In Canada, the quality of education that I received was extremely high. The university education system, though, is deeply flawed. Students are not, for example, required to take any courses outside of their Major. As much as I wanted to take classes in history and philosophy in the course of my BA, there was simply no space in my program for that. As a result, you have students who graduate with a Bachelor's degree in, say, Business Administration, Computer Sciences, or Italian Literature and who have no knowledge of anything other than their own very narrow specialization.
In Europe (both Eastern and Western), the learning is very exam-oriented. I always find it very hard to explain to my European students that getting an A on the final exam does not, in any way, guarantee a good (or even a passing) grade for the course. In the US, students are expected to work hard in class during every class session. In the Humanities, in-class participation grade is between 15 and 40 % of the final grade.
Another aspect of the higher ed system in the US that makes it the best in the world is the extremely advanced methodology of teaching. In foreign language teaching, for example, the US is far ahead of any other country in the world in terms of its highly developed teaching methodology.
In the last decade, the atrocious No Child Left Behind policies have effectively destroyed the primary and secondary education system in the US. At the college level, we already feel the dire results of "teaching to the test." Not only do our freshmen come into the classroom with almost zero knowledge of history, art, politics, grammar, etc., they also find it extremely hard to adapt to the university-level learning practices. They persecute professors with questions like "Will this be on the test?", "Can I get a study guide?", "Will you be handing out resumes for each novel we read in the course?", "Why are there no multiple-choice tests in this course?" They are prepared to cram and memorize. Generating and expressing ideas of their own terrifies them.
It took a very short period of time to reduce the primary and secondary education system to this sorry state. It will not take much longer to do the same to our higher education.
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