A World-class Education

Learning from International Models of Excellence and Innovation

by Vivien Stewart

Number of pages: 191

Publisher: ASCD: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development

BBB Library: Education

ISBN: 9781416613749

About the Author

Stewart is a senior education advisor and former vice president at Asia Society, where she has been leading a national effort to prepare American students and educators for the interconnected world of the 21st century.


Editorial Review

Globalization poses challenges for everyone. Every education system in the world struggles to some degree to keep up with the rapid pace of change. And countries face many similar challenges. For example, widespread internal and international migration have created more heterogeneous societies everywhere, placing new demands on educators as they respond to students and families from differing cultural and linguistic backgrounds. In addition, globalization also raises fundamental questions about whether the knowledge and skills needed by today’s graduates will be significantly different from those that schools have provided in the past. But there are countries around the world which are demonstrating that large-scale educational acceleration is possible, even as the educational performance has been flat for decades. Their success is not accidental, but the result of careful policy choice and effective implementation. Through combinations of national policies and leadership together with capacity building at the school level, these countries are achieving excellence in terms of student achievement, student retention, equity, and efficiency, and they are doing so at a lower cost than elsewhere. Some may argue that the experiences of countries that are significantly smaller are not relevant to a country the size of the United States, for example. But many of these countries are the size of American states and could therefore be looked at as models for state-based education systems. 

Book Reviews

"I agree with Stewart that the quality of student learning is only as good as the quality of the teachers. In the U.S., it will require investing in strong evaluation and development systems that involve teachers from the start, include multiple measures of effective teaching, and that fuse teacher evaluations with high-quality professional development." Bill Gates

"Other chapters in the book present well-argued philosophical positions on items ranging from evaluation to professional development, including very practical and thoughtful insight on the standards movement, trends impacting global knowledge economies and proper assessment strategy. While the reader will certainly not always agree with every position espoused by Stewart, her reflections are stimulating and worth the purchase price of the book." Envision Experience

Books on Related Topics

Wisdom to Share

Each country’s education journey is unique and continuing. The cultural traditions, demographic makeup, stage of economic development, and nature of the political system all influence the priority given to certain issues and the potential to bring about different kinds of change.

The long-term costs of educational failure are high for both individuals and societies.

Finland has an early and systematic approach to intervention. Every teacher is trained to differentiate instruction for students with different skill levels. In addition, every school has a special education teacher and student support team to help the classroom teacher and catch any student who is struggling before he or she can fall too far behind

Beyond the school level, leadership in city, state, or national departments of education must be strong as well.

One of the big differences between low-performing and high-performing countries is the low-performing countries’ lack of alignment between the goals of the education system (expressed at the national, state, or district level) and actual practice in schools and classrooms.

All education systems struggle with the balance between centralization and decentralization, between top-down prescription and bottom-up responsibility.

There is no one way to run an effective national or state system of education. All systems must struggle with finding the right balance between top-down and bottom-up, between uniformity and diversity, between central control and local autonomy.