Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Education Olympics

In light of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London beginning this Friday, check out this nifty infographic (see below) comparing the education of countries who have received the most gold medals.

What's interesting about this infographic is that "hours per year required in the classroom" seems to be viewed as a good thing, i.e. the longer the instructional day, the better. On the contrary, if you compare the countries who subject their children to more school hours per year vs. international assessment performance (via the PISA, etc.), a negative correlation seems to exist.

Perhaps this offers a deeper insight into the culture of homework and families in other countries vs. the U.S. Maybe the school day has grown longer in the U.S. because those who care about the numbers believed it's a quick fix to bad and/or absentee parents unavailable to instill solid values. Instead, maybe we should think about what types of people are becoming parents and what they are teaching their children either directly or indirectly. Are American parents today encouraging/yelling/telling their children to do their homework or are they developing a culture that values education as an expectation? Are American parents today relatively more hands-off about what's going on in their kids' classrooms compared to the past? Are American parents today fully equipped to deal with the finances associated with raising a child through post-secondary education? These are tough questions to think about and while they may not pose pretty answers, we have to admit that current social policies may ultimately dictate educational outcomes. I'll give you an example.

On the "A" train in New York City, there are many posters depicting a female teenager lost in thought, and possibly crying. It is an advertisement against abortion: reconsidering your choice. And it works, because advertisement works. So yes, plastering "abortion is bad" posters in NYC subway cars may ultimately convince a 16-year old female to keep her unplanned child, but numbers compiled over years and years don't lie: statistics show unplanned children born into poverty with a single-parent face tougher challenges. As a result, when this child grows up, his/her test scores may factor into the reason why the U.S. is lagging behind other nations. Having great schools and amazing teachers is not enough, yet we still trick ourselves into believing this.

How can we as a country be so "data-driven" yet ignore the data when it really matters? Poverty forces human beings to pick survival over knowledge. I mean, we are animals after all.

The Education Olympics


Anonymous said...

Surprised no one caught that about the length of school days...

Ari said...

To be fair, this shows the irrelevance of class size and teacher salary as well. The problem is that it's measuring means (salary, class size, hours in classroom) along side ends (educational attainment, scores). The Olympics doesn't give medals for training, only for succeeding.

Yo Mista said...

@ Ari:
Yes - very good points.