Learning From AbroadBy Ben Levin, Ed.M.'75
For those who study comparative education policy, one of the really interesting features of the education debate in the United States is how little it has been influenced by developments in the rest of the world. When traveling around other countries one is struck by how different much of the debate about education is. An interesting instance is the International Summit on the Teaching Profession hosted in New York by the United States Department of Education in 2011 and 2012. These two conferences involved 15 and 20 countries respectively and offered a chance for them to compare notes on education policy. I had the opportunity to attend both, and what struck me was that virtually none of the other countries shared the main policy concerns (e.g., charter schools, merit pay, turnaround schools, and the nefarious influence of teacher unions) that dominate debate in the US.
These features are not entirely absent in other countries, but when present they are typically minor elements in the policy mix. As described in my chapter (coauthored by Bob Schwartz and Adam Gamoran) in The Futures of School Reform, in countries with successful school systems the main focus is on working with educators to improve teaching and learning practices in all schools. And, though education politics can be contentious in many settings, most countries with high performing school systems work hard to create a high degree of consensus and positive energy around schooling rather than an atmosphere of crisis, incompetence, and blame.