Education / Politics

USA: Best Country in the World…But What About Education?

“USA! USA! USA!” Often you hear the chant of those claiming that United States is the best country in the world. Unfortunately we cannot cheer on this country’s program of higher education as the best in the world. The quality of higher education has made a steady decline over the years, but has gone unnoticed because people are still being told that the U.S. has some of the top universities in the world, when this is not the truth.

Although we are considered to have 18 out of the 25 top universities in the world, these rankings can be misleading. According to Kevin Carey, director of the education policy program at the New American Foundation, “International university rankings, moreover, have little to do with education. Instead, they focus on universities as research institutions, using metrics such as the number of Noble Prize winners on staff and journal articles published. A university could stop enrolling undergraduates with no effect on its score.” This is similar to the situation in high schools where part of their ranking is based on the number of students enrolled in Advanced Placement classes instead of what the students’ grades are in the class or what their score is on the AP Exam. It is not an accurate way to measure performance.

The Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) created a standardized test in 2011 to compare higher education systems in other countries. PIAAC used real world applications in order to test literacy and math skills in adults throughout the world. In the math section 18 percent of Americans with bachelor’s degrees scored in the top two levels of numeracy as opposed to the international average of 24 percent. In the literary section Americans were eighth from the bottom. These scores can be eye-opening to those that still believe America has one of the best higher education systems.

Two things that we can do to increase the skill level of American students in college is to find teachers instead of just experts to use as professors and to regulate universities and colleges more. Focusing more on finding professors through their teaching merit rather than finding the experts in that field will help students better understand the course material. Often times the experts are just that, experts and not teachers. In that case they have never taught before and have no idea how to help students better understand material. It can be frustrating to have a professor who will only lecture you about his accomplishments and not care about whether or not you walk away from his course with knowledge pertaining to the real world. Another thing that could be done to help increase performance in students is regulating universities and colleges like K-12 schools. This could help because it would make sure that students are learning what they need to be able to succeed in the real world. While this may be hard to do for private universities, it is something that can definitely be done for public universities and community colleges.

The need to better our higher education system has been overlooked in the favor of attempting to better our K-12 school education, which recently pushed Common Core Standards. Carey explained why there is a huge gap in trying to better K-12 as opposed to higher education. He said, “We see K-12 schools and college differently because we’re looking at two different yardsticks: the academic performance of the whole population of students in one case, the research of a small number of institutions in the other.”

People believe that there is no reason to better our education because the type of education that you receive is what you pay for with the difference in a 2 year community college, 4 year state university, 4 year private university, and of course the Ivy league schools. But the education that students receive should be equal and of the best quality no matter what they pay because the future of this economy and even this country is on their shoulders and they cannot succeed without a proper education.