It’s official. The United States educational system has embarrassed itself on the international scene. Out of 34 countries participating in the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment, we came in at number…25, according to this report. The world’s superpower didn’t even make it into the top half. We came in behind Asian nations of China, Singapore, and South Korea. No surprise there. What is somewhat more alarming is that we ranked lower than Estonia and the Slovak Republic, 2 countries which are hardly major international players and are scarcely more than a generation away from the dark ages of Communism and the turmoil after its fall.
The Obama administration took this news as a clear sign that we need to spend more on education, even though Estonia spends about half what we do but still beat us. It seems to me that every year, we throw more money at the public schools, and we see little return on our “investment,” as the Secretary of Education likes to call it.
So what do the Koreans know about education that we don’t? According to this article, Korean parents “almost universally make their children’s education the family’s unquestioned priority.” Certainly the South Korean government spends a lot on education, but parents there also realize that they have a critical role. A public school principal noted the differences between Western families and those of his country:
“Foreigners may think it’s strange. I think the main difference between the Western and the Korean parents (is) their way of life is quite different from ordinary Westerners. They are ready to sacrifice themselves for their kids. Whereas ordinary Westerners are seeking their own happiness.”
What if parents in this country were willing to do whatever it takes to ensure a superior education for their children? Shoot, what if parents were willing to do anything at all rather than just enroll the child at the local public school and then let the government take it from there?
So what brought about all of this attention on education? SuzyQ received her PSAT scores in the mail this week. As a homeschooling family, we don’t get many opportunities to evaluate our kids in relation to everyone else. There’s no class ranking. Her scores gave me a little affirmation that she’s doing just fine without the “benefits” of licensed teachers, group projects, and state-approved curricula. Yes, even uncommon parents need a small morale boost here and there.
We continue to do what we can to make our kids’ education a priority. Oh, and as someone with Slovak ancestry, I say, “Way to go, Slovak Republic!”