U.S. Education System Is Not Getting Good Grades


Congress' decision to tie federal student loan rates to the market will probably result in higher costs for future college students. Only time will tell if this will exacerbate educational and economic disparities as federal and state funding continue to shrink for many of the children who need it most, and common core initiatives aimed at improving America's education system might not go far enough.

Data suggests that education investment and GDP are strongly correlated. Divergence in primary and higher education quality between India and South Korea highlight the role of human capital development education in a country. Inadequacies and inequality in India's education system constraints growth opportunities as many children don't develop the skills needed to contribute to the economy. In contrast, South Korea looks at primary education as a collective good, with education in general playing an integral role in society.

Similar outcomes can be seen in the U.S. on a micro level. Schools in low income areas receive less education funding and consequentially tend to perform worse than schools in higher income areas. Lower graduation rates for low income areas translate into less productive human capital bases, constraining opportunities for growth. If we are truly serious about improving opportunities for all Americans, strengthening the economy, and lowering long-term unemployment it is vital that dynamic common core educational curriculum be created to ensure all students are developing the skills needed to contribute to society. 

Disparities are not only apparent in terms of school funding. Educational curricula also vary across the country. In the U.S., school curricula are typically determined by elected school board officials who have been known to incorporate controversial subject matter. Before technological advances lessened their influence, Texas and California state school boards were basically able to structure the content of textbooks used throughout the country because of their role as large purchasers, causing publishers to tailor their material to the standards developed by these state officials.

President Obama has tauted the common core curriculum in attempts to deal with educational discrepancies, but doesn't go far enough to address the emphasis on standardized testing over tangible skill development models that have proved to be effective in countries such as Germany. In China, where students tend to perform well on standardized tests, education officials are still concerned about the lack of analytical skill development.

All students should have access to training in information technology, computer science, engineering, and other skills that will benefit them and the nation as a whole as the global economy becomes increasingly more competitive and financially rewards individuals and nations able to provide skill-intensive services and products.

Education is in need of systematic change in this country. In addition to the funding and curriculum discrepancies that contribute to diverging educational outcomes, individual learning styles and familial considerations are potentially more impactful. Ensuring that all children are given the opportunity to contribute to the future economy means that there will have be some flexibility in how curricula are administered and developed.

Low income, crime-ridden areas will almost assuredly face drastically different challenges than schools made up of wealthier students from more stable home environments. Research has shown that in addition to standardized testing, other aspects of our education system such as school start time and classroom instruction may merit reconsideration. Education reform in this country should aim to both expand opportunities and availability of educational resources in addition to fostering the type of intellectual curiosity beneficial to lifelong learning for all students regardless of income or location.