I found this article recently about what foreign exchange students think is different (and possibly wrong) with U.S. schools compared to schools in their home country.
Apparently, these three things were common answers from them:
School is harder. There’s less homework but the material is more rigorous. People take education more seriously, from selecting the content to selecting the teachers.
Sports are just a hobby. In the U.S., sports are a huge distraction from the business of school, but that’s not the case in other countries.
Kids believe there’s something in it for them. The students in other countries deeply believe that what they are doing in school affects how interesting their lives were going to be. Even if they don’t like a class, they see their education as a stepping stone to their future.
#1 makes me think of grade inflation. Grades are no longer as reliable in the U.S. in indicating whether a student has gained sufficient mastery of the material. The key reason is that we have watered down education for a number of reasons.
#2 agrees with what was mentioned in this post about the soccer culture in Germany, schools in other countries don’t have sports team, at least not to the extent as the U.S. Here’s another good article on the difference between college athletics in Europe and the U.S.
#3 is an example of cultures that value education for what it is, a means to an end. The means is a ‘stepping stone’ to help you prepare to have a better life. Education is an entitlement, but graduating is not. You have to earn it and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
In the U.S., it seems education has become more of the end, itself, for a variety of things, that it seems like we forget about the education piece of it.
For some the end is the employment of teachers. For others, school is a way to run social experiments, reduce inequality, keep kids off the streets, iron out social injustices or indoctrinate ways of thinking — and the actual education piece seems to be lost, sometimes.