Dis­cus­sion fo­cuses on qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSSAMERICA - By CARO­LINE BERG in New York car­o­lineberg@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

Test scores can be both telling and mis­lead­ing.

“There’s been a bit of con­tro­versy about the [Pro­gram for In­ter­na­tional Stu­dent As­sess­ment (PISA)] scores and the use of data to com­pare coun­tries’ ed­u­ca­tion sys­tems,” An­thony Jack­son, vice-pres­i­dent for Ed­u­ca­tion and Lead­er­ship at the Asia So­ci­ety, said about the re­cently re­leased study.

The PISA re­sults, ad­min­is­tered by the Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Eco­nomic Co-op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment, ranked Shang­hai first in math, read­ing and sci­ence, among 15-year-old stu­dents around the world.

Jack­son mod­er­ated a panel of ed­u­ca­tion ex­perts on Tues­day night dur­ing a pub­lic dis­cus­sion on in­no­va­tion and eq­uity in global ed­u­ca­tion at the Asia So­ci­ety ti­tled, “Mak­ing the Grade in Global Ed­u­ca­tion — Asia: Be­yond the Head­lines.”

“We live in a coun­try here that has made pre­cious lit­tle progress, and the rest of the world is get­ting bet­ter,” Wendy Kopp, CEO and co-founder of Teach For All, said about ed­u­ca­tion de­vel­op­ment around the world, par­tic­u­larly as re­flected in the PISA scores. “We should be run­ning around the world fig­ur­ing out what are they do­ing in Viet­nam? What are they do­ing in Poland? I’m dy­ing to visit those two coun­tries.”

Poland and Viet­nam were high­lighted in the PISA re­sults for rapid im­prove­ments in their ed­u­ca­tional sys­tems. The US ranked in the mid­dle at No 36 among 65 na­tions tested.

Kopp went to China in Oc­to­ber to visit schools, study its ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams, and to find out what the driv­ers of progress have been in Shang­hai.

“There’s so much that coun­tries around the world can learn from China’s ur­ban cen­ters in their ap­proach to in­vest­ing in teacher de­vel­op­ment, em­brac­ing a rig­or­ous cur­ricu­lum, and com­mit­ting to eq­uity,” Kopp wrote to China Daily.

The Ru­ral Ed­u­ca­tion Ac­tion Project at Stan­ford Univer­sity es­ti­mates that less than 30 per­cent of Chi­nese stu­dents in ru­ral ar­eas will make it to high school, and only five stu­dents in 100 will get the op­por­tu­nity to at­tend col­lege. How­ever, Kopp said in her e-mail that she has been im­pressed by the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment’s com­mit­ment to im­prov­ing ed­u­ca­tion for ru­ral stu­dents and re­duc­ing in­equal­ity.

“Of course, there is still a gap be­tween the ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties of ru­ral and wealth­ier ur­ban stu­dents,” Kopp wrote. “But or­ga­ni­za­tions like Teach For China, in part­ner­ship with the re­gional gov­ern­ments in Yun­nan and Guang­dong, are show­ing that th­ese stu­dents can ex­cel at the high­est lev­els.”

Dur­ing her visit to China, Kopp was struck by the ded­i­ca­tion of fam­i­lies and of­fi­cials alike to en­sure stu­dents get the best ed­u­ca­tion pos­si­ble, she wrote in her e-mail.

“I vis­ited a fifth grade math class­room in Yun­nan, where stu­dents were mas­ter­ing the same ma­te­rial as my sixth grader in New York,” Kopp wrote. “In Shang­hai, we heard from one of the ar­chi­tects of the city’s ed­u­ca­tion trans­for­ma­tion that a key to their suc­cess was em­brac­ing an ‘open door’ pol­icy that en­cour­aged ed­u­ca­tors to learn from the best prac­tices of coun­tries around the world and adapt them.”

Su­san Fuhrman, pres­i­dent of Teach­ers Col­lege at Columbia Univer­sity, joined Kopp and An­drea Pasinetti , co-founder and CEO of Teach For China, on the Asia So­ci­ety dis­cus­sion panel.

Teach For China is based on the Teach For Amer­ica model, which Kopp founded in 1989. The pro­gram re­cruits grad­u­ates and pro­fes­sion­als to teach in schools in low-in­come com­mu­ni­ties and be­come lead­ers in the ef­fort to solve ed­u­ca­tional in­equity. This model helped in­spire so­cial en­trepreneurs like Pasinetti to ex­pand ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­nity by adapt­ing the model to their own con­texts.

The Teach For China pro­gram has grown from 20 fel­lows in 2010 to more than 300 through the sup­port of gov­ern­ment part­ners and the en­cour­age­ment of lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, Pasinetti wrote.

Last year, Teach For China re­ceived about 3,000 ap­pli­ca­tions, Pasinetti wrote China Daily. He also said that this year Teach For China launched a cam­paign on the Chi­nese so­cial net­work­ing ser­vice Ren­ren for col­lege stu­dents to men­tor chil­dren in Teach For China classrooms, and re­ceived more than 300,000 ap­pli­ca­tions.

CARO­LINE BERG / CHINA DAILY

CEO and founder of Teach For China, An­drea Pasinetti (right), dis­cusses global ed­u­ca­tion is­sues with CEO and co-founder of Teach For All, Wendy Kopp, dur­ing a pro­gram at the Asia So­ci­ety in New York on Tues­day night.

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