary and secondary education system, with the same types of policy levers and quality assurance mechanisms. Indeed, the report often relies on well-established
primary and secondary best practices in order to draw policy recommendations for early childhood education. The authors mention, for example, Finland and South Korea’s practices of recruiting teachers from the top of the high school cohort, suggesting that this is a way to manage quality (though they do point out that this is not strictly enforced in either country when it comes to choosing preschool teachers). They suggest working to build a profession able to attract highquality recruits by compensating preschool teachers at a fair and living wage, reducing the teacherstudent ratio to make the job more attractive, and establishing regulations and specific skill sets that are required of teachers in order to enter and remain in the profession. They furthermore suggest working to build strong leadership in preschools, which would further contribute to the sense of preschool teaching as a profession while also encouraging the leaders to serve as innovators in the field. Apart from improving teacher quality, putting curriculum guidelines and learning expectations into place can help bring lower-quality teachers up to a higher standard, and help all preschools provide the type of education expected of them. Ultimately, the report’s authors and the interviewed experts argue, when funds are limited, human capital development—that is, the preparation of the preschool teachers—must absolutely be prioritized over things like technology and infrastructure. However, one policy to “improve” early childhood education programs—using standardized tests to measure student performance and holding teachers accountable based on the test scores—which has been growing in favor in countries like the United States is not part of any of the recommendations found in the report, nor is it a tool used by any of the top performers.
It is interesting to note where the world’s top performers in primary and secondary education fall in this ranking, given that preschool is increasingly seen as an important foundation for high student performance in later years. Four of the top primary and secondary performers crack the top ten in this early childhood education league table, with Finland ranked first, the Netherlands eighth, New Zealand ninth and South Korea tenth. Hong Kong, Japan, Canada, Australia and Singapore are in the middle of the pack, rated at nineteenth, twenty-first, twenty-sixth, twenty-eighth, and twenty-ninth, respectively. China fares very poorly, ranked just three steps up from the bottom. It is interesting to note that Asian countries fare, by this ranking, generally worse than their European and commonwealth counterparts. It is telling to compare the quality rankings to the overall rankings. When looking at quality alone, several of the top-performing Asian countries actually fare much better. South Korea is ranked tenth, Hong Kong eleventh, and Japan thirteenth.
We wonder whether the relatively low rankings of the Asian countries is a function of the perspective from which the data was gathered and analyzed. More women have been in paid employment outside the home in Northern Europe than in Asia for decades now. No doubt, that fact goes a long way toward explaining why Asia has not developed anything like the infrastructure for supporting very young children outside the home that Europe now has. That fact by itself does not mean that children are less well cared for, but it does mean that the observer will see less
formal infrastructure there for taking care of very young children. But women are now entering the paid workforce in Asia in greater numbers than previously and the governments in those countries may find that they are more interested in European-style policies in this arena than was previously the case.
As workforce demographics change and the importance of early childhood education shifts away from daycare alone, we may see some countries, already performing well in quality measures, begin to climb the overall rankings. Singapore, clearly, as evidenced both by this report and another recent report from the Lien Foundation, Vital Voices for Vital Years, has begun to invest a great deal of support into improving the quality of preschool education, perhaps because Singapore has long encouraged the entry of women into the paid workforce. As they improve, it seems clear that countries will need to follow, for the most part, a roadmap set by the top performers in primary and secondary education. At the same time, they will need to take into account some of the important differences at this life-stage, including the need for increased parental involvement outside of school, and quality healthcare for young children.
Publication: The New York Times Title: Average Is Over, Part II Author: Thomas Friedman Website: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/08/opinion/friedman-average-is-over-part-ii-.html
A big mismatch exists today between how U.S. C.E.O.’s look at the world and how many American politicians and parents look at the world — and it may be preventing us from taking our education challenge as seriously as we must.
For many politicians, “outsourcing” is a four-letter word because it involves jobs leaving “here” and going “there.” But for many C.E.O.’s, outsourcing is over. In today’s seamlessly connected world, there is no “out” and no “in” anymore. There is only the “good,” “better” and “best” places to get work done, and if they don’t tap into the best, most cost-efficient venue wherever that is, their competition will.
