Guarav Singh, an Indian “education entrepreneur,” is currently observing classrooms around the United States in order to absorb education strategies that he can use for a free school that he plans to open in “a slum more populated than New York City,” according to Education Week.
Singh was at first overwhelmed by culture shock when he visited U.S. classrooms with amenities such as smartboards and computers. The class sizes–about 30 students– were also much smaller than what he had expected, saying, “When you enter a classroom that’s very different from yours in terms of space, in terms of number of kids… you just say, ‘This is not going to work in our country.’ You have to calm yourself and say, ‘This is useless; excellence is excellence,’ and then figure out how you can transfer these practices.”
He hopes to open his “3-2-1 School” with 120 students in kindergarten and first grade, adding a grade each year. Some of the U.S.-style practices Singh will adopt include a smaller teacher-to-student ratio and a school that runs on a 5-day week, rather than India’s traditional 4-hour day, 6 days a week schedule. Prospective students will enter a lottery to gain entrance to Singh’s school.
I was surprised to see that other countries look to the U.S. as a model for a good public education system. Our students consistently test in the middle of the pack of developed countries, and lag especially far behind in math and science. Other countries, such as Finland, have consistently outscored the U.S. and are known for putting less emphasis on standardized testing and viewing education as a competition. In terms of teacher training and compensation, the U.S. also ranks low.
Many high-achieving Indian students eventually study in the United States during college or graduate school– perhaps that is one reason that some Indian educators wish to model their primary school systems after the U.S. But it still seems to me that we still have glaring flaws in our public education and that there may be other countries better suited to give advice on the education of India’s children.
What do you think? Is the United States an international model of quality public education?
Photo credit: Sistak