This week’s hot button issue of funding concerns for CUNY brings to the front increasing pressure from policy-makers about the efficiency and effectiveness. This directly resonates with the OECD’s The State of Higher Education report . It notes “From an institutional perspective, HEIs are under pressure to become more effective and efficient across all of their missions – teaching, research and innovation and local economic development. Yet, many face financial challenges that threaten their long-term sustainability.”
Here is a chart from OECD website indicating public spending on tertiary education as a percentage of total education spending. Here “Public spending includes both direct expenditure on educational institutions and educational subsidies to households administered by educational institutions. Private expenditure is recorded net of public subsidies that educational institutions may receive.”
The chart illustrates that the United States spends significantly less in through public resources as compared to countries like Germany, United Kingdom and Canada. At this lower level of public investment, the increasing cost pressures are resulting in students picking up more burden of cost of college education through increased tuition.
Here is an important footnote from OECD chart: “Spending on tertiary education is defined as the total expenditure on the highest level of education, covering private expenditure on schools, universities, and other private institutions delivering or supporting educational services. The measure is a percentage of total education spending. At the tertiary level educational institutions in OECD countries are mainly publicly funded, although there are substantial and growing levels of private funding.“
OECD’s Education Policy Outlook 2015 also identified six “policy levers” grouped in three categories:
- Students: Raising Outcomes (How to raise outcomes for all in terms of equity and quality and preparing students for the future-refers to outputs of the education system)
- Equity and quality
- Preparing students for the future
- Institutions: Enhancing quality (How to raise the quality of instruction through school improvement and evaluation and assessment-refers to quality of the inputs).
- School improvement
- Evaluation and assessment
- Governing effectively (How to align governance and funding of education systems to be effective.)
OECD website provides an interactive tool Reforms Finder from OECD based on different countries. Here is a snapsot of reforms from three different countries which focus on Funding “Policy Lever”.
Funding reforms are only one of the six policy levers. Successful policy planning and implementation requires alignment of careful mix of various levers to achieve optimum output.
For this week’s reading we took a step out of internationalization and higher education and examined educational challenges as well as reforms. The OECD’s piece on the State of Higher Education was a summary of what I expect was a lengthy piece on the challenges and reforms in higher education in OECD countries. The executive summary dealt with a brief overview of developing a framework to