It’s impossible to discuss education without talking about educational testing. Without getting into all the different kinds of tests administered to students, I’d like to throw out some general observations about testing in general. I’d love some intelligent feedback here, because this issue, in my humble opinion, is a two-edged sword, and there are multiple ways to look at it. Everyone has a different–and valid–perspective.
The two-edged sword explanation. Without testing, evaluation and success are impossible to measure. However, the process of testing can easily become skewed because no test can completely represent what a child or adult can actually accomplish or understand–each test essentially measures what a student is able to regurgitate or remember (i.e. studied material) or able to figure out through reasoning and accumulated related information (i.e. unstudied material). Essay tests and hands-on projects attempt to prove mastery of a subject where rote memory cannot. Many public schools have made good strides in this area in more recent years; however, expensive private schools have traditionally excelled in teaching critical thinking and practical learning skills, due to smaller class size and large endowments for the arts and sciences.
When accessing the whole child, the American child versus the school children worldwide, or our American system of education, several factors need to be considered:
- culture and future cultural shifts
- future job markets (what is education preparing students to do?–a specific career, adaptability to markets, entrepreneurial spirit, etc.)
- ideology & religious beliefs and their influence on education
- freedom of expression & choice
- family dynamics (are parents raising their own children; the state raising the children; the children raising themselves; nannies, daycare, or school raising the children, etc.)
- length of school day and school/work week (many cultures go to school 6 days/week &/or all summer)
- overall development of the nation’s educational system
- country’s poverty level and opportunities for students to attend school (some rankings are taken only on the elect children who attend school, while the uneducated masses are not included in survey)
- system of ranking and assessing education (not all systems are congruent)
- amount of extra-curricular involvement for everyone (opportunities & encouragement in the arts, athletics, etc. as opposed to choosing/assigning one of these as a career path)
Comparison is a worthy but weighty tool. I think comparison must be held by one hand, while the other hand evaluates the final product–what kind of citizen and person is coming out of any educational system? To me, that is an equal, if not greater concern, than what kind of test-taker or professional each student becomes. And this issue–this basic value of teaching goodness, morality, and patriotism–of creating a decent and good populace is perhaps the most terrifying detriment in the development of our modern society.
Way more important than reading and math.