Over There (But Not Over Here)

Several years ago I was part of a delegation sent by the U.S. Department of Education to a conference in China on private education.  The U.S. Dept of Ed believed that encouraging the expansion of private education in China would help promote democracy.  Apparently, they thought private schools were good for democratic values over there, but not over here. 

I was reminded of that experience while reading a recent New York Times article about severe problems with education in South Africa.  The piece states:

Despite sharp increases in education spending since apartheid ended, South African children consistently score at or near rock bottom on international achievement tests, even measured against far poorer African countries. This bodes ill for South Africa’s ability to compete in a globalized economy, or to fill its yawning demand for skilled workers. And the wrenching achievement gap between black and white students persists.

Sound familiar?

And what does the NYT tell us is a central part of the problem:

The teachers’ union too often protected its members at the expense of pupils, critics say. “We have the highest level of teacher unionization in the world, but their focus is on rights, not responsibilities,” Mamphela Ramphele, former vice chancellor of the University of Cape Town, said in a recent speech.

I see.  Teacher unions over there = bad, while over here = good.  Sometimes you have to get people outside of their vested set of domestic interests to see how they really think the world works.

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