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How are students educated in schools in YOUR country, where you came from?

Each country has a different education system. In most of the Eastern countries, students are only forced to go to great universities, in spite of their careers and what they want to do in the future. Since I am a student in South Korea, I am forced to only get good scores on exams and surrounded with full of excessive competitions among students. The whole society forces us to go to a famous college and just to gain reputations.

However, many people detect that the current education system is on the wrong track; and although a lot of people stood up in order to reform it, not many significant changes have happened. So I am willing to make an organization to change the current education system and lead the students into the right way of future. Before I actually put it into practice, I really want to hear from all of you about what your countries' real purpose of education is and how students are educated in schools. It would help me learn about education systems from all around the world, from diversity of countries. I would certainly appreciate your participation!

When I was researching for education around the world, I came to a conclusion that every nation's education is deeply connected with different cultures and historical backgrounds. So if you know anything about your country's history or cultures related to education, I would greatly appreciate it.

P.S Since I am a middle school student and have assignments to complete, it would take sone time for me to answer your comments. If you don't mind, I might write you back little later.

  • Sep 2 2013: Hello Judy,

    Quite an interesting topic.

    Most of the educational systems in the world teach the Humans to become a Resource for an organization. You are tamed to belong to the 90 % class of working people and can somehow fit some where.

    Why is that nobody thinks about the 10 % Class - who are creative and innovative and Money Works for them.

    Even though each one of us are constantly finding faults with our systems ; why not look into the challenges which the children face and still learn.

    Have you ever thought about the child from USA to travel in a private bus in India and go from point A to Point B ; It will be a nightmare for them. Interestingly nowadays the students are coming from wealthy nations to more populous nations who still give education in spite of all odds so that learn new experiences.

    There has to schools for developing creativity , finding out your talents at a very age , developing what you like.

    The world is changing by the day. Today we have more Chinese and Indian companies joining the Fortune 500. It cannot happen just like that. The best talents come out of challenging life situations when we learn with constraints.

    Imagine a school , with a roof leaking , no proper benches, no proper sanitation, no proper food ( but still provided by the Government) , No Audion and Video system , children has no uniforms, no shoes to wear.

    Don't we have Great Man and Women from these schools in various positions in the World.

    Life ahead is not a straight line - Its full of challenges and learning in a challenging environment - brings out the talents.

    We have to be practical in our suggestions and consider the level of economies in the world.

    Not to offend any education but to learn something from every situation is important.

    Develop Creativity and Foster Innovation


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    Sep 1 2013: Judy,

    I grew up in the USA and went to the standard schools...grammar school for 6 years, middle school for 3 years and high school for 3 years, and finally on to University for 5 years obtaining a Bachelor of Science Degree in Engineering. For 17 years of academic schooling, I didn't know a single thing about what I am in spirit or inspired to be and to do, nothing about who I am in personality and character nor the power of choice, and certainly nothing about what I love to do for the sake of doing it. I believe strongly that education would benefit from teaching how to live authentically and offer more on the spiritual aspects of life and love, such as how to relax in stressful situations, how to honor, respect and love the human body, and the importance of happiness and free will to make choices.
    • Sep 3 2013: I appreciate your response, Dan Hegerich! Problem you had suffered during early years is the same thing currently happening among the students in South Korea. What you said about teaching students how to live authentically and how to live with others is exactly what I am focusing on right now. What I think is that school should be like a "miniature" of a society. We are supposed to be developing our opinions everyday, cooperating in order to solve difficult problems, and dealing with conflicts we have with friends and teachers. However, most schools are not in this way at all. They only focus on memorizing stuff like new math formula, frankly speaking, obsessed with it.

      United States as well as South Korea needs to adapt Northern Europe's school system as soon as possible. By adapting I don't mean accomodating everything in Northern Europe, I mean learning lots of things from it. Since all nations have different historical backgrounds and cultural differences, I believe we also need to change some parts and merge with own cultures, although still Northern Europe's education system is great.

      What is Barach Obama saying about nation's education? Or is he at least mentioning the problem? I heard that Obama mentioned education systems in South Korea and even complimented it, which I as a student in South Korea never understand.
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    Aug 24 2013: Judy, you are absolutely right about the "prestigious university phenomenon", and also about the socio-cultural implications on the education system. I wish there were more insightful people like you in India. Here's what I think about the driving factors behind the flawed education system in India.

    Education has always been an elite privilege in India. Since ancient times, only the royalty and upper caste children were admitted in schools called as gurukuls. Here the teacher and students lived together and learnt through practical experiences. It was flawed because it thrived on maintaining the caste structure.

    Once the British took over India, they needed people who could understand their language and help them administer their rule in India. They opened English medium schools. Their main motive was to have English speaking Indians, not informed educated Indians. They did promote literacy among all castes and classes but enlightenment was not the core motive of their education policies. I do admit that they have helped eradicate many evils in our society but they have also added other evils like the class system.

    Under the British rule, everything became competitive. The only way to get a government job was to memorize the maximum information that they provided and pass the civil service exams. Like you said, here was an opportunity for the lower caste to change their lives by clearing the exams. After the British left India, the same trend has continued. Education is a means to get a job, earn money, and live a better life. Parents still believe in the same concept. Getting a certificate is all that matters here in India.

    Education should prepare children for life and not merely for a profession. All this hatred, envy, crime, corruption and immorality is greatly due to the flawed education system. I have a lot to share but the 2000 character count in TED is limiting. We should talk more about this and learn from each other's experiences.
    • Aug 29 2013: I feel like I have just read a whole book about India's educational problem and its factors! I believe that current education systems in each country had been affected by some events in the past somehow, in spite of which country it is, including India and Korea.

      Education has been the most complicated issue from past to present in Korea. As you would probably know, Eastern cultures have emphasized educating children since ancient times. They eventually forced children to stuff as many informations as possible into their heads and they only pursued prestigious universities. In the society of excessive competence, even elementary schoolers get a lot of stress from studying. It is not a funny thing that those little kids envy and even hate those who got better scores on exam. In Korean schools, your value is determined by others by how much you have achieved on exams.

