Education is quite possibly the most important aspect of a country's potential for progress, and, more simply, developing child's mind. There is certainly no one right way to educate and there are, unsurprisingly, about as many different educational systems in the world as there are countries, with most of them believing that their way is the correct one.
It is to be expected that the countries with the "best" educational systems are typically the ones that spend the most on them, but this is not always the case. This is evident in the United States which spends exorbitant amounts on each student yet still falls short by most standards.
So what are other countries doing to perform so well?
East Asia, and, in this specific case, South Korea takes an interesting and considerably atypical approach to education, favouring effort over "smartness." A student is judged based on the enthusiasm with which they attempt to reach the clearly defined goals set forth in their curriculum. For this reason it is unsurprising to learn that some students attend school seven days a week.
Japan's educational system shares a lot in common with South Korea and the rest of the East Asian countries, but one way in which is stands out is its focus on education of and with technology. As technology advances it becomes a better and better tool for education, and, if introduced at a young age, a student's relationship with technology will be that of a more robust nature rather than simply being a tool for staying loosely connected with a network of acquaintances. The Japanese clearly recognize this and put strong effort into developing an educational system that incorporates technology as much as possible.
Despite being an extremely small island nation, Singapore is one of the world leaders in education. Since gaining its independence in 1965, Singapore has done some incredible work in putting itself in a strong leadership position, quickly turning itself into a city of the future. Their focus on growth and development clearly carries through to their education, combining itself with a culture of accountability and landing it in the third rank for educational world leaders.
Hong Kong's educational system is a near mirror of the UK's with a few of its own alterations ranking it a few spots higher than its counterpart. Because of the long tradition rooted in British education, Hong Kong's approach to primary, secondary, and higher education is considered to be exemplary by most standards. Hong Kong's return to China's communist rule did little to affect their long standing British traditions with English still being a primary language in addition to Cantonese Chinese, and democracy still being a part of their governmental system. This steadfastness has been ingrained in them culturally and can be clearly seen displayed in an educational sense.
The first country on the list not belonging to the East Asia region is Finland, a country that has been long considered a global leader in education along with many of the other Scandinavian countries. In recent years, Finland has been losing ground on educational standards but they are yet still a strong example of a country striving for intellectual greatness. The culture of Finland also holds teachers in extremely high respect, as we in the West revere doctors and lawyers. This makes it a much more attractive position of employment for some of the greatest minds.
Over the last few years, the UK's educational system has also begun to break down. The kingdom's sub-governments administering England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland separately also each have their own educational regulations. The UK as a whole is ranked second among European countries, but within its borders, Scotland has a tendency to outperform England. It may, however, be this internal competition that will keep the UK's educational system from sinking too much lower.
Literacy rates across Canada are no less than 99 per cent for both genders, due to heavy investment in childhood education, a compulsion in education up to at least 16 years, organized classroom management (think LMS software like Brightspace), and a strong recommendation for attending either college or other higher education program designed to make them proficient in the workplace.
From these examples, other countries can and should be learning in the hopes to improve their own educational system. Unfortunately, rapid changes on this front are typically impossible whether due to complicated politics, conservative culture, or just an unwillingness to adapt on a mass individual level. However, as these countries continue to develop their advanced education systems, those lagging behind will be forced to change themselves or be content with being left in the past.
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Education costs money, but the idea of free education is that the cost is not directly incurred by those benefiting from it. Costs and prices for education must be removed, the NUS argues, as the first step on the road to free education.
Once costs incurred by those benefitting from education have been removed, alongside nominal prices ‘charged’ by institutions, the current transactional relationship between students and institutions can be broke down. Only then, the NUS says, will the view that a degree is a product to be purchased come to an end.
If, on average, graduates earn more than non-graduates, the amount they pay in general taxation will be more than those who do not attend university. Put simply, a successful graduate’s contribution to their education costs increases at the same time as their contribution as a taxpayer. A double-blow for those graduating from universities under the current fee structures.
The founding of the historic red-brick universities by wealthy industrialists is contrasted starkly with today’s corporate culture and what the NUS says is a relatively low tax obligation on the part of big business. Increasing contributions from big business would help pay for public education.
The reforms to tuition fees increased the repayment threshold to £21,000, but interest is accrued whether you’re paying off the debt or not. So if someone earns below the threshold for a long time, before eventually earning above £21k, they may well pay back more than someone who goes straight into a well-paying job after graduating.
If they’re paying off student debt for decades, the ability for graduates to contribute to the economy through disposable income is reduced.
The Nordic countries have a successful free education system which includes postgraduate study. In Norway and Finland, free education is extended to international students from outside the EU. And Germany has just abolished fees in all its states.
The money government currently puts aside to cancel unpaid student debt can be immediately saved in a fee-free system, and a staggered introduction of free education would spread the cost over three years. And, the NUS says, a fair contribution from big business would more than cover the additional public investment in higher education.
Scotland’s example allows government to predict the response to free education in England. It has institutions of similar international standing, and is open to EU students. The NUS says Scotland has proved that any increase in demand can be modest and manageable.
Combined with a move away from the most expensive mode of higher education – the three-year degree studied away from home – free education could cost government less than previously thought.
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