For politicians, it’s all about “made in America,” but, for C.E.O.’s, it is increasingly about “made in the world” — a world where more and more products are now imagined everywhere, designed everywhere, manufactured everywhere in global supply chains and sold everywhere. American politicians are still citizens of our states and cities, while C.E.O.’s are increasingly citizens of the world, with mixed loyalties. For politicians, all their customers are here; for C.E.O.’s, 90 percent of their new customers are abroad. The credo of the politician today is: “Why are you not hiring more people here?” The credo of the C.E.O. today is: “You only hire someone — anywhere — if you absolutely have to,” if a smarter machine, robot or computer program is not available.
Yes, this is a simplification, but the trend is accurate. The trend is that for more and more jobs, average is over. Thanks to the merger of, and advances in, globalization and the information technology revolution, every boss now has cheaper, easier access to more above-average software, automation, robotics, cheap labor and cheap genius than ever before. So just doing a job in an average way will not return an average lifestyle any longer. Yes, I know, that’s what they said about the Japanese “threat” in the 1980s. But Japan, alas, challenged just two American industries — cars and consumer electronics — and just one American town, Detroit. Globalization and the Internet/telecom/computing revolution together challenge every town, worker and job. There is no good job today that does not require more and better education to get it, hold it or advance in it.
Which is why it is disturbing when more studies show that American K-12 schools continue to lag behind other major industrialized countries on the international education tests. Like politicians, too many parents think if their kid’s school is doing better than the one next door, they’re fine.
Well, a dose of reality is on the way thanks to Andreas Schleicher and his team at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which coordinates the Program for International Student Assessment, known as the PISA test. Every three years, the O.E.C.D. has been giving the PISA test to a sample of 15-year-olds, now in 70 countries, to evaluate reading, math and science skills. The U.S. does not stand out. It’s just average, but many parents are sure their kid is above average. With help from several foundations in the U.S., Schleicher has just finished a pilot study of 100 American schools to enable principals, teachers and parents to see not just how America stacks up against China, but how their own school stacks up against similar schools in the best-educated countries, like Finland and Singapore.
“The entry ticket to the middle class today is a postsecondary education of some kind,” but too many kids are not coming out of K-12 prepared for that, and too many parents don’t get it, says Jon Schnur, the chairman of America Achieves, which is partnering with the O.E.C.D. on this project as part of an effort to help every American understand the connection between educational attainment at their school — for all age groups — and what will be required to perform the jobs of the future.
“Imagine, in a few years, you could sign onto a Web site and see this is how my school compares with a similar school anywhere in the world,” says Schleicher. “And then you take this information to your local superintendent and ask: ‘Why are we not doing as well as schools in China or Finland?’”
Schleicher’s team is assessing all their test results — and socioeconomic profiles of each school — to make sure they have a proper data set for making global comparisons. They hope to have the comparison platform available early next year.
Says Schleicher: “If parents do not know, they will not demand, as consumers, a high quality of educational service. They will just say the school my kids are going to is as good as the school I went to.” If this comparison platform can be built at this micro scale, he says, it could “lead to empowerment at the really decisive level” of parents, principals and teachers demanding something better.
“This is not about threatening schools,” he adds. It is about giving each of them “the levers to effect change” and a window into the pace of change that is possible when every stakeholder in a school has the data and can say: Look at those who have made dramatic improvements around the world. Why can’t we?
Publication: The Washington Post Title: Back to school: Rethinking America’s global education rankings Author: Alfonzo Porter
America’s race to the bottom of international student performance has placed teachers and school systems squarely in the cross hairs of national criticism over the past several years. But a look at testing data may go far in reviving the reputations of the nation’s teaching force.
And what do the results show? That contrary to popular belief, we are not lapsing into the abyss of mediocrity, as detractors have us think. The real problem for our public schools is the low achievement of poor students and the impact that their test scores have on the nation’s report card as a whole.
As a new school year dawns, we should take a fresh look at these results: A 2010 article published by the NASSP (National Association of Secondary School Principals) took a closer look at how the U.S. scores on the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) compared with the rest of the world’s scores once they took into consideration the socioeconomic status of the students. The data suggest that the higher the instance of students receiving free and reduced meals, the lower the academic performance. For instance, schools with less than 10 percent of its students receiving free and reduced lunch scored on average 551 on the international test. Those with scores between 50 percent and 75 percent on the government program scored 471 and those with 75 percent or more scored 446.