      One thing you might not be sure about is that in Korea a child's edcuation is not only his/her problem. It is whole family members' business. Getting good scores on exams and going into great colleges are the results of consistent push and anticipations from the family members, moms in particular. Even in Korea there is a term called 'helicopter mom', representing mothers who have excessive protection and interference no matter where the kids go.

      In my country, Korea, there are barely any cheatings in tests. However, there is something that have made education unequal. It is called 'private education.' I suppose that this is one of the major problems in Korea, because it destroys the true meaning of education. Those kids who has been raised up in a rich family can get private education, which is being educated outside of schools. Moreover, almost every single school teaches students as if they take private education as granted, meaning that they assume students already know everything due to private education.

      Since I don't have any character remaining, I will explain this further later on!
  • Sep 2 2013: Greetings,

    In my country Pakistan, students are taught in a manner which enables the youth to:

    -Broaden their horizons
    -Unleash their immense creativity
    -Introduces them and encourages them to appreciate and embrace diversity
    -Recognize their responsibility as a citizen of Pakistan

    Over the past decade, alot has changed in Pakistan in terms of the Faculty, teaching styles and most importantly the curriculum which determines how the children are taught and the rationale behind those teachings.

  • Sep 2 2013: In Pakistan (where I study medicine) I believe the primary and secondary educational systems are deeply flawed. The tertiary education (university level e.g medicine,engineering) has it's issues too but it's improving.
    Basically we have either the public sector education (govt.funded) or private/semi private sector (self funded). The educational systems these sectors follow is again radically divided.
    The public sector schools while cheap, follow what we call FSc or FA system. The course they cover is the same as you would expect any normal high schooler in lets say the US but their examinations are totally rote learning based. Meaning they are tested on their ability to remember the text not on their ability to comprehend what they've learned.
    The private sector schools usually follow the Cambridge O-level and A-level system (which although I believe somewhat flawed again) is still far superior to the local system. Students from private sector schools are usually given more opportunities to expand their minds and learn about their interests,hobbies etc.
    Most students from public sector schools develop something of an inferiority complex when they compare themselves to those from a pvt sector school. Whether their complex is unfounded or has a true basis is another debate but my point is that with two vastly different educational systems running in the country we have no standardized education. This obviously effects the university placements as public school students get an edge over pvt students when it comes to famous public universities. The result is more and more pvt sector students opting to study abroad or in the few good pvt sector universities in the country, once gain distancing themselves from their fellow public sector students.
    This disparity I believe creates a huge misunderstanding between students and my country really really needs to fix the education system quickly.
  • Aug 30 2013: Hey there,

    I want to tell you a bit about the extremly weird german school system. Germany is made up of sixteen Länder (singular Land, colloquially called Bundesland, for "federated state"), which are the partly sovereign constituent states of the Federal Republic of Germany and every single one of them has a different school system. Most of them have a Tripartite System which means that in the 4th grade the teacher has to decide which students will go to a low, middleclass or highschool. You can only study if you went to a highschool (in German "Gymnasium"). When you went to the lowschool (in German "Hauptschule") you don't have very big chances to get any job at all. If you went to the middleschool (in German "Realschule") you are most likely to do a dual vocational education and training for a specific job or field of expertise. The problem is that rich kids from Parents with university degrees of their own are much more likely to go to a highschool than kids from working class familiys. Even the statistics support that argument. The Tripartite System itself automatically creates an social unequality and a three class society. The next problem are teachers that have to decide for 10 year old kids one of the most important decisions of their lives. I was sent to a lowschool because my parents wheren't rich and didn't have any university degrees of their own. I am studying today but I had to fight really hard for it. Howsoever this system is just nuts. Take a look at this diagramm http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ADeutsches_Bildungssystem-quer.svg

    • Sep 1 2013: I greatly appreciate your comments, Jan Hachmann! I had this stereotype that countries in Europe has developed in terms of education systems far more than us. But I was totally shocked by what you informed about German educational system, associating with the problem of unequality.

      In South Korea there is a term called private education, which is creating an unequality for social classes as well. Poor people cannot afford any private learning such as tutoring and academies (We call it 'Hag-won' in Korean) while the rich apparently gains the help from private education due to the financial support from their parents. Schools are teaching math and English in the level of students who already got private education, meaning that those who did not get tutoring nor Hag-won have trouble keeping up with other students. Since math and English are the subjects Korean schools are focused on the most, this is an issue we Koreans can never ignore. Because how much you are paid in Korean society is somewhat determind by what university you had graduated as well as your accomplishments, private education is creating further rich and poor disparity and the pass of wealth from generations.

      However, I never knew even a school system is creating a wealth disparity in the other side of the world. This system in Germany should really be fixed as soon as possible.
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    Aug 24 2013: all people have right to be educated, but most of em "being educated" is not educating at all. human was born with variety of skills and distinctive capabilities. in my country (indonesia) the education system is like uuummm, just imagine fish,monkey,giraffe,tiger, and penguin then the teacher says to climb a tree in front of'em to finish their test. that's the system in my country. -_-"
    • Aug 30 2013: Haha, I understood your point clearly! I think standardization is one of the main world-wide issues in terms of education. What you had said is the exact same situation happening in my country South Korea, as well as numerous other countries. It really needs to be eradicated. Teaching students how to be exam machines is not what we want in our society, in our world. Since the world have changed rapidly, new solutions should be developed and put into practice. Being successful and living a happy life is not from being exactly the same with others. If we desire to make the world into a better place, we must respect each one's diversity and distinguishing features.

      If an apple seed pretends to be an orange just because orange seems valuable, the apple seed would never grow an orange tree. Although the apple seed has gotten all nutrients and water that oranges get, the apple seed is an apple itself, not an orange. This apple seed should never try to be an orange; what it must do is to try to grow the best apple tree.

