The International PISA Tests Are Leading America Astray

John M. EgerHuffington Post

Lionel Van Deerlin Professor of Communications and Public Policy,
San Diego State

Posted: March 15, 2011 05:07 PM

Yes, we need to change the education system.

Not because we tested so poorly — again — on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests. Rather, because the world has changed and we are witnessing a new, global, technology-driven, knowledge economy.

Yet, every three years when the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) tests 15-year-olds around the world in math, science and reading, we go crazy with angst and despair and promise to fix the current education system.

Former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch, an otherwise trustworthy spokesperson, exclaimed: “Our students scored in the middle of the pack! We are not No. 1! Shanghai is No. 1! We are doomed unless we overtake Shanghai!

The New York Times, also writing about the PISA tests, interviewed U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan who said: “We have to see this as a wake-up call … I know skeptics will want to argue with the results, but we consider them to be accurate and reliable, and we have to see them as a challenge to get better,” he added. “The United States came in 23rd or 24th in most subjects. We can quibble, or we can face the brutal truth that we’re being out-educated.”

I guess we need more tests to get our students ready for the next PISA?

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First Eliminate All the Majors and Degree Programs

John M. Eger – Huffington Post

Lionel Van Deerlin Professor of Communications and Public Policy,
San Diego State

Posted: March 11, 2011 10:49 AM

Just look at the college catalog — any college — and you will soon discover that more than half of the courses added in the last twenty years boast how “cutting edge” they are. But often, they don’t replace anything. In other words we keep adding to the curriculum making it even more confusing for the student, and making it even more difficult to get out in four years.

In fact, in the CSU — Californian State University — system, the average stay is about six years.

We need to seriously rethink the university curriculum, and literally reinvent it. For starters, we should eliminate all the colleges, all majors and degree programs, and rethink the entire curriculum.

Call it zero-based (education) budgeting.

What do our graduates need to know and why in this new global technology driven world?

The Chronicle of Higher Education, an academic journal covering post-secondary education in the United States, recently raised the question of whether university majors are “silos” inhibiting learning.

I believe that silos are one of the reasons that administrators and faculty have such a difficult time making changes that count. Further, the university majors that exist today are not necessarily job related. Indeed, we all know, a degree of any kind is no guarantee of a job.

What is important is that young people “learn how to learn” (acquire genuine thinking skills) in college and, if possible, find out what they can be passionate about.

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