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The Future of Education is Global Sourcing

April 16, 2013 CULTURE|shock, FUTURE|Nation, Featured 3 Comments

OP-Ed
by Tim Rohde

I just finished reading a blog post that compares educational achievement across the globe (read it here). As an American, it initially troubled me, since the main thrust of the discussion was the U.S.’s failure in math and science education, compared to other countries. One of the points the author focused on was that textbooks in the U.S. tend to be extremely broad, but not particularly deep, in their coverage of a subject. Apparently this type of survey approach isn’t as effective as the methods used by better scoring countries (deeper dives into fewer subjects).

He then suggested a brilliant idea! Why not source textbooks from the most successful countries for a given discipline? There are, of course, plenty of problems with this approach. Textbooks exist in a wider pedagogical plan that spans years; they also are  the products of, and supporting text for, particular cultures. There are also great advantages to a broad diversity of global study that would need to be preserved. Still, the fundamental notion of globally sourcing our educational materials and methods has extreme fundamental merit.

There seem to be two approaches to drawing value from this idea. One is a top-down approach which is centered around one or more NGOs, UN committees, etc. The other, and more fun, is a bottom-up approach of looking at centers of excellence around the world and drawing their resources into an informal global collaboration. When all is said and done, each text book has to be translated one at a time, and each school or person needs to make individual choices regarding participation. This is classic crowd sourcing applied to a highly educated and effective crowd.

I wonder how you feel about this. Please comment.

Tim Rohde is Co-founder/Publisher & COO of the-future.com.

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Currently there are "3 comments" on this Article:

  1. Stacy says:

    It would certainly seem worth-while to at least make sure that those in charge of selecting textbooks for our schools read and compare the texts from other countries before making decisions. As a parent, I have definitely seen evidence supporting the point referenced here that U.S. textbooks tend to be wide-ranging and shallow. We seem to be intent on all students learning the same wide array of material, when it could be far more productive to allow them to pursue different lines of study, in depth, earlier.

  2. 'da says:

    Comment part one: it might be useful to note when comparing global educational levels that our country perhaps suffers statistically for providing nearly universal education up to age 18 whereas many if not most other countries select students based on wealth and/or ability.
    Comment part two: Many years ago I went to school in Sweden. Many of the textbooks were written in English for the simple fact that there isn’t a big market for textbooks written in Swedish. The result of this is nearly perfect command of English by most Swedes. So while globally sourced material is a great idea I wonder if the reality is that the availability of texts might be more market driven. How many textbooks in Thailand were originally written in English and translated- or are Thai students simply learning to read in English as they study Calculus?
    I do wish that globally sourced teaching methods could be utilized- for example Swedes don’t (or didn’t in 1986) move students to the next section of a unit until they have mastered the first. And there is no stigma to working at your own pace. If I study chapter 4 and take the test and don’t pass then i keep working on it until i do. The goal is to master the information, not to pass the test.

  3. Sean Stewart says:

    Tim,

    Spot on. Of course augmenting the traditional “books” with plenty of onine goodness also has superb cross-pollination opportunities.

    Sean

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