      We are apple seeds in this world. Some of us choose what we will do in the future depending on those wrong ideas such as certain jobs are the best, ignoring what our hearts says. This may not be our own fault because the current education system has shown us only one way of being successful, which is to stuff as many things into our heads as possible. However, we can never achieve what we want when we do tasks reluctantly and being forced by others. The education must help students find their own seed -in spite of what kind of seeds they are- and continuously support them. Education should be respecting one's distinguishing personalities and thoughts, not forcing the students into one way.
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        Aug 31 2013: you've got the point judy, are you a college student? because you have a unique way of thinking, remarkable.
        that actually happen now in our young generation about teaching and learning in grade-hunting contest or we could say "school". i was surprised when you say the system was actually happening in your country, cause i thought south korea has more something to do with educational development.

        after all, the issue will always lead us to the performance of government, they play an important role in developing of education system. the important questions are when? when will the "old-system" change? and how? how do we eradicate it?
        • Sep 1 2013: Actually, I am about to turn into 15 (in American age). I am glad that you thought I have a unique way of thinking. I greatly appreciate your comment!

          According to statistics, South Korea is actually in the first place in terms of educational development. However, I think this is incorrect, because they only meant 'low literacy rate' by educational development. In other words, they did not include how students are forced to only study for their exams nor how students themselves think about the learning system. They did not pay attention to the actual process of the result. If you want to learn more about it, please read the comment just below, a comment to Robit Daniel. It talks about the whole thing behind the education system in South Korea. It starts with "I feel like~."

          I agree with you that we must figure out how we can start putting all this into practice. We need to create a feasible plan so we can actually eradicate the old education system. Numerous people had thought about it, but nothing really changed. It won't create any changes if we plan to write a petition to the government now. What I think important these days is to gather more and more people who have the same revolutionary ideas with us. Around the world there are lots of educational clubs, NGOs, and other smaller groups. The problem is that those people have no access to one another.

          I am thinking of creating an online network that will help people to connect and communicate. If this is actually created and is spreaded to the world, we would be able to make the changes that everyone desires.
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    Aug 23 2013: I really appreciate your visionary plans. I just hope that you don't let this inspiration fade with time as you get busy with the intricacies of survival. I come from India, but I strongly believe that the education system is the same everywhere, more or less. Your ideals of a blissful student life in the western half of our world is flawed. It's just an illusion that the east likes to believe in. The grass always looks greener on the other side Judy. :)

    I digress. Coming back to the education system in India. This is the real face of India. There are a handful of good schools but I speak on behalf of the majority, having gone through the system as a student, and having been in the system as a teacher for over three years.

    The schools here rob our children of their innocence. Children are made to memorize information that they do not even understand. They are tested on the amount of answers they can put on paper in exams. Teachers normally dictate answer in the class and expect the exact same answers in the exam hall. Any deviation even in terms of grammar is severely penalized.

    Cheating in exams is a norm here in India, and teachers usually give away the test questions either subtly in the form of revision questions, or more opening to those students who go to them for private tuition. This way everyone's happy. Child just move from one grade to another without ever learning anything.

    Private tuition is another cancer that is eating away into the intellectual future of our country. Teachers don't teach well in schools because they want students to go to them for private tuition. If a child doesn't go for tuition, he or she is destined to fail and inadvertently the child is forced to go for the tuition. Parents fear for their children and work through their noses to pay for the private tuition.

    Judy I could go on and on about the sad plight of the education here in India but these things are public knowledge, yet no one seems to want to do anything about it.
    • Aug 24 2013: I greatly appreciate your response! I admit that I had all this flawed information about Western countries. Although they have the culture of debating and questioning, now I know that their education system is based on standardization.

      However, according to what I have researched, I believe it is true that most Eastern countries pursue the goal of going to what we call "prestigious universities". Also, I strongly believe that this social phenomenon is greatly affected by each countries' social customs and histories.

      Let me give India as an example. I think excessive memorizing and private tuitions you said are connected with India's past culture, the caste system. Even though caste system was prohibited in the past, those people from subjugated classes like sudra and untouchables are still discriminated in the society. So their only goal is to go to universities and to get out of that social discrimination. This consequently led to excessive memorizing and cheating in India, without thinking about the real purpose of learning and improving their own opinions.

      This is just my personal thought based on what I have researched, so it might have flaws. Also, I did not explain how it affected the high and middle classes, only mentioning the lower classes. What do you think that led to those phenomenons in schools in India?
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        Aug 24 2013: Actually, education in the US moves back and forth between a more standardized set of goals - but allowing every school district to reach those however they please (with different teaching methods and materials) -and less standardized sets of goals.

        Every school district chooses its own books and so forth. There are not nationally or state determined texts. Even within a single school, two different 7th grade English teachers may assign a completely different sets of books and have students write papers on entirely different things.

        Students may take very different subjects. For example, one tenth grader may take geometry and another calculus. One may take French and another Latin. One may take photography, another orchestra, and another drama, all in a poor urban private school.

        Those actually involved in education in the United States know this, of course. In fact it is largely the disparity in what students learn and do depending on where they go to school and which teacher they get that has prompted the recent swing toward trying more standardization at least of goals of what students of a certain age/grade should understand and be able to do. Many leaders in education feared in particular that the customary variation in goals across schools was correlated with the income and advantages of the student bodies, with children in more affluent areas being served with a more rigorous and enriched curriculum than the children of the poor. The differential opportunity to get a solid education is seen as an impediment to students' access to opportunities later in life.

        It is the disparity in opportunities depending on where you live and your family income that prompts most efforts to set standards.

        There is typically a standardized test at the end of the year at each grade level, but the result does NOT affect the student's grade in any class!

