During the second week of September, PBS Nova took a look at education in the age of information with The School of the Future. The program examines why U.S. test scores rank lower than many other countries despite the widespread use of technology in the classroom.
It also asks how the latest educational research can help us fix education in America and which techniques are most likely to engage and inspire growing minds. This two-hour documentary will take viewers from the laboratory to the classroom to see what is helping to make a difference.
Ranking education systems
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) promotes policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world. One of the issues of major interest to the OECD is the state of education around the world. It regularly reports on the effectiveness of different countries’ school systems in preparing their young people for modern life.
According to OECD, more and better education means greater social participation and economic growth.
In a May 13, 2015, article for BBC.com, “Asia tops biggest global school rankings,” Sean Coughlan reported on the results of the OECD’s 2015 rankings of various countries’ education systems.
The top five performers were: Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan. The United States ranked 28th in a field that totaled 76 countries. The analysis was based on test scores in math and science.
“The rankings are based on an amalgamation of international assessments, including the OECD’s Pisa tests, the TIMSS tests run by US-based academics and TERCE tests in Latin America, putting developed and developing countries on a single scale,” Coughlan said.
Research in education
To succeed economically a country must be able to compete globally. In her book, A World-Class Education: Learning from International Models of Excellence and Innovation, Vivien Stewart researched what other school systems in the world are doing right in order to find ways for the U.S. to improve its education system.
She looked at the policies, practices and priorities of the world’s best-performing systems along with ideas for adapting these approaches for U.S. schools. Of major focus were the common factors characteristic of high-performing and rapidly improving systems such as those in Singapore, which had high levels of illiteracy in the 1960s but now ranks number one.
Stewart devotes chapters to looking at new models for teaching and leadership, modernizing curriculum and instruction, and how using technology and international exchange can help the U.S. close performance gaps and reach new levels of excellence and equity.
Stewart noted that consistent standards and expectations differentiate the higher ranking countries from lower performers such as the U.S. where standards vary widely across the country.
“In the highest-performing countries, standards are set across the whole curriculum,” Stewart stated, “In contrast, the United States’ tactical strategy is to focus on reading and math only, with the promise that standards for other subjects might come later.”
School of the Future
In a February 19, 2016, article for MonroeCountyNews.net, “NOVA To Highlight CMS’ Patrice Bain’s School Of The Future,” Bethany Prange provided background on the PBS documentary.
The Nova special features local Columbia Middle School teacher Patrice Bain and her students along with Washington University’s Dr. Henry Roediger and Dr. Mark McDaniel. Together, the three learning experts developed and utilized teaching methods based on research in memory, learning, and metacognition (thinking about thinking).
“I teach this to students on the first day – ‘you know what you know, and you know what you don’t know.’ Students are rarely taught how important that is,” Bain said.
Bain admitted that her strategies are already being used successfully by many teachers. She is just using research to help her develop and refine the strategies.
Refer to PBS.org for a schedule of show times where you live.
What ideas do you have on ways to improve education in the U.S.? Tell us what you think should be done in the comments.