The US’s Decentralized Education System

Source: Zhao Learning blog, Sep 2011

Thus what we can and should learn from other countries should not be attempts that destroy America’s traditional strengths—a broad definition of education, a broad and well-rounded curriculum, decentralized decision making, autonomy for local communities and teachers, a philosophy that celebrates diversity, respects individual differences, and values deviation. When we learn, we should not only learn what others do, but also what others don’t or do not want to do. We should not only superficially look at what policies and practices work in other countries, but also deeply examine what contextual factors (cultural, economical, societal, and traditional) made them work. We should not only look at the positive outcomes, but also the trade-offs.

In terms of how to learn, it would make much more sense and impact to engage educators, local school leaders, students, and parents in global exchanges than having governments or think-tanks to come up with what America should learn from others. A distributed global learning network of teachers, students, school leaders, and parents can truly help move education forward because these are the people who deal with concrete problems, face daily challenges, and thus know what they can borrow and what they can contribute to others. And with today’s technology, the masses can engage in their global exchanges without the filtering of the so-called experts. The government just needs to grant the autonomy, creates the opportunity, and provide the support.

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