        In any case, please do not believe everything you hear about schools. Much of what you read and hear will be inaccurate.
    • Aug 27 2013: hii rohit,
      great to read your comments..
      i guess here in India,change is happening,though the pace is slow, but yes, it is happening.
      I work with Teach for India and have experienced it myself in a 3rd standard class.
      All i realized is,the presence of a teacher, who is committed enough to change existing traditional convictions and mindsets is all it takes for the change to happen..particularly for the primary education.
      I think the Primary Education (below 5th standard) must be the BULLS EYE, currently as it is the time when the basic foundation of maths and language skills are built and it is that foundation which will help the kids to progress further. I think that should be the focus area.
      • Aug 30 2013: I strongly agree with you about the idea that the presence of a teacher is playing a SIGNIFICANT role in the changes. We can all stand up in front of the students and talk about the fallacious aspects of current system of education, but they won't pay attention to it. I believe that the only people who can touch their hearts with words and lead them to the right way are the teachers (as well as the parents of course). Nowadays, some teachers seem to force the students to study. However, I believe there are still enough teachers who can make the educational changes happen.
      • Aug 31 2013: free education must be there for every child either rich or poor.
        only one type of school will be there.
        one common dress.
        one medium of education with local n national language.
        all India level exams for every class.
        only one board of education.
        innovative activities for all n every child.
  • Sep 14 2013: Having grown up in NYC and attended a Performing Arts High School, I was lucky enough to have a unique curriculum. k-8 here in NYC I think is pretty standard in terms of general primary education and curriculum. I can say the classes are usually upward of 25 tipping 30 often. This was true in HS, but the dual curriculum in music created a kind duality that I can really appreciate now.

    One of the main things I find lacking in my academic experience was the notion of discipline and actually feeling committed to my education. I tested well and always had an appetite for learning, but things are not set up to encourage this for most. There is more often a sense of obligation twinned with learning and not an opportunity to explore, learn, or grow. Instilling youths with the resources to explore the world as they see it and go after and seek knowledge to those ends is absent. Inculcating discipline as a foundation life skill that is used in any academic or professional lens coupled with entrusting a sense of agency to the student to be a main participant in his/her learning went amiss throughout high school. It's all just going through the motions.

    Academic subjects are treated as isolated bodies of knowledge. Integration of curriculum was something luckily was very much encouraged at the U of R where I studied at college but is practically absent in high school down. Lack of integration disadvantages a student in that the mechanisms for learning are separate and fail to reinforce each other. Integration also leads to deeper engagement with the materials across fields. Some 50% of minorities are not making it out of high school in part because engagement is not a priority in education. The crunching of numbers that has taken a front seat leaves students without an accessible and pragmatic skill set that an education is to provide.

    School should be a place for a learner to be empowered and encouraged to claim the skill set he/she is taking into his/her future.
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    Sep 11 2013: i am a student in the US: i always feel timed.
  • Sep 9 2013: Our Vision happylearningcenter.in
    Our Vision is to create an Education System based on creating Scientific ,Creative, Inventive ,Innovative & Enterprenurship Qualities, to be financially independent at an early age.
    We work on the mental skills to make kids develop superior faculty of mind.
    We have a Teacher – Teacher relationship with kids where they have Teach back sessions where we reward our Kids per class to those kids who have the flair for teaching with Perfection.
  • Sep 7 2013: Hey Judy, I'm from Singapore. So the culture here is pretty much similar to that of South Korea. I think it's the culture here in Asia. Here in Singapore, it's really 'teaching to the test'. Students are flooded with information and students basically just cram their heads memorizing all these information in order to ace their tests. Here in Singapore, results mean everything. I think that many fail to realize the purpose of education. Why do we go to school? What is our purpose? What drives us? What is our motivation? Many students here in Singapore can be coined as 'lifeless mushrooms'. They are like robots, basically, taking in heaps of information and spewing them out in tests. They do not know why they are doing so.In fact, many people in my school do not even have an ambition, or a dream. The education system here in Singapore does not give up the space we need to develop ourselves holistically, it does not give us the chance to explore our interests and dwell in our passion. It gives us very little space for individuality and uniqueness. Schools here kill creativity and kill individuality. This is why Asia does not produce any "Steve Jobs or Bill Gates". We concentrate too much on route learning but we miss out on the soft skills, creativity and thinking. Instead, we should have more of experiential learning and have the chance to explore outside the classroom. There is so much more to learn outside the classroom, there is so much more knowledge outside to gain. We should have classes outside the classroom. We should be given the chance to explore, discover and develop, because it's these things that stick with us for a long time, not the cramming of information into our brains. We should get away from 'teaching to the test' and aim more towards 'teaching to learn'. Education does not equal to academics, and what we lack now is a good education system.
  • Sep 4 2013: In our education system when students in high school are in 4 eso have to pick between arts, sciences, languages...and I think ..DO they really believe that a person with 15 years old know what to do with their lifes already, I don't think so. However, associations of teachers and students are protesting at streets against this lack of management at schools , trying to reclaim a better education for everyone in our country. We still believe our students deserve make their dreams true and create a better future for Spain.
  • Sep 3 2013: Hey, I am catching up with all the comments, I live in México, in a relatively small city named Torreón, the subject interested me since in my country, and I am only writing from what I have seen and what I can perceive without actually making an investigation on the subject. Education depends on income and social and economic background, and yet, even when you can afford some of the more expensive schools, the system, as far as I am concerned is kind of unorthodox, you just sit there and listen to some guy called "Teacher" repeat several facts, memorize a few formulas in order to get some results, and you don't question what is going on because you are even taught how to make an essay based on a simple formula of 5 paragraphs.
    Right now there are several changes going on in my country regarding the political system, our congress and president are making a few reforms, which have brought several issues to be addressed but not solved. I have been interested for a while now in making a change in my country, and I believe education is the answer, I don't know how to offer a response to this problems. I think we need to teach our kids on more subjects than math, I think we need to give them some lessons on self-esteem before we try to teach them physics. I know I won't change the entire country, I hope I can change at least the outcome for some people near me, I have seen many ideas of the testimonies in TEDtalks but I have no idea on how to adapt or create a project at least for my community since really poor kids are more worried about eating than learning.
  • Sep 3 2013: Hello Judy! Most of students in Brazil are educated in a traditional approach, with fixed curriculum, mixed-ability classes, specially in public schools. The subjects are really important although they are not sufficient to prepare them to real and competitive world. It has been a challenge for teachers and all the educational system. The schools work with grades and if at the end of the year the students don't reach the average grade, they will fail. There is an exam called "vestibular", which allows students enter the university.
    • Sep 3 2013: The same system is in Turkey. We have a exam lixe your called as LYS. This system doesn't educated students, justy makes them a robot. :)
      • Sep 4 2013: Hello Ennie! You are totally right, the students are trained to act like robots. :) It's easy to control people when they don't question ideas.
  • Sep 3 2013: Hello judy, I'm from Brazil and our educational system is designed to pass vestibular (the test to enter in the University).
    It has a very traditional approach based on rote learning, and a fixed curriculum based on math sciences and most of our tasks are individual assignments that don't estimulate us to cooperate. We have around 10 subjects . We are only assessed with written examinations which don't help to evaluate our skills.
  • Sep 2 2013: Please edit the title for this talk. The word "are" comes twice making the title not clear. Thanks!
    • Sep 3 2013: I am sorry, I just fixed my mistake. Thank your for pointing out!
  • Sep 1 2013: In United States: 77 million students (grades K-12 & 2 & 4 year colleges. Almost 4million square miles. Almost 314 million people. Every student – of every gender, race, religion, income level, handicap – will be provided an education to grade 12.