The data also found that U.S. students enrolled in schools with less than 10 percent of its students in poverty significantly outperform the world: The 551 score bested both Finland, which scored 536 and had a poverty rate of 3.4 percent, and the Netherlands, which has a 9 percent poverty rate and a score of 508. Students in U.S. schools with a poverty rate of between 10 percent and 24.9 percent rank third, just behind Korea and Finland. U.S. kids who attend schools with a poverty rate of between 25 and 50 percent are 10th in the world, and those who attend a school with more than 50 percent of its students in poverty are near the bottom worldwide.
Indeed, you’d get a more accurate picture of the performance of American public students by comparing the scores of our children with comparable poverty rates with those of other countries.
The good news here is that teachers are not the hapless, inadequate, ineffective laggards they have been painted as. The bad news is that the attention and blame may soon place the spotlight on poor students in urban and rural districts as the central cause for the countryâ€™s long-time scholastic decline. The rub is that of all the nations participating in the international assessment, the United States by far has the largest number of students living in poverty.
The overall poverty rate in the United States was 21.7 percent in 2010. The next closest country was New Zealand, which had a poverty rate of 16.3 percent, followed by the United Kingdom at 16.2 percent, Italy and Ireland at 15.7 percent, Portugal at 15.6 percent, Poland at 14.5 percent, and Japan at 14.3 percent. Denmark had the lowest instance of poverty, with only 2.4 percent of its population existing below the poverty line.
But poverty cannot be used solely as an excuse for poor performance. If we seek to address the issues surrounding our collective performance on international assessments, we will be forced to look closer at providing the extra resources needed for high-poverty schools to achieve.
We already know what works. There are plenty of examples of high-performing schools in highpoverty communities that stand ready to teach us what we need to know. While there is no relationship between poverty and effort, ability or cognition, the relationship between poverty and achievement is undeniable. For education reformers, policymakers, and the public to refute that this is a major factor that must be overcome in student achievement is to deny a real problem that continues to impact our global competitiveness.
Simply put, the real crisis in American public education is the number of students existing in poverty. Our lowest-performing schools are the most under-resourced with the highest number of disadvantaged students.
The political hype of recent years exclaiming that U.S. students will be first in the world in science and math by 2000 sounded great when President George H.W. Bush said it in 1991. When his son President George W. Bush called for universal proficiency through his No Child Left Behind initiative by 2014, it was met with a pronounced chorus of loud gasps that echoed throughout the educational community. Those goals have been abandoned, as they are viewed as unreasonable and unrealistic the closer we have gotten to the 2014 NCLB deadline.
If the United States cannot rank first in the world in minimizing the percentage of its population living in poverty, why would any rational person believe that the nation would be first in the world in educational achievement? There is, after all, abundant evidence that these types of social indicators are strongly associated with educational achievement.
America’s teachers and public schools are meeting the challenge of ensuring that our students receive a world-class education. Casting educators as incompetent or placing schools on failure lists to be taken over by the state ignores the difficult socioeconomic factors faced by the students, which in turn lead to poor achievement on the world stage.
Publication: Bloomberg Businessweek Title: The Real Reason America's Schools Stink Author: Charles Kenny Website: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-08-19/the-real-reason-americas-schools-
Over the next few weeks, millions of American schoolchildren will return to the classroom from summer vacation, and not a moment too soon. Compared to those hard-studying kids in China, Korea or Finland, U.S. students appear to be chronic underachievers. The average kid in the U.S. does less than one hour of homework on average at all grade levels, according to a study from a few years ago by RAND and the Brookings Institution. A recent Council on Foreign Relations Task Force on Education Reform and National Security led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Joel Klein, former head of New York City public schools, concluded that the country’s “educational failure puts the United States’ future economic prosperity, global position, and physical safety at risk.”
There’s no question that the performance of the U.S. education system is less than stellar. The Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, gives tests to high school kids across a range of countries. The evaluation finds that the US ranks behind sixteen other economies including Poland, Estonia and South Korea in terms of student literacy –the ability to read, integrate and
evaluate texts. U.S. student rankings on mathematics are even lower — dropping under countries including Slovenia, Hungary and Taiwan. The United States also produces some of the biggest gaps in test scores between stronger and weaker students.
So, where’s the group in the U.S. that could try harder? Is it the teachers, more concerned with their tenure and pension rights than actually teaching kids? Is it miserly federal and state lawmakers, starving their educators of resources? Or maybe it is the lackadaisical students, too addicted to questing with their avatar through World of Warcraft to think about algebra?
