Facing the education giants in U.S.

Giovanni Garcia/Staff Writer

Are we ready to face the education giants?

A recent article published in the New York Times mentioned that a new educational grading exam was to be released internationally, crafted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcome will be used to compare university students internationally, specifically undergraduates who are close to graduating, by determining how well they can use what they have learned in the workforce. The results will be compared without including cultural and language backgrounds.

OECD’s reasons for establishing such an exam, as stated in their brochure, is that “no international tools exist for the direct evaluations of students.”

All of this may still be a work in progress since OECD only has economic and engineering exams as of yet. The question now is whether the U.S. should participate in this examination as well.

The answer may vary, but I think we are not ready at all.

To bluntly state my point, the U.S. education system is not at the highest level. Only ranked 17 out of 20 in the list of “Best Education in the World,” according to a global report by Pearson. This shows that our education system is completely different than those of Finland, South Korea and Hong Kong, which make up the top three of the list.

Justin Carpenter, an instructor and Ph.D student of University of South Florida, said that in order to determine whether this exam is necessary, it must be proven as a helpful standardized test that will measure students against this baseline.

“Will the test correctly measure students against academic goals that are, in fact, universal? This remains to be seen,” said Carpenter. “Do we expect our students to score high on this test, and does scoring high on this test tell us that the student is more suited to achieve academically than one who scored poorly? This too remains to be seen.”

If the U.S. managed to join the AHELO bandwagon, it will only be more of a problem than what we are facing already.

Even though the exam mostly contains critical thinking and problem solving questions that relate to real life situations, students in general will probably all have a different way of thinking and a different way of solving problems.

It may also lead to another exam that you would need to buy books, pay tutors, and even take a class to be able to pass.

John Aubrey Douglass, a professor at the University of California, mentioned in the New York Times that AHELO was modeled after the SAT college entrance exam. The SAT has so far only worked as a profitable application, but hasn’t helped in education one bit. The same can be said with Florida’s FCAT since it was made solely for financial help.

If high school graduates have to spend money to be able to pass the SAT, the same can be said for soon to be graduates on taking AHELO.

This may also be another way to separate students by their grades even more. It might not be an entirely bad thing, as you do not want an ignoramus to be enrolled in Harvard, but instead of accepting students within a range, universities will simply accept A+ students while other lower level universities will take the “leftovers.”

Overall, AHELO may turn out to be increasingly problematic for the U.S. and the education system if we were to be involved with this international standardized examination. Competing at an international level just isn’t worth it when our students are already at a disadvantage.



1. “Should University Systems Be Graded Too?” via The New York Times

2. “Testing student and university performance globally: OECD’s AHELO,” via OECD.org

3. “Best Education In The World: Finland, South Korea Top Country Rankings, U.S. Rated Average,” via The Huffington Post 

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