    314M people, so... no consensus on the best way to educate. Theories change regularly & ripple through systems, causing great financial & emotional angst as materials, texts & lesson plans have to be replaced.

    We have 50 states. Each sets its own rules. In Massachusetts, we have public, private, charter (create their own curriculum) and vocational (or trade) schools. Cities/towns must provide education for every student based on state mandated curriculum. If a city/town cannot (e.g. handicapped student) they must pay another community to educate the child.

    Funding is federal, state & local. In Massachusetts, local funding is based on property taxes. Wealthy communities have many times more $$ available than more poor cities/towns. State funding varies based on many factors, from immigrant needs to financial needs to building needs to student performance (standardized tests). Federal funding is tied to all sorts of restrictions, including need & performance. Some restrictions are punitive. e.g. our small local school cannot qualify for federal $ for a reading program because the building is not up to federal standards. LOTS of money is involved, LOTS of people have a stake – manufacturers, unions, transportation, food services, oh, & parents and children.

    Some in the US feel we are far behind because other country’s students spend far more time in the classroom. Some feel the brightest students are held back by the ‘all kids in 1 class’ model. Some feel we are creating unimaginative robots by basing success on standardized tests. Some feel the almighty dollar is driving kids away from rewarding professions & trades. There are good teachers, bad teachers, good systems, bad systems.

    College is a whole ‘nother story.
    • Sep 3 2013: Christine, I agree with your comments on this issue.

      However, I must take issue with one comment, the issue of "no consensus on best way to educate". Not because I think it is wrong, but rather that this is a common perception.

      When I chat with really good teachers, they do disagree on educational issues. Whole language versus phonics, that sort of thing. But in the end, when pressed, good teachers generally all do similar things. They teach with the best methods that they have learned, and those methods are pretty similar. You are correct in that this is not standardized. Because each teacher, if they are good to great, tailors their teaching to their group.

      What is also common is that the government and the administrators continue to bring "the next best thing" that is "research based" into the school in the hopes of changing it. Usually, it is a re-hash of something taught before. And, if trends run consistent, the "next best thing" will only be around for a couple years and probably does not serve the needs of the kids.

      Good research is out there and good programs exist. Not only that, great teaching is pretty consistent.

      What is also consistent is that teachers are rarely, if ever, asked about programs or best practices. Generally, they are just told what to do and their input is not valued.

      Ask good and great teachers about good teaching methods and you might be surprised how consistent that their answers are. Sadly, the people who most directly affect education aren't asked, they are told.
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    Sep 1 2013: I believe it is more or less the same all around the world. In some societies like mine, Iran, we are in a transition from an agricultural society to an industrial and to some extent a modern one. People have't been exposed to any thing beyond industrialism and modernity; I believe they have set their standards just at that level. And to my surprise, they more or less enjoy it and struggle for it.
    I believe we are in need of a change from within people to foster any change in the society. They need to be exposed to some good stuff, new models and role models; this can hopefully help tham raise their standards and in the long run bring about some real change. They are victims of and slaves to some out dated standards that have been passed on to them from their fathers. This leaves no room for blaming neither people nor even the educational authorities.
    I believe artists, movie makers, and all those who have managed to step out of this vicious circle can help change the situation just by providing higher standards and methods to achieve them.
    We are in desperate need for change, but we can't gain it unless we are offered something far beyound the daily routines. We need more then innovation, we need revolution.
    • Sep 3 2013: I appreciate your thoughts! Your point of view as a citizen in Iran towards the education is quite interesting, since I believe it is very different from the ideas I had gotten from most people. I now get an idea that developing countries are facing this problem of education in a different way. I believe that the problem in your country, Iran, can be solved at least a little by some help from developed countries. You said that people in Iran need to be exposed to some of the new ideas in order to raise their standards. I think this can be done by developed nations since they have new technology, new methods, and new education which we focus on. Since developed countries had undergone the same situation that the developing nations are facing with currently, developed ones can give some new ideas and information to them. This can be done by world's participation such as holding an international conference in terms of understanding the developing countries's situation and offering help. It might prevent civil wars as well. Relating to education, education would be one of the main topics that those conferences would focus on. Constant communication is what I think must be done in the international society, playing a significant role in education revolution as well.

