What is the biggest challenge facing education?

Experiment: Find out more

This question was posed to me in one of my classes. What is the biggest challenge facing education today? I had five minutes to write and wrote this first paragraph.

I believe that the biggest challenge facing education today is income inequality and its effects. The widening gap between the rich and poor will lead us to a two or more tiered system of education that will break down the essential role of education into distinctly different systems for different people. The rich will receive education intended to open their minds and expose them to the possibilities in the world and the poor will receive skills based training intended to keep them stuck in the system. With little questioning and critical thinking in the lower form of education, it may become impossible for the system to right itself. Mindless drones trained in a less open system of education won’t have the capability to question the system they have been born into and continue to perpetuate.

Looking back, that’s pretty intense, but I believe it. Honestly, this is not exactly my area, so my knowledge of the pertinent literature is not amazing. So, I decided I needed to find out more.

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Taken from this part of the OECD website

 Interestingly, the USA is the fourth worst of the OECD countries for income inequality and getting even worse. The other interesting country here is Sweden with the largest change since 1985. We tend to group Sweden in with the Nordic socialist crowd, but it has recently turned to more capitalist practices, like for-profit schools.

Here is another way to look at it with a longer view (but not very recent). The Gini coefficient is used heavily in the OECD literature. A measure of 0 means there is perfect income equality (everyone makes the same) and a measure of 1 means there is perfect inequality (one person makes all the money and everyone else makes nothing).

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Taken from the Wikipedia Gini Coefficient page

Both of these measures are interesting because it is easy to believe that we are all just doing better than we were in 1820, but the truth is that we are all doing better, but some people are doing “more better”.

If you are interested in inequality studies, check out the OECD’s dedicated inequality site. There are several ways to look at the different ways that they have measured inequality. The United States is incredibly high in all of the measures, meaning we have incredible income inequality.

The OECD and other organizations use the Gini Coefficient with “educational inequality” as well. Very interestingly, the US is one of the lowest for inequality in education access. Maybe I can continue to find out more and see if the OECD education ranking is influenced by the equality of school access. The US tends to be in the middle or on the low end of country rankings, but I wonder if some of the countries doing better have less equality in school access. I’m excited to continue to find out more!

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