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We often hear that U.S. students aren't scoring as well on mathematics and science assessments compared to other countries. Japan, Germany, Hungary, and other countries have consistently shown that their students are obtaining higher comprehension of material than students in the United States. Why is this? Take a closer look at some crucial comparisons...
Let's focus on Japan: Education is not a requirement for students in Japan -- it is a privilege. The education system is set up similar to that of the United States, but students are not legally required to be in school everyday. Therefore, all of the students in Japan who take the high stakes tests to determine their level of comprehension are students who have parental role models that value education; therefore, the students value education and their priorities are arranged so education comes first. Period. However, in the United States, ALL students are legally required to be in school, but not all students have parental role models who value education; therefore, students may not value education, and many perceive the high stakes tests as a joke.
We're approaching that time of the school year when the high stakes tests (called STAR Tests in California) occur, and I can already tell you that roughly 35 percent of my students will just bubble in answers without even looking at the questions. Here in the United States (or at least in one area of Sacramento County in California), there is a tremendous sense of entitlement, and if there is nothing "in it" for the student, the student doesn't care and won't put effort into something for which they won't "get anything back." You see, there are no consequences or rewards for doing well on the STAR tests. The problem is, United States students don't see that education itself is a reward.
In Japan, education is a privilege, education is sacred, education is valued, and education itself is a reward. In the United States, education is a right, education is not sacred, education is valued much less than other countries, education itself is not seen as a reward, and unless all students have parental role models that value education at home, our scores on high stakes testing will continue to be lower than other countries.
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