Education lessons from abroad: a tale of two countries

opposite approaches yield positive results in singapore, finland

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  • killpack Sandy, UT
    Jan. 18, 2013 10:18 a.m.

    Regardless of what Singapore and Finland do (and they are TOTALLY DIFFERENT countries from the US in just about every way), public education in the US is a debauchery. My advice, don't worry about it so much. What I mean by that is, don't worry about where the US stands as a whole. There are 300 million people that live in the United States. How many do Singapore and Finland have? Don't worry about the education problem that faces the whole United States! Worry about the education in your own community. Worry about the education of your own children. Top down micromanagement of education may work in small, homogenous countries like Singapore and Finland. It absolutely will not work here in a country of 300 million. The federal government has already tried it and failed miserably. They have spent billions on education. And for what? Absolutely NOTHING! So don't let's spend more on such a failure. It isn't like we have the money anyway! We are $16 trillion in debt! Let individuals and communities start taking care of their own education.

  • VA Saint Chester, VA
    Jan. 18, 2013 9:34 a.m.

    Fascinating that none of these comments mentioned the students responsibility first and foremost. The teachers' responsibility is to teach the curriculum creatively and to tutor when necessary, and it is the students' responsibility to learn, study and be productive. The teachers also need positive and supportive administration, as well as less testing so that the students are not just memorizing facts, but really learning and understanding.

  • raybies Layton, UT
    Jan. 17, 2013 8:05 a.m.

    An article out today (I read it on slashdot) stated that the PISA scores unfairly weigh lower income students in the US, due to the way the school systems work in other countries. Most countries don't have mandatory education, and therefore aren't dealing with their poor.

    They estimated that if the scores were adjusted for income, that the US would actually score 4th in the nation in reading, and in the top ten in math, rather than the supposedly "dismal" way we are now viewed. Other countries have strict educational tiers that predetermine elligbility for things like college by as early as 4th year primary education.

    This indicates that many of the issues in our education system have nothing to do with the teaching methods, and more to do with the fact that we educate all our children (which I think most of us agree we should be doing).

    I guess what I'm saying is don't let the test scores fool ya. The US is still VERY competative in its education system--further it does something most countries aren't doing--offering opportunities to ALL its citizens (and illegals, for that matter). :)

  • RedShirt USS Enterprise, UT
    Jan. 14, 2013 1:15 p.m.

    To "LDS Liberal" and your ilk.

    The ironic thing about your pointing out that the socialist countries have better education systems is the simple fact that they use principals of capitalism to improve their system.

    Look at what they have done with the number of teachers. They have severly restricted the supply while maintaining the same demand. Also, since the requirements to become a teacher are set high, only the best make it, like Doctors, engineers, and other professions that are difficult.

    Again those socialist countries that you love have to use CAPITALISM to improve themselves.

  • Fern RL LAYTON, UT
    Jan. 14, 2013 12:03 p.m.

    This was a very interesting article, whether or not the USA can adopt any strategies from higher performing countries. I know enough about math to know that even if we improve our "performance" it may not necessarily improve our rank among other countries, depending on how much they are also still improving or holding steady.

    The true test of education is how fit the population becomes in terms of gaining and maintaining legal employment that would support the ideals of higher teacher salaries, etc. These same principles would aid us here in this country if our other neighboring countries also succeeded in improving their economies and educational resources.

    It would also be interesting to see how students rank on the PISA in a comparison on the state level.

  • Leesha Kearns, UT
    Jan. 14, 2013 12:00 p.m.

    LDS Liberal:
    You know for a fact that I have never once looked at the curriculum being used?
    That's quite a statement isn't it. I taught for many years at the secondary level and have delved into many curricula. As a teacher I was privileged to teach along side many talented and caring teachers. I also taught along side many poor, apathetic, lazy teachers, and some who were just mean. Some of us wondered how one teacher,who had taught for many years managed to find the way to the school without getting lost each day.

  • Instereo Eureka, UT
    Jan. 14, 2013 11:20 a.m.

