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One of the notions that is very dear to the edReformer staff’s collective heart and mind is the idea of a truly global educational opportunity for any student in the United States. It was good to see US Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s blog post today about global education and how to writing a research paper. We took note that he’s saying that educational advances in other countries do not necessarily equate to an American loss at home, or abroad. Rather, advances and innovations are win-win solutions for an entire global architecture.
Here’s a slice from his blog post, which also ran in the International Herald Tribune:
While advancing education everywhere brings benefits at home, U.S. workers will be comparatively better off if they lead the world in educational attainment. That is why President Obama has set a bipartisan goal that America will again lead the world in college completion by 2020.
In the global economy, how well U.S. students perform is a critical yardstick. Unfortunately, the academic achievement of U.S. high school students is mediocre. Few reforms are more necessary to reaffirming the U.S. role as the world’s engine for scientific discovery and technological innovation than strengthening education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. But, strengthening the communication skills, creativity and problem-solving capability of students is crucial, too. Employers repeatedly report that they seek college graduates with the ability to adapt, innovate, synthesize data, communicate effectively, learn independently and work in teams.
Fortunately, the American system of higher education is in many respects the envy of the world. Its blend of top-ranked research universities, liberal arts colleges, comprehensive state universities and a robust community-college system provides unparalleled access to students of all backgrounds. In the years ahead, U.S. postsecondary institutions will also need to adapt to cope with the influx of older students—and the fact that most students now work at least part-time.
The United States has a unique opportunity today to reverse its declining economic competitiveness. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the stimulus package enacted by Congress in February 2009, included nearly $100 billion for education, the largest investment of its kind by the federal government in history. It also granted the U.S. Department of Education more than $5 billion in competitive discretionary funding—more than the total of all such funding provided to the department since it was established 30 years ago.
A second transformational reform is the voluntary adoption by at least 36 states of the state-crafted Common Core Standards, which measure students’ readiness for college or careers. For the first time, most states will apply rigorous, internationally benchmarked standards in math and English, bringing tougher standards to more than three-fourths of all U.S. public-school students. It is time to end the insidious practice of dumbing down academic standards—and lying to students about their readiness for college and careers.
Still, strengthening U.S. economic competitiveness will also require a sea change in attitudes. International economic competition should not be seen exclusively as a threat, but rather as a healthy inducement to learn from and collaborate with other nations.