The answer, it turns out, is none of the above. If there’s a crisis in U.S. education, the fault lies with a group more accustomed to leveling blame than receiving it: parents.
One upside of all the hand-wringing about the state of U.S. education is that vast amounts of data now exist about what’s really happening in America’s classrooms. In recent years teachers have become the chief targets of reformers’ ire. Yet a Gates Foundation study released in January this year based on 3,000 classrooms across the nation found that less than eight percent of teachers in their survey ranked below “basic” competence. And a second Gates-financed study released earlier this month suggests the average teacher may be working an eleven-hour day.
As for the argument that American schools suffer from a lack of resources, analysis by economists Eric Hanushek at Stanford University and Ludgar Woessman at the University of Munich suggests the average U.S. student costs around $80,000 to educate from the age of six to fifteen. Only Switzerland spends at a similar level, and the Czech Republic, which scores higher that the U.S. on the international math tests, spends about a third of that amount.
Maybe it is the students that explain why we’re behind? It is true that they aren’t slaving over the books as long as they do in some other countries. Yet the idea that the U.S. has become a nation of slackers is overblown. Between 2002 and 2009, the US high school graduation rate climbed three percentage points, so that more than three quarters of all students now get a diploma. And according to the US Department of Education’s National Assessment of Educational Progress, the average school kid is learning more than ever before.
Still, it is true America’s students don’t do as well on tests as some of their counterparts in other countries. And the biggest problem involves parents.
Around the world, the catch-all measure used to proxy for parental commitment to education is the number of books in a child‘s household. This measure predicts student educational outcomes better than class sizes, or expenditures per student, the length of the school day or better class monitoring. Hanushek and Woessman have found that among 27 rich countries, the United States sees one of the strongest relationships between parental book ownership and child learning outcomes. In the U.S., kids from homes where there are more than two full bookcases score two and a half grade levels higher than kids from homes with very few books.
At the same time, parents in the U.S. are more engaged in their children’s schooling than ever before. Surveys of students conducted in 1988 and again in 2011 suggest the proportion of schoolchildren who talk to their parents about what happened in school every day has climbed from two-fifths to two-thirds. The number of parents who visit the school at least once a month has climbed from sixteen to 46 percent. It isn’t that Americans don’t care. The problem is that parents – and particularly poorer parents — aren’t empowered to make a difference.
How do you help parents ensure that their kids can learn? First off, they need tools to judge if any learning is going on. The No Child Left Behind Act, signed into law a decade ago, provided for annual state-wide testing for all students, but reduced the ability of schools to respond to student needs by suggesting “one high, challenging standard” for all children, while encouraging educators to “teach to the test.‘ A better approach would be to develop benchmarks to allow schools to measure whether every kid knows a lot more at the end of the year than they did at the start.
Second, parents need the power to use the knowledge from testing to improve learning outcomes for their children. While No Child Left Behind also mandated that schools are obliged to “encourage parental participation,” it spent little ink on the details of how this was to be done. But we know what works –ensure parents are close enough to education decision makers that their voices can be heard. Third, parents need help in ensuring their kids don’t start school already behind. Hanushek and Woessman argue that greater access to kindergarten and pre-kindergarten among poor and immigrant students translates into higher PISA testing scores a decade later.
Finally, the culture needs to shift. All too many parents, all too often based on bitter experience, don’t believe they can make a difference to the quality of their local school or their kid’s education. For testing, accountability and pre-school access reforms to make a real difference, that belief has to change, which is no easy trick. But surely the first step is to ensure that when parents do try, they can succeed. Schooling in America isn’t an insoluble mess; if anything, it may be on the way up. And if parents are given the tools, they can help make it stronger.
Country-Specific Education Articles Publication: The Times of India Title: India backs out of global education test for 15-year-olds Author: Hemali Chhapia Website: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-08-03/mumbai/33019239_1_india-
After an earlier, embarrassing show, India has backed out of this year's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a global evaluation process by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Secretariat that gauges where schoolchildren stand alongside their peers from other countries.
This academic Olympics measures the performance of 15-year-olds in their reading, math and science abilities.
Indians were put to test for the first time in the last assessment in 2009. On the global stage, they stood second last among 73 countries, only beating Kyrgyzstan on reading, math and science abilities. India ranked second last among the 73 countries that participated in PISA, conducted to evaluate education systems worldwide by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) Secretariat.
