Reasons Why Other Countries Are Better Than US In Basic Education

Based on the recent Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), adolescents in the United States are below average in math, reading and science compared to students in other developed countries. The New York Times recently published an editorial offering three reasons why students in the US have not been performing as well as students in Finland, Canada and Shanghai:

Here are the three reasons:


Finland provides quality education to all children regardless of socioeconomic status. Children of both poor and wealthy families attend the same school. Finland shoots for equity when it comes to basic education. On the other hand, for teacher education, Finland aims for excellence. To demonstrate how difficult it is to become a teacher in Finland, out of 6000 applicants, only a tenth of these aspirants are accepted into universities for teacher education. To top this, the applicants already come from the top quartile of the high school graduating class.


Canada adheres to equitable funding of schools. In the United States, schools are usually supported by local taxes derived from property. Thus, schools in neighborhoods where real estate is pricey tend to get greater funding. Unfortunately, schools with a greater number of students coming from poor families are inside communities that do not fare well with property taxes. Schools with greater needs therefore do not get the resources they badly need. In Canada, resources are distributed equitably. Schools with greater need receive greater support regardless of the socioeconomic status of the communities they serve.


There is no elitism in Shanghai schools. Students, whether poor or wealthy, whether gifted or challenged, whether advanced or delayed, are all schooled under one roof. There are no special schools that separate students from each other. This is education for all, and the same quality is provided to all. If a school is weak, administrators of strong schools take over. Effective teachers are sent to low performing schools. Weak schools also receive improvements in infrastructure as well as increased funding.

By comparing the US against the above three school systems, one thing becomes crystal clear. It is actually just one reason. It is equity. It is the secret behind a successful basic education system. It is such an old lesson but we all refuse to listen....