      Perhaps my idea has gone too far. Although it is not what we as citizens can do right now, it can bring an innovation and revolution to Iran as well as others. What is your opinion?
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    Aug 31 2013: I believe education system these days are built to meet certain needs required by capitalistic society. In many education centers the central idea will be like- how to make money once they finish education rather than teaching them on how to obtain enlightenment. I studied 7th grade in a school where timings are from 8AM-9PM and in that school,there is absolutely no sports nor mental recreational activities. Students are forced to do math,physics,chemistry and memorize all the formulas to pass IIT examinations.I am very glad that I was fortunate enough to leave that school and join a better one.I still feel bad for the thousands of kids stuck in that system,where their natural talents are cut off just because they need to pass some random exam to get into a college .
    The entire idea of education is misunderstood-
    People should not seek education for material gain rather they should be encouraged to seek education for enlightenment...
    India needs to invest in "TRUE EDUCATION".We need more enlightened youth population.We need education system which teaches kids to help society and interact with nature . We need education system which unites all of the caste people together.Indian education system should focus on developing "Open-Minded" individuals.
    What is INDIAN education system doing now ? ..They are just teaching kids how to pass a certain examination.
    And again,India has the largest youth population but what is the point of that population when they are all blinded by money making education centers. They will teach their kids the same and this cycle will continue.That is why we must act now.....we must change the education system...."to create by any means necessary a situation that goes beyond point of no return."
    • Sep 1 2013: I appreciate your response! You know what, studying from 8 AM to 9 PM is quite an easy life for a teenager in South Korea. Those high school students who want to get into prestigious universities study from 7 AM to 1 AM. Some are even worse, without barely having enough time to sleep. It is because we have private education, almost every student getting it. We also have this exam called 'Su-neung', which totally determinds which universities we go. This is concerned as the most important thing in our lives, every single high school student spending their whole 3 years of high school just preparing for this one test. There is no time for highschool students to develop their abilities nor prepare for future. It seems like all they want from us is to achieve perfect scores on exams.

      I have seen alot of people from India trying to change the educational system. All you said about India's system is truly right. Although I am in the same situation as those students, I feel sorry for them as well.
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        Sep 2 2013: I wonder why education has to be so cumbersome.Why cant it be fun?
        Why cant I get the same feeling while studying math,like the feeling I get feeling while I am playing soccer...I think it is like that because we learn academics with no purpose for a long time that we don't even recognize the importance of it.
        For example: When I train hard for soccer , I know that in the next days match I will be able to do new tricks. Since it is a quick implementation, I will be interested in doing it. If education is also quick implementation instead of 6 years of studying for one single exam.Then people will start enjoying education as well.We need to make education fun. The math should have a meaning in life , it should be connected rather that just solving variables on sheet to upgrade to next class.

        Even the environment matters.Students should be taught under a tree rather than box class rooms. They should be able to pass the over all grade only if they contribute something to the society and fellow species or attempt to do so.
  • Aug 31 2013: In the United States, education is provided free to every student from Kindergarten through Year 12 of school, or high school. From that point on education is paid by the student.

    Families may qualify for assistance for students who are younger than 5 years old, kindergarten, if they qualify for special education. Then they have support systems in place.

    Students attend schools based on where they live, the local school or where they choose to transport their children too. The system includes public schools and private schools as well as some that are a mix of public and private funding.

    Education is based on your work efforts. It is not merit based. Some classes require pre-requisites to attend, but those classes can be attended by any who meet the requirements.

    The significant differences come from the rich and the poor areas. In reality, most rich areas provide for their children at a high level both economically and socially. Poor areas don't get the funding or the same level of support. However, in theory, the same opportunities are available to all students for success based on their hard work.

    In the Unites States, students must take high stakes tests, which may or may not affect their education long term. The greatest complaint from the public is that students are failing these tests and teachers are doing a good job on them.
    • Sep 1 2013: Thank you for your comment, Everett Hill. You explained the education system in United States very objectively. I guess rich and poor disparity is greatly associated with education, and this is another major problem of world wide education. Here is what is currently happening in South Korea in terms of wealth disparity.

      In South Korea there is a term called private education, which is creating an unequality for social classes as well. Poor people cannot afford any private learning such as tutoring and academies (We call it 'Hag-won' in Korean) while the rich apparently gains the help from private education due to the financial support from their parents. Schools are teaching math and English in the level of students who already got private education, meaning that those who did not get tutoring nor Hag-won have trouble keeping up with other students. Since math and English are the subjects Korean schools are focused on the most, this is an issue we Koreans can never ignore. Because how much you are paid in Korean society is somewhat determind by what university you had graduated as well as your accomplishments, private education is creating further rich and poor disparity and the pass of wealth from generations.

      Also, you've mentioned students failing tests, is it related with 'drop out'? I have heard that this was a serious educational issue in United States. I take this quite interesting because in the country where I am from there is barely any drop out, but still having other types of complicated problems.
      • Sep 3 2013: I am very familiar with the South Korean system as I am currently teaching in a school in South Korea. Many of my students previously attended SK schools and now attend an international school.

        Test failure and drop out, in my opinion, are not related. On some level they would be, but in most cases, the students just don't want to attend school. Or life circumstances dictate that they drop out. Many drop outs choose to leave not because they are not passing, but for other reasons.

        What is not stated in the dropout rate is that a percentage of those "dropouts" go back and finish schooling. But they are still called "dropouts" for statistical reasons.

        There are many people living off the system in the United States. There are also many who are working to improve their lives. There is an assumption though that people will be taken care of. Education is valued but it is hard work and not everyone values it. Those that don't have support at home, don't move on to higher ed.

        At some level, you have a group that is not well educated, maybe not even high school graduates, who have children and don't value education. So, unless something changes in the child, they are not likely to finish education. This is a poverty level issue. Even great teachers may not inspire those kids because they see no hope.

        I think the issue of "hope for a better future" has to be instilled in these kids. Teachers alone can't do it. Parents have to stand beside them and value education for them to get inspired.
  • Aug 30 2013: Hello, Judy. Firstly I am so glad to see my fellow countryman here in TED:) I'm also South-Korean, studying in the university. Are you a high school student? These days, education department announces a lot kinds of different education systems and this causes korean students to get confused(plus, there parents). Although, I already passed the exam called "Exam for entrance university(수능), still thinking that it is unreasonable systems in some aspects.
    • Aug 30 2013: Wow, I have never expected to see a person who comes from the same country as me. Actually, this is my third year in middle school, just preparing for high school. Since you are a Korean university student, may I ask you a question? Is there any organization or a club that you know -even in your university- that is currently working on reforming the education? It is still alright if you have no idea. I still like the fact that I met Korean!
      • Aug 31 2013: Oh, are you a student in middle school? I hope that I would be young as you. Although, I am just passing my early twenties, sometimes I miss my youth as a student in the middle, high school. As far as I know, Clubs you mentioned do not exist in most Korean universities. Because, college students are obsessed with SPEC, so when they enter the university, forgetting their hard days as test-takers.
        Same here, Judy. I am so happy to meet you and if you want to ask me of something, feel free to ask whenever you want. It will be great if I help you:)
        • Sep 1 2013: I did not know there were not many clubs nor organizations in Korean universities. Besides, I totally understand what you mean by 'obsessed with SPEC'. This is a problem which must be fixed in Korea, only obsessed with scores and careers, without trying to develop ownself. Korean education is real strange in terms of developing own capability because you do far more hard work in the younger ages, if you know what I mean. You get the most private education and study for exams harder than ever in middle and high school years while in college years you do not study that much. Teenage years should be days getting experiences and trying to figure out what you truly want to do, not being forced into studying. I believe this is associated with the circumstance that some university students still have no idea of what they would do in the future.
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    Aug 29 2013: Dear Judy, reading about the education system in Korea has made me realize that we are facing a global education system meltdown. I cannot tell you how similar our experiences are. I completely understand what you mean by private education. We call in private tuition here in India. If I get started about private tuition I'll just get worked up and start condemning everyone associated with that cancerous trend.

