Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Future of Education in the U.S.

Building on previous blogs about America's Future, let's get down to some specifics about Education. Where do we want to go over the next 20 years? What do want to achieve? What should we be doing?

Unfortunately, the Democratic and Republican party platforms lay out somewhat similar plans containing relatively uninspired ideas about the future of our Education system.  Neither party offers truly innovative programs to truly enhance and transform the future of Education in the America.  Check it out for yourself.

Republican Position [Selected excerpts on Education]

"Maintaining America’s preeminence requires a world-class system of education, with high standards, in which all students can reach their potential. That requires considerable improvement over our current 70 percent high school graduation rate and six-year graduation rate of only 57 percent for colleges."

"Education is essential to competitiveness, but it is more than just training for the work force of the future. It is through education that we ensure the transmission of a culture, a set of values we hold in common. It has prepared generations for responsible citizenship in a free society, and it must continue to do so."

"The challenge to American higher education is to make sure students can access education in whatever forms they want. As mobility increases in all aspects of American life, student mobility, from school to school and from campus to campus, will require new approaches to admissions, evaluations, and credentialing. Distance learning propelled by an expanding telecommunications sector and especially broadband, is certain to grow in importance – whether through public or private institutions – and federal law should not discriminate against the latter. Lifelong learning will continue to transform the demographics of higher education, bringing older students and real-world experience to campus."  

Democratic Position [Selected excerpts on Education]

"Democrats recognize education as the most pressing economic issue in America’s future, and we cannot allow our country to fall behind in a global economy. We must prepare the next generation for success in college and the workforce, ensuring that American children once again become global leaders in creativity and achievement."

"We will promote innovation within our public schools–because research shows that resources alone will not create the schools that we need to help our children succeed. We need to adapt curricula and the school calendar to the needs of the 21st century; reform the schools of education that produce most of our teachers; promote public charter schools that are accountable; and streamline the certification process for those with valuable skills who want to shift careers and teach."

"We believe that our universities, community colleges, and other institutions of higher learning must foster among their graduates the skills needed to enhance economic competitiveness. We will work with institutions of higher learning to produce highly skilled graduates in science,  technology, engineering, and math disciplines who will become innovative workers prepared for  the 21st century economy. "

What does our country really want and need?

How about true transformation of our Education system! Yes, we need to set educational standards, hire and retain great teachers,  and need to adapt programs to meet the changing educational and training needs of our times.  Both parties seem to be pretty much  in agreement about this.  Unfortunately, both parties seem to fall far short when it come to specific proposals about innovation and transformation.

For example, there is no mention of the growing popularity of  online, for profit universities, e.g. Phoenix University, American Public University System (APUS).  These are reasonably priced, high quality educational institutions with flexible programs tailored to meet the needs of working students. States could significantly reduce their expenditure of scarce tax dollars to support older, traditional 'brick & mortar' institutions. 

Similarly, what about offering some of our more advanced students access to an online high school curriculum. These students could go to school year round and finish in less than 4 years.  They could even take some introductory college courses if they are able.  Rather than drop out, some students that have to work could still attend school online and get their degrees.

Home schooling also continues to grow in popularity. Should states be providing expanded online educational resources for those parents and students? 

In fact, isn't Education a profitable growth industry for our country that we should be more proactively pursuing? This could spawn new companies and jobs, help reduce taxes, and contribute to a culture of continuing, life long education that is needed so our country will be competitive and continue to be a global leader in the 21st century where Information & Knowledge rule.

In a way, the fact that both major political parties have not really advanced any real innovative, transformative changes in quite some time may end up working out well for the country.  It's funny how our governmental system always seems to work things out eventually – sometimes by taking no action and letting the private sector or local communities take the lead in developing and testing innovative new solutions.

What do you think? Would you like to  see a highly competitive and privatized Education industry with high paid teachers challenging our students? What else should we be doing to radically transform the future of Education in the U.S.?