Education reform will be at the forefront of President Obama’s Jan. 25 State of the Union address, making it a hot topic for 2011. Alex Wiseman, associate professor of education and coordinator of the Comparative and International Education Program, shares his predictions for this year’s education trends.
What K-12 trends are likely to emerge this year?
We’ll see a growing importance in health education (not just health services). In the U.S., we think a lot about childhood obesity and how to combat that. Community or school gardens are the currently interesting angle to this emerging issue. Programs like Alice Waters' "edible schoolyard" are controversial, but still making their way into the curriculum of schools so that it isn't just an activity that provides nutritious food; it is becoming a full cycle of gardening, curriculum, teaching/learning, student health/nutrition and whole community lifestyle.
The real key is how to integrate what could be "just" a school activity with the whole community so that learning becomes part of the lifestyle and life cycle beyond the classroom walls.
Also, we’ll see an upward shift in the types and reach of international education achievement tests—an important issue for the U.S. At first, tests like TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) and PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) focused almost exclusively on primary and secondary students and the teaching/learning that went on in their classrooms. But now these international assessments that count more than 60 countries as participants (including the U.S.) have expanded to look at teachers, administration, technology, civics, and are expanding to the post-secondary level (i.e., universities and colleges).
What is looming on the higher education horizon?
We can expect to see a rise in the number of educators and others who are training specifically to be part of educational development and reform in disadvantaged or marginalized communities around the world.
In the 1960s, the advent of the Peace Corps was a revolutionary way to think about how Americans could go into the wider world and contribute to economic, social, political, and other types of development by building local infrastructure and capacity. Now, there is a generation of students who are going into programs (such as the Comparative and International Education program) that prepare them specifically to do this kind of work outside of the U.S. and specifically related to education.
This is much different than the international development programs that elite universities have been offering for the past 20 years because it focuses on the development of knowledge as the key to wider community success/development.
In addition, I expect to see a shift toward accountability testing for universities and colleges. At the national level, there has been talk since Margaret Spellings was Secretary of Education under President Bush about expanding the kinds of federal funding restrictions on universities and other higher education institutions in the same vein as No Child Left Behind. So far, they haven't pushed for this as hard under the Obama administration, but evidence suggests it is coming.