    We need to do something to stop things from getting worse. We need a new education system for sure, not just in Korea and India but across the globe. It's our world and these are our children. If we don't stand up for their freedom and innocence, we don't deserve to be called human beings. We might as well just survive like all animals do.

    We should share our experiences and ideas to a greater extent I'm sure we all have something to learn from each other.
    • Aug 30 2013: I would love to share experiences with you further! I am not sure though if you can learn a lot from me, since I had far less experiences than you had.

      However, I still believe that our positions in education can help us to take a look at this problem in broader views. You can tell me how it is to teach a student in this world of education, and I can absolutely tell you how I, as a student, feel about learning.

      How should we keep in touch? Should we keep replying to each one's comments or use emails?
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    Aug 28 2013: Dear Tarun,

    We need to look at things in a pragmatic way. Change is inevitable. In fact change is the only thing that is constant in life. With time, our education system is bound to change. The question is: Is the change really sustainable enough to make a significant difference? I love your optimism and enthusiasm. I'd love to work with people like you.

    Tarun we need to understand that unless we make large scale education system changes, an isolated teacher here and there will only benefit the lives of the students they personally teach. You cannot change a country that way. We need to study the model of Finland and learn from them. In the last 50 odd years, Finland has remarkably developed from an average European country to a global leader. The secret behind their development? A major overhaul of their education system! We need something like that.

    Tarun I have taught in three different states over three years. The situation is grim everywhere. Have you ever visited a rural school? Most teachers can't even speak grammatically correct English! I blame the system and not the teachers. I agree that the primary section should be our prime focus, but do you know that the average salary of a primary school teacher in a private school is 1/3rd of the salary of high school teachers? This is what needs to change. We get what we pay for! I started work couple of years ago as a high school teacher for Rs. 2500/-. Don't ask me how I survived. I was enthusiastic like you and still am, but I now know that we need leaps of change and not mere steps.

    Don't mind my asking Tarun, but why is it that you have displayed your entire qualification, included the good marks that you secured in your exams in your profile? This is what needs to change. Marks and certificates are not the key, learning is. Aristotle once said: To learn is to change. If we truly learn, we will change. The system needs to change, not just a few primary teachers Tarun. I hope you understand me.:)
    • Aug 31 2013: hii rohit,.
      agree with you on some points..particularly on the ''sustainable'' part..But i think that for sustainability to be achieved, first we need to prove that Change is possible..Sustainability is something which will follow it.
      Secondly agree on the fact that it is not a single handed approach to this problem. it must rather be a movement, which keeps spreading..lot of Engineers, and young youth in particular are ignorant of the fact that such a problem really persists. I strongly believe that they must be atleast made aware of the PROBLEM STATEMENT...I guess the REAL ESSENCE OF TED is to propagate ''IDEAS WORTH SPREADING'', not only to the TED community in general but the world also...just imagine a situation where if Indian Engineers (14 lakh in no every year), & Youth play their part in working towards this, (even for part time)..it can initiate leaps of change as you mentioned..Also, can you please share some links about the Education system in Finland..??
      The point i am trying to make here is that, to challenge the system and to change it, we need to prove that individuals like us, are capable to do so.. We need to prove so, at a micro level and then aim for a macro level...
      Regarding my profile in TED, nothing specific about it, i created it in 2010 and forgot to change it since then.:)
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    Aug 14 2013: It is interesting that people often assume that the schools where they live must be the most restrictive and stifling in all the world. We had a thread in February, I think, that you should look for in which people from all over the world shared insights into the school systems where they live. I think your impression that school systems in Asia are often more rigid than in the West is supported by the responses in that thread, but standardization is a current movement in the west as well, strongly opposed by many education advocates who strongly support differentiated services based on students' different interests, needs, and strengths.

    Given that in many countries schools are quite heterogeneous in how they serve students, I would look for specific stellar models in the form of specific schools and programs rather than assuming, as many people do, that all schools in a country do things pretty much the same way. It just isn't true in all countries even if it may be in yours.
    • Aug 15 2013: I appreciate your advice for me! I had thought that most schools in a single country practices the same education systems since they are controlled by the main system of the country. But now I know that each schools are quite different in how they teach kids even if they are associated with the main system.

      May I ask you few questions if you don't mind answering it? First of all, would you give me an example of a thread in which I might be able to look for some informations about school systems? Secondly, what do you mean by stellar models in the form of specific schools?
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        Aug 15 2013: In the United States, for example, schools are not really controlled by the federal government, though they are influenced by it. You could look at a source like this that identifies best high schools by the criteria it puts forward http://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/national-rankings and go to the websites for particular schools for information.

        It is probably useful to separate the set into those intended exclusively for gifted and talented students and those that serve broad populations.
        • Aug 17 2013: I appreciate your help a lot! Thank you.
        • Aug 17 2013: "in the United States, for example, schools are not really controlled by the federal government"

          That comment hit me hard. First, according to the US constitution schools are supposed to be under the jurisdiction of the States. Three of the framers of the constitution were actively involved in establishing universities based on different theories of education at the time the constitution was written. There is no doubt that education was something they were concerned about and actively working on at the time the constitution was written and there is no doubt that they had 3 different views on the best way to educate. Therefore the point in the constitution that says anything not assigned to the Federal government in the constitution is under the jurisdiction of the states should apply to schools.

          George Bush ran for president as the "Education president". That should have been considered "unconstitutional" but it wasn't. He then passed the "No Child Left Behind" Act which controls how federal money is given to schools. It should be unconstitutional for federal money to be used in schools. Even so, whoever controls the money controls the schools. Ever since NCLB schools in the US are most definitely controlled by the fed govt.
  • Sep 14 2013: I'm happy to have read all these comments. I agree with all of yo that our school system needs kind of a revolution because the evolution takes too much time. I have seen Sir Ken Robinsons speeches and I fully aggree with his I deas because this is what I think about since I went to school. But there is a good thing about all this I happen to be part of as a former student of the international school: Ecole d'Humanité www.ecole.ch in Switzerland. In this boarding school founders and teachers were working on all the points that have been mentioned in these comments.e.g. Find out about what kids would like to do, what their spirit gave them to perform their life. Classes with no more than 10 kids, of course learning all the basics about math, physics, chemistry but also music, theatre, wood carving, mountain climbing aso., This way I had a very inspiring time at school, but after 4 years I had to go back to the schools all of you mentioned and that was a catastrophy. The Ecole d'Humanite is still serving as the model of a school all of you might dream of. Learning for life, thats what they offer, and later on we would have to go to universities or institutes that help us following our dreams in a good way. And most Schools and Institutes with their staff for further Education are not yet prepared, and it is still a long way to go. All of you who have experienced a different kind of educational systems can help creating this new world we urgently need. Sir Ken Robinson does a wonderful job so does Kahn with his Kahn academy and there are lots of people thriving to make a change. This Conversations need s to be ongoing because changes need the power, the power of your mind and also money. Bill Gates is one of a lot more who already support those going in this direction, So keep it up and get people involved. We all can do it!
  • Sep 13 2013: I also think that the education system must provide understanding, not just students cramming to memorize scientific notes in Chemistry! They should make studying or LEARNING fun. In a way that students would be willing to go to school. That studying does not stand for "STUDENTS DYING". :D
  • Sep 13 2013: Hello! I am a 10th grader in the Philippines but I am already graduating. Because the Philippines traditionally have only 10 grades (from grade 1-6, then 4 years of high school. Kinder is not mandatory before), it was only recently that we changed to a 'K-12' system. The first batch to graduate from this system was last year's incoming 7th grader. So I am still to graduate from the old system.

    In the Philippines, it is pretty much the same to your situation. Everyone here especially on their last year of basic education are dying to get in to the top universities or a good college. But like what Ken Robinson said, it's time to change our educational system.

    I am an artist. an aspiring dancer. I want to dance ballet. It's my life. But being in a Catholic School did not allow me to practice my art form. They give importance more to the Sciences which the school is not specialized for. Most of us in class, who are considered normal and not as highly and naturally academically inclined despises these subjects.

    Science and Math are the basics. I have high respects to these field because it takes a certain natural ability to understand it. But what of those (the majority) who cannot?

    Our school, since a hundred and six years ago was known best as writers, speakers musicians, artists and performer. Yet they force us to something we are not. I have observed that only more or less 50 students from a batch of 300 passes the University exams. They fail for a simple reason: They chose the wrong course. Because the course they chose was decided by society itself.

    I know that we are in need of doctors, lawyers and the likes. Especially our country is not of developed yet. We are still deprived of our basic needs (poverty, hunger, etc). But wouldn't we benefit more if we pursue a skill that we are really gifted for? It's not only my school, but almost all schools in my country. Only a handful of schools have evolved from the traditional one to a system that benefits all
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    Sep 12 2013: The primary purpose of "education" is supposed to be the sharing of knowledge in order to impart or bestow some particular form of information into others.

    But I would challenge the premise that "every country has a different education system" simply because the primary focus of educational curriculums around the world is simply to instill ONLY the skills and knowledge that will make the students competent workers and eager consumers. All others forms of knowledge and education are deemed less important and sometimes even irrelevant to that principle mandate of making people employable. And being employable in this day and age simply means possessing the knowledge and skills that are required by the employers and nothing else. .

    Education curriculums around the world emphasis getting jobs, having careers and "being successful" meaning successful in those jobs and careers. As for the knowledge of how to be better parents, or objective thinkers, or competent managers of our government institutions, or developing effective communication and problem solving skills and a host of other self enriching forms of learning, all that takes a back seat to simply being an employable resource some employer can then exploit for their own monetary enrichment, little else. .
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    Sep 12 2013: Hi. I am high school student from Syria, living in Saudi Arabia. I am interested in the world educational system too, and would be happy to further discuss this issue.

    In Saudi Arabia, the school counts totally for 12 years. of which 6 for elementary, 3 middle and 3 high school. Mostly, the educational system is based on uniform subjects, so the students aren't granted any rights to choose what fields would they study during most of the school. For the whole first 10 years, you aren't able to choose what you gonna study to any possible extent, it wouldn't be until the last two years when you will be able to make any choices. Yet, what you will be given is only a selection of one out of three possible routes to study; Literature & Religion (Arabic grammar and literature, Islam, Qur'an, etc), Management (various fields of management), and Science (Neutral sciences; mathematics, physics, chemistry etc). Even though, what will you obtain from those routes is barely a 'focus' on their topics, so if you choose science you will focus on physics and biology etc, but you will still have to study good amount of religion, literature, history as well as other subjects.

    When you want to enter the university, the faculty you are going to enter is limited by the route you chose in the high school. For example, if you studied literature in the high school you can't enter the faculty of engineering in the university. That's why the majority of people studies science at the high school, with the rest mostly choosing literature & religion, and very few going to management. At the university, the main factor of choosing the field of study is its salary; the whole society encourages this, so most people study usually either engineering, medicine, or management. On the other hand, the society highly frustrates anyone who even try to think about studying other fields. Natural sciences, for example, are quite despised fields and very few have the 'courage' to study them!