Education Letter to the Editor

Innovation Is Needed, Not International Comparison

June 13, 2006 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

The best thing that could happen to U.S. education policy would be for educators to heed the hints in Yong Zhao’s Commentary about changes in China’s approach to education (“A Pause Before Plunging Through the China Looking Glass,” May 10, 2006). I recently returned from a two-month trip to Thailand, where education reform is mirroring China’s for basically the same reasons. While I suspect that success will be difficult for the Thais because of tradition and other factors, they certainly aren’t looking to emulate current American trends.

They, like the Chinese, want to free their students to become creative learners, not ones who regurgitate facts and lessons. They have realized that high-stakes testing limits curricula, instruction, and students’ chances to develop a broad range of abilities. It dulls the mind and inhibits both teachers’ and students’ ingenuity, the wellspring of entrepreneurship. The result is boredom, a lack of relevance, and unnecessary, counterproductive anxiety.

I returned from Thailand more convinced of the error in the United States’ educational direction. We need to quit comparing ourselves with others and start building on our strengths. To do that, we must start thinking outside the box, and emphasize the development of skills through more interdisciplinary projects that involve technology and teamwork. We also must foster a greater sense of the importance of lifelong learning in students by giving them leeway to determine the topics within those projects, while demanding excellence and authenticity. Let students produce and defend, then let the public judge the results.

To invest in the next generation, we need to lower class sizes, pay teachers well, and pour resources into rural and urban schools. But we first must find a 21st-century model for education, instead of relying on what was good for the past two generations.

Michael MacLeod

Shoreline, Wash.

A version of this article appeared in the June 14, 2006 edition of Education Week as Innovation Is Needed, Not International Comparison


Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: October 11, 2023
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: September 27, 2023
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Briefly Stated: September 20, 2023
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education From Our Research Center What's on the Minds of Educators, in Charts
Politics, gender equity, and technology—how teachers and administrators say these issues are affecting the field.
1 min read
Stylized illustration of a pie chart
Traci Daberko for Education Week