    LDS Liberal is right, Finland and Singapore are both Socialist Countries. Finland also has strong teacher unions. Finland and Singapore do not have private or charter schools. They invest their money in PUBLIC EDUCATION and don't allow people to "choose" their way out of it. Hence, parents actually work together to make public schools better. Both countries invest in their teachers, provide quality professional development, and set high standards to entering the teacher profession.

    In the US, I feel we have committed and dedicated teachers but we don't have school districts or in the case of Utah, a state, that provides for investment in professional development, smaller class sizes, or even adequate funding for schools. In the USA we commit ourselves to educating every child but we set up systems to make sure that some parents can choose to make sure their children do not associate with "those" kind of children.

  • Springvillepoet Springville, UT
    Jan. 14, 2013 11:08 a.m.

    There are a lot of hurdles to clear.

    We need to pay teachers more and expect a lot more from them. This means teacher evaluations not based upon administrators alone OR test scores. Evaluating teachers based on test scores will only encourage grade inflation.

    We need to convince people to respect teachers more. Teachers need to do more to earn that respect.

    We need to expect more from our students in the realm of creative thinking, knowing students in the U.S. have perhaps had it too easy for too long.

    We need to expect more from parents in the way of sincere pre-schooling their kids, not just "Have you done your homework?" parenting.

    We need to create clear, high level expectations of our students across the board, using the Department of Education to help ensure equity. This means a realignment of the department, not its elimination.

    We need to stop looking at students and the entire education process as if it was an end-product industry and switch to a perception which is process oriented. As long as we try to run education like a business, it will be in trouble.

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    Jan. 14, 2013 10:46 a.m.

    Kearns, UT
    One problem here, is that it is really difficult to get rid of poor teachers once they have tenure. They just sit in the system and are apathetic. Yet, they collect the same pay as the really motivated and talented teachers.

    9:35 a.m. Jan. 14, 2013


    Oh geez, here we go again - blame the Teachers Union.

    Making a statement like that,
    I know for a fact you've never once looked at the curriculum being used.

    Let alone how it is being taught in foreign schools.

    Typical parroting of talk radio.

    BTW - Finland and other countries kicking our rear-ends in education, are SOCIALIST.
    By go ahead and blame the Unions and Socialism all you want.
    The facts speak for themselves.

  • Leesha Kearns, UT
    Jan. 14, 2013 9:35 a.m.

    One problem here, is that it is really difficult to get rid of poor teachers once they have tenure. They just sit in the system and are apathetic. Yet, they collect the same pay as the really motivated and talented teachers.

  • Itsjstmeagain Merritt Island, Fl
    Jan. 14, 2013 7:39 a.m.

    The article discounts the idea of transitioning the lessons learned in smaller countries to the US. Across the country as a whole that may be true, but why not look at a State or County as a small country and look to adapt what works there. I'm not a fan of mainlining students based on an exam at a young age. That is too dependent on the family commitment and their educational background, but that is why adaptation is good.
    We see middle school and high school students drop out because they have no interest or resources to go to college. Can we find them and develop them in a technical field where long term employment is possible. I witnessed that myself in Germany, where tradesmen are looked at as valuable people to the economy and they are respected and paid accordingly.

  • cjb Bountiful, UT
    Jan. 14, 2013 6:44 a.m.

    Where it matters, I'd bet the educational approaches between Singapore and Finland aren't really different.

    By this I mean that when either country offers a class in a subject the curriculum has quality material. I'd bet the math classes in either country start with the easy problems and then the medium problems and then difficult problems. I'd bet that in either country, students do proofs of the math theorems and formulas, and aren't just handed the formulas.

    In contrast, here it isn't uncommon for students to top out at easier medium level problems and then just to be handed formulas with no proof, therefore the student has no idea where they came from.

    How is it that no matter how they try, American educators just can't get at the heart of what our problems are? For one reason they are poorly educated. My son is majoring in math education, he has to take a gaggle of education classes, which means there classes in many other subjects he won't be taking. He tells me it is accepted knowledge among students that the education classes are mostly just filler, not much substance to them.

  • Roland Kayser Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Jan. 14, 2013 3:00 a.m.

    "First, raise the bar for entrance into college programs for teachers, making the training very serious from the beginning."--Good luck with that until we start paying comparable salaries. The article said salaries similar to doctors and lawyers. We pay starting teachers less than gas station managers.