Friday, March 5, 2010

What Got To Me Today? Education around the world--no chances for kids

So per usual, I was listening to a story on NPR this morning, talking about education in other countries.  I only caught the end of the story, but it was enough to rile me up a bit.

The story was about the school system in Jamaica. They are a billion or so shy of what they need for all of the kids to be properly educated.  This leaves them with two high schools in particular areas.  One school is well funded and is full of resources, a terrific institution where kids can learn and reach higher achievement, college and great paying, professional jobs.  The other is a high school with no money, no resources, where the kids barely get by, and wind up in a trade or not getting work at all if and when they graduate.

So, the question is, how do they decide which kids go where?  And this blew me away... when students are in 6th grade (so like, age 12ish?) they are tested on academics.  Those with higher scores go to the resourceful school, those with lower scores go to the underfunded school.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  At age 12, kids are destined to be successful or not for the rest of their lives?  At age 12, kids give up their dreams of being teachers or doctors or businessmen and women because they blew a test?  Do you know how many tests I have flubbed?  Do you know I graduated with a 3.8 but scored abominably on my ACT and SAT?  Not all people, despite their intelligence, score highly on tests.

Later in the day, after discussing this story with others, I learned Jamaica isn't the only country to predetermine a person's (a young person's!) life profession by testing.  Jordan does it.  Many countries do it. 

Then, of course, I'd be remiss to not mention countries like Afghanistan, where in some areas girls aren't allowed an education at all.  If they do attend, it is secretive and illegal, and if they are caught the consequences severe.

We may be having a tough time with our educational system in this country, for sure here in Michigan.  The budgets are super tight, and painful cuts are being made.  But after hearing stories about the young kids in Jamaica and around the world, I have to tell you, I've never been more grateful for our schools, even the ones with leaky roofs and crumbling bathroom tiles. At least we have a system in place, though imperfect, where kids can dream of their futures, and find the resources to get them there.


  1. Did you also know that the reason they say U.S. school aren't up to par with many foreign countries is because of this same practice. Many foreign school do this testing and separate their kids and then when they count kids for academics they only include these gifted fortunate kids who get to go on to higher education. In America we include everyone when we educate them so our count includes our best and brightest but also our struggling students. We have our faults but I'm proud that we do try to give every child an education and an opportunity to succeed rather than writing them off if they have a problem.

  2. Wow, didn't know that, but glad I do now. It's true we get ripped on for having less academic success in the U.S. compared to other countries. thanks for the insight. I'm feeling a more in-depth article about this topic brewing...