One of the nine provocative forecasts for the Vision 2021 initiative is that “schools will become the learning portals to a global workforce.” This forecast explores what schools in the U.S. must do to align with the new requirements of a global society. According to Yong Zhao, an education professor at Michigan State University, principals can get a fresh perspective by comparing how educators in other countries get results.

Zhao dedicates much of his research to comparative education in China and other Asian countries. In China, teachers “compose” lessons, having been trained to focus on the movement of the lesson and the timing of instruction and use of materials. Chinese teachers move well beyond team teaching to co-planning and co-execution of lessons, in part due to the fact that elementary teachers in China have more subject-matter specialization. This style of collaboration is also set up to help newer teachers. Zhao says that one of the revelations of the TIMMS study was the performance of U.S. students who had teachers with less than five years experience, a difference not present in some Asian countries such as Singapore.

Zhao is quick to point out that these differences can have some drawbacks. The Chinese methodology of instruction may stifle creativity and produce homogeneity. However, American educators get relatively few opportunities to discover for themselves what might work well in the U.S.  Yet, European and Asian countries spend significant funds to send their principals to other countries, including the U.S. And when China revised their educational standards around the turn of the century, they sent delegates to many countries to learn about their standards and benchmarks.

What opportunities should principals have to learn about how other nations educate their students and what might that mean for the future of U.S. students? 

re: What Can We Learn from Schools in Other Countries?

I'll admit that this is a blatant request for information from the writers and readers of this blog.

My name is Lauren, and I'm student at Vanderbilt University majoring in Education Policy. As a part of the Peabody Scholars program, I have to complete some sort of summer experience-- international study, a community project, research, etc. I would love to join a delegation of educators traveling abroad to learn about schools in other countries. The only program I've been able to find that is administered through a university is Vanderbilt's PLAN, a program that takes Nashville principals to China ( http://www.vanderbilt.edu/ldcpeabody/PLAN/PLANHome.htm ). Please email me if you know of any groups I might be able to join. My address is lauren.edpolicy@gmail.com .

Thanks!