This time around, sources said India shied away from the assessment as government officials felt our children were not prepared for such a test.
"India didn't sign up for the PISA 2012 assessment because when countries were asked to sign up for that assessment, India had only signed up for the PISA 2009 assessment, which it carried out with a year later delay in 2010," said Juliet Evans, who handles communication and administration for the PISA Secretariat. Unlike India, several other countries like Costa Rica, Malaysia, Georgia and the UAE who had carried out the PISA evaluation in 2010 did sign up for the upcoming assessment. It is also yet unclear whether India will put itself up for the assessment in 2015. In the last assessment, Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh, showpieces of India's education and development, were put through the PISA evaluation and they performed miserably. The idea was that the entire country would participate in the next round of assessment. However, that plan was also dropped.
The assessment is based on two-hour tests that half a million students are put through. China's Shanghai province, which participated in PISA for the first time like the two Indian states, scored the highest in reading. It also topped the charts in math and science. "More than one-quarter of Shanghai's 15-year-olds demonstrated advanced mathematical thinking skills to solve complex problems, compared to an OECD average of just 3%," noted the analysis.
In math, considered India's strong point, the states finished second and third to last, beating only Kyrgyzstan; the English test threw up the same result. Girls were better than boys and science results were the worst, where Himachal stood last. , behind Kyrgyzstan.
TN was slightly better and finished third from bottom. The average 15-year-old Indian is over 200 points behind the global topper.
Experts estimate that an Indian Class VIII student is at the same level as a South Korean Class III student in math abilities or a Class II student from Shanghai when it comes to reading skills. Elementary education is a fundamental right in India, but clearly that says nothing about what our children are studying in school every day.
Publication: Di-ve (Malta) Title: Evarist Bartolo did not check facts on PISA 2012 - Education Ministry Website: http://www.di-ve.com/news/malta-should-have-participated-pisa-2012-%E2%80%93-pl
The Labour Party (PL) does not agree with the Government’s decision to not take part in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2012, which was to serve as an audit of theeducation system, said Opposition Spokesperson for Education and Civil Rights Evarist Bartolo this morning.
He said that the PISA programme not only evaluates children’s abilities but it also gives a full analysis of the education system and related policy.
Government gave the excuse that Malta had already participated in PISA 2009+, and not much time has passed since then. This "excuse" has not been given by any other head of state, Mr Bartolo went on to say.
Another reason why Malta should have participated in PISA 2012, Mr Bartolo explained, is that for the first time this year, a computer-based assessment of literacies took place to assess childrens’ reading, mathematics and problem solving skills as well as their financial literacy.
The Government’s decision proves that it is scared by the prospect of having its education system internationally audited, even though it could give us a clearer picture of students’ progress in comparison to the progress of those in other countries.
Maltese students should be successful in an international context, Mr Bartolo concluded.
In response, the Ministry of Education and Employment said that Evarist Bartolo “continues to repeat himself without verifying the facts”.
The Ministry said that last Tuesday, it issued a statement saying the Malta is taking part in the international student assessment programme known as PISA and will participate in the next assessment, which is to take place in 2015.
It said that in spite of this information, the Opposition spokesman for education said today that Malta did not agree to participate in the exercise, repeating the words reportedly spoken by Prof. Carm Borg on the subject in last Sunday’s edition of the publication Torċa.
The Ministry said that Malta participated in PISA Plus in 2009, for which preliminary research began in October 2009 and the study commenced in March 2010. Its results were published in December 2011. It said that in September 2008, the OECD invited Malta to participate in PISA 2009 Plus after a number of countries expressed interest in participating in PISA 2009. Malta accepted the invitation.
Preliminary research for PISA 2012 began in March 2011, and it was felt that it was too early for Malta to participate in it again since the results of PISA 2009 Plus had yet to be published in December of that year, the Ministry explained.
It said, however, that Malta will participate in the next cycle, PISA 2015, by which time proper study of the results of PISA 2009 Plus can be conducted and the education system can start reaping the effects of reforms taken as a result of the latter.
The Ministry added that the results of the first PISA 2009 Plus survey will also be reflected in the final version of the national curriculum framework. Other international studies that Malta participated in, namely TIMSS and PIRLS, also helped develop the vision for education in science and substantial parts of the national curriculum framework.