We consistently hear two things from international students - "I want to study in the US" and "Education in America is so much better than in my country." While we cannot, and will not, say that it is "better," we can say that American education is different than what most international students are used to because there is a different focus and approach to teaching and learning.
In fact, there are three major differences between education in the US and in other countries - how how students learn information, how information is viewed, and how information is used. Many countries view their education systems as important for foundational concepts, information that is easily measured on standardized tests, while Americans generally view education as integral to the cultivation of students’ creativity and innovation. This is why Americans tend to rank lower than other countries on standardized test performance, but lead the world in development of life altering technologies that are utilized around the globe. Americans tend to take the approach that knowing facts is useful, but being able to use the facts for a greater good is the true purpose of an education.
Second, many countries’ education systems focus on the accumulation of knowledge and facts, management and use of the accumulated facts, and understanding knowledge systems. American education, though, is based on how students use their knowledge in society. This means American students are trained to challenge prevailing notions and ideas, to both create and challenge concepts. The American system of government was created with an informed population in mind, a population that questions leadership and does not simply accept the status quo. This type of population requires a robust education system that teaches scholars how to evaluate information and question its efficacy.
Finally, many education systems focus on strictness and precision. American education focuses on student self-determination and independence, development of comprehensive thinking. This is evident in the types of teaching and assessment that are often found in American schools compared to schools around the world. While teachers in other countries emphasize students taking notes and memorizing facts, American teachers emphasize students’ creativity, leadership, and cooperation skills. American students are encouraged to participate in extracurricular activities to further develop these skills, recognizing that education is part of life, not just part of school.
What this means for international scholars interested in earning an American education, in studying with Scholars’ Promise online, is scholars will be expected to be actively involved in the classroom learning environment. Scholars are expected to ask questions and engage in discussion with both their classmates and their teachers. Teachers will pose thought provoking questions that require scholars to debate with one another as they look at topics from multiple angles. American teachers are not offended when scholars ask questions or challenge ideas they have presented. This may be different for many scholars who have had experiences in schools where teachers are not to be questioned and certainly it can take time to get used to.
It also means scholars will be engaged in project based learning, where they will solve real world problems with their teachers and classmates. Rather than simply regurgitating facts, scholars will synthesize their accumulated knowledge into new solutions to make life in their communities and countries better. Their learning will be assessed, in part, by how well they are able to manipulate what they have learned, how creative they can be in the application of their knowledge.
An American education prepares scholars to be creative and independent thinkers, the next generation of world leaders. It may not look like what they are used to, but an American education will prepare scholars to solve problems both locally and globally.