The United States Hosts the Second International Education Summit: An Important Opportunity Lost

Dec 30, 2011 by

pdf file ATT00384RPan

Richard Pan, panrc3@gmail.com in New York, United States of America
www.educationviews.org online publication, December 30, 2011

The Second International Summit on the Teaching Profession to be held March 14-15, 2012 in New York, is a special opportunity for educators and people everywhere to take pause and ask what kind of goals we want our highest educators to advocate. Even a superficial glance at the facts of the First International Summit from this year and plans for the Second, suggest that United States citizenry at least may have criticisms of the first two convocations of the International Summits. The present education editorial is penned in the hopes for greater public awareness and informed debate about an endeavor as important as preparing the minds of our future generations.

The facts of the International Summits on the Teaching Profession are that the First Summit was held March 16-17, 2011 in New York with the theme of “Improving Teacher Quality Around the World” (U.S. Dept. of Education, 2011). Though twenty-six nations were invited, all Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, the 34 “high-income economy” nations or the 41 trading partners, only 16 of the invitees actually attended: Belgium, Brazil, Canada, People’s Republic of China (mainland China), Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hong Kong SAR, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Singapore, Slovenia, United Kingdom, and United States, the host. Notable absences included France, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, Republic of Korea, Chile, Ireland, Iceland, Indonesia, and New Zealand, ten countries in all who were invited but did not attend. The people invited included the national education minister, leader(s) of the one or two largest national teacher unions, and up to two additional teacher-leaders. In 2011, the average number of official attendees from any nation was approximately 3.6 and only one nation, Japan, sent two attendees.

The First Summit selected nations “with high performing and rapidly improving educational systems (based on the results of the PISA 2009)” (U.S. Dept. of Education, 2011). This selection may assume that high-economic index countries which show marked improvements in teen year education test results use teaching practices which are original yet may provide general value to educators anywhere and thus ought to be identified and emulated. If this is indeed the case, one very basic criticism should be made: PISA 2009 statements are made with respect to the OECD population; non-OECD countries are not discussed in the Executive Summary. The 75 OECD and partner nations may comprise less than 20% of the world’s population (www.wikipedia.org, 2011). Exactly how well the top 5 or 10% of these nations’ student grade school experiences can extrapolate to the rest of the world during teen years and later university years, is difficult to quantify. Indeed, restricting the sample to OECD nations may pre-select for correlations of test scores with sex and socio-economic factors of which educators already may hold biases, such as the significance of a “Difference in the percentage of girls and boys who can be considered “wide and deep” and “narrow and deep” readers” or a belief that “ The greater the prevalence of standards-based external examinations, the better the performance”. At a minimum, such statements should be justified with careful statistical studies. Generalizations should be made with extreme care.

From the viewpoint that education should be a liberating experience that enables a people to reach higher and more rewarding lives, an argument could be put forth that underdeveloped nations represent a testbed for the true potential of education. Non-OECD nations ought not be neglected for the potential of education to accelerate social progress.

From race and ethnicity standpoints, no argument exists the first International Summit was very biased: No African nation was among the final 26 invitees. No Middle Eastern nations were among the 2011 participants or the 27 official 2012 invitees, though they show definite representation among the OECD partners of PISA 2009 during a time of war. Indian subcontinent nations (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and others) likewise were neglected, an amazing decision. Australia did not attend in 2011, allowing New Zealand to stand for all of one continent. Only one nation from South America attended, Brazil, with Chile
declining the initial Summit invitation. It may be surprising Taiwan was neglected in both years among official invitees; Vietnam and Cambodia do not appear on any of the five tables shown in the Executive Summary of PISA 2009 (OECD, 2010).

Defense of the selection of the initial Summit participants based on views that high economic status is indeed necessary for international education planning, in technology-driven fields for example, must deal with criticism of the very first International Summit, that on such a propitious occasion, nations which have led the world in academics, education, and the economics of technology, nations such as France, Germany, Switzerland, and Korea, were not convinced to make a visible and prestigious, large-delegate showing in our nation’s oldest business center. Greater public awareness of the United States’s inability to bring to fruition true international cooperation from the channels of education may be most important a criticism for continuing United States leadership.

A fresh breath of perspective on the Second International Summit on the Teaching Profession whose stated theme of “Preparing Teachers and Developing School Leaders” is to be debated by the 27 invited countries, the original 26 plus a new country, Hungary, is warranted. United States educators might ask the prestigious organizers of the International Summits to:

1.) Allow greater say from United States and international education-minded peoples, organizations and individuals, in framing critical issues the International Summit participants discuss.

2.) Test true acceptance of international education goals by providing more technologybased publicity about the Summits: permanent websites and video-conferencing make possible international educator participation, world-wide.

3.) Establish polls in the United States and abroad on the satisfactions and the dissatisfactions of people about their education.

4) Hold the International Summits in a variety of sites, in different parts of the United States and abroad, to spark and sustain greater international participation.

5.) Encourage wider geo-political representation among all education-minded nations of the world, not just OECD nations and their trading partners. India, Pakistan, Africa, Australia, and Asian nations may contribute important education views of surprising interest.

6.) Nurture beliefs of the importance and sophistication of education in an increasingly complex international world, spanning technology-driven business markets for anything, from shale oil to pork belly futures, to the timeless virtues of pure education altruism.

Our United States 2012 Presidential election ought to be a most acceptable time to press national candidates for true leadership.

References

OECD (2010), PISA 2009 Results: Executive Summary, online document downloaded from http://www.oecd.org/document/61/0,3746,n_32252351_32235731_46567613_1_1_1_1,00.html
#Executive_summary, December 29, 2011.

United States, Department of Education (2011) online document at http://www2.ed.gov/about/
inits/ed/internationaled/teaching-summit-2011.html, downloaded December 29, 2011.

www.wikipedia.org (2011) Indicators table from “Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development” at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organisation_for_Economic_Cooperation_
and_Development
, downloaded December 29, 2011.

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