"I've Kent Right!" US vs Singaporean Education

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,,, at 8/26/2010 12:09:00 AM
America is the only nation in history which miraculously has gone directly from barbarism to degeneration without the usual interval of civilization - Georges Clemenceau

[NOTE: This is the second of two posts on Singapore and the United States.] Blogging is truly rewarding nowadays as the United States is receiving its proper comeuppance for severe indiscipline on a daily basis. It's good to be vindicated. In the end, it doesn't matter who you are; you eventually reap the misery that you sow. Here, though, I would like to focus on the state of education in the United States as it captures a poignant picture of American decay. I've been meaning to post this for quite some time, but a new report arrived to bolster the argument that US education is headed down the tubes like the rest of it.

Deficit fetishists will of course suggest that chronic budgetary shortfalls don't matter. However, with nearly all US states on the brink of financial ruin, it is no surprise that schoolteachers are facing the axe lest the federal government ante up more debt to dump on future generations in typical American fashion. Yet, the damning thing is that lawmakers are not trying to improve the US educational system but to stem further declines. For, the state of US education is in a truly sad state.

The first shoe to drop came about this same time last year. It was reported that average scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), a test required many colleges to gauge the ability of high school finishers to study at the tertiary level, fell after several years of stagnation:
High-school students' performance last year on the SAT college-entrance exam fell slightly, and the score gap generally widened between lower-performing minority groups and white and Asian-American students, raising questions about the effectiveness of national education reform efforts.

Average scores for the class of 2009 in critical reading dropped to 501 from 502, in writing to 493 from 494 and held steady in math, at 515. The combined scores are the lowest this decade and reflect stalled performance over the past three years. The reading scores are the worst since 1994.

Many observers Tuesday viewed the flat results of recent years as discouraging in light of a more than 25-year effort to improve U.S. education. "This is a nearly unrelenting tale of woe and disappointment," said Chester E. Finn Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank. "If there's any good news here, I can't find it."
Good job, America. What's this, "All Children (Except Asians) Left Behind"? Certainly, it looks like things are getting worse in an already highly racialized and inequitable society. I am particularly baffled by the excuse that inclusion of more Latino test takers resulting in lower scores is encouraging just because they're taking SATs. Given impending demographic trends in America, raising their scores should be a priority. If these numbers weren't bad enough already, more recent scores from the American Collegiate Test (ACT) depict an even more despairing result. Insofar as many high school graduates are required to take ACT instead of those just aspiring to go to college, ACT may be more representative:
"High schools are the downfall of American school reform," said Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy, a nonpartisan research organization in Washington. "We haven't figured out how to improve them on a broad scope and if our kids aren't dropping out physically, they are dropping out mentally."

President Barack Obama has said the nation's long-term prosperity depends on fixing the nation's high schools and preparing students to compete in a global economy. A recent study [by the OECD] found the U.S. ranks only 12th in the percentage of adults aged 25 to 34 who hold college degrees, and Mr. Obama has set a goal of becoming No. 1.

To accomplish its aims, the administration will need to finesse the co-operation of the powerful teacher's unions, Congress, parents and local school officials—groups that aren't always on the same page when it comes to education reform...The average ACT composite score has actually fallen since 2007, after increasing during the five-year period before that. This year, the average composite was 21.0, compared with 21.1 last year and 21.2 in 2007. The test is scored on a 1-36 point scale [my emphasis].
So far so bad, but that's not surprising at all given the subject matter here. What can we offer in contrast to this utterly predictable tale of woe? I humbly suggest that America's leaders look towards educationally progressive Singapore. Sometime ago, Tom Davenport of the Harvard Business Review blog thought that the city-state was a model of judgment for the US. Unlike America, Singapore places a high value on education and actually does something about it:
Singapore is obsessed with education — not just for children, but throughout life. Another of its declared challenges is, "How to design job-training programmes and wage supplement schemes for low-income older workers?" The country tops the ranks of educational achievement regularly. While it was once justifiably criticized for emphasizing rote learning, it has introduced programs that encourage creativity.
There will of course be objections that the Singaporean example is not applicable to the United States given the latter's diversity. But guess what? Singapore is also a melting pot of Chinese, Malay, Indian, and other cultures. Instead of wasting time on Islamophobia and similar bigotries, Singaporeans have laboured to create a truly multicultural society:
Singapore is a highly diverse society, with lots of citizens with Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Arab backgrounds. Yet they all seem to get along pretty well, and the country's culture is greatly enriched by the diversity. Public housing is ethnically and religiously integrated. Other countries could probably use a version of its "Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act," which prohibits religious rabble-rousing.
Take that, Sarah Palin and various Tea Party acolytes.

We all know who successfully patterned their development after Singapore instead of blindly following the example of the US into its current oblivion. Why, for instance, would you want your education system to resemble America's when you could aspire to have one like Singapore's? You can gather even more information on US trashiness till the cows come home but, suffice to say, the evidence clearly points to widespread American decay: It certainly isn't getting any smarter (see above), fitter, or better off than it was before. Let Singapore show America the way.