This past summer, I had the privilege to spend two weeks in China. I observed their educational system and discussed potential partnerships. It was an eye-opening experience and one that has given me a perspective about American education that seems to have been lost to the public.
I traveled through six different cities, and in each school district, I observed a similar setting -- overcrowded classrooms of nearly 50 students, identified by uniforms, lined up in rows and very regimented. Students spend 10 hours in a school setting with immense pressure to acquire knowledge that would translate to a test to establish their fate and future career path.
Although it is easy to be impressed with the focus and intensity toward learning, something was missing. That something was creativity and the freedom to explore.
While talking with their educational leaders, our conversation always ended in their interest in the American way of educating children. They recognize that for them to be more competitive in the world today, they need to move away from government-driven education and trend more toward local control. They also need to give their students the freedom to explore and be creative, much like we do here. Several people told me China was lacking what the United States had, such as entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.
I find it extremely interesting that the largest nation in the world respects and admires the same educational system legislators have condemned as a failure. We are constantly being told that we are trailing other countries in the world and that the Common Core standards, among other ideas, will help us become more competitive. However, until we have a true apples-to-apples comparison, those results might never change.
Throughout the world, many countries routinely test smaller groups of students while the United States tests them all. Finland, which consistently is ranked No. 1, does not send their children to school until age 7. Imagine if our students had two more years of maturation.
In the end, our educational system is forcing us to focus on single test results. I would challenge that in many cases this is not a true indicator of what a student knows. I still believe the United States is producing many of the best and brightest thinkers in the world, but because of political interests and agendas, we are being led to believe otherwise.
To submit a question or coment to Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools Superintendent Francis Scruci, email firstname.lastname@example.org, with "Question for Scruci" as the subject line.