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Compare and contrast: How well do the US schools teach students?

One of the most important experiences in a child’s life is their education, and vast differences in educational systems across the world make for vastly different students. The United States, one of the most developed and wealthiest nations in the world, surprisingly lags in its educational mandate. Data from tests such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reveal that the U.S. is consistently receiving mediocre international rankings in education.

One major reason for this  could be a result of inadequate teachers due to their low salaries. On average, teachers’ incomes in the US are much lower than the international average. This inadequate pay results in skilled professionals oftentimes having to work more than one job, making it difficult for them to have the time it takes to put their full effort into teaching. In addition, the wage gap is also an issue because the talent pool diminishes; private sector jobs become more attractive for would-be teachers, causing a “brain drain” from the vocation. With local districts deciding teacher salary, they are principally at fault for the quality of teaching students receive.

However, one way the American education system is different from many others is the role of state governments, who are primarily responsible for the establishment and regulations in schools. The Common Core, a state-led effort, creates educational standards that each schools’ students must be taught. Curriculum regarding instructional standards are decided at the state level, whereas the curriculum regarding educational methods are determined at district and site levels–further varying the type of education students in different states receive.  

Comparatively, Canada has been ranked as one of the top education systems in the world, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Similar to America’s school system, Canadian education systems vary based on provincial governments, funded by local governments, which are overseen by the federal government. However, the OECD states that the role of the federal government is “limited and sometimes non-existent.” This method of noninterference allows schools to identify individual students who are struggling in the classroom; in turn, many efforts are made to help students improve in certain areas. In contrast to the U.S., the process of hiring teachers in Canada is very selective. Thus, according to the OECD, teachers are paid very high, earning up to $99,000, which motivates them to create a strong sense of equality among all children.

Along with a reputation as one of the most grueling and competitive educational environments, China’s education system is also one of the oldest in the world. Because China places an importance on “The Big Two”: Chinese and math, students learn these subjects for approximately 60 percent of each school day. A large part of school includes preparation for the infamous gaokao, the National Higher Education Entrance Examination that is the basis for students who wish to receive a higher education. With a 40 percent passing rate, this nine-hour test is the sole determining factor for a student’s eligibility to enroll in universities. This method is not an accurate reflection of a student’s abilities, rather their ability to take a test. As a result, a huge amount of pressure is placed on students who attend school in China, resulting in many cases of depression or suicide.

Instead of placing a high stress on a single-determining test, China should follow the way that the U.S. education system recognizes students for more than just an educational aspect. When it comes to applying for college, not only are GPA and SAT/ACT scores are recognized, but extracurricular activities, teacher recommendations and personal essays are taken into consideration. This system motivates students to turn their focus on the community, as students are encouraged to join clubs and volunteer.

With the U.S.’s low educational ranking, along with the decline in the quality of education students are receiving, people should advocate for higher salaries for teachers to better the means of the country by provide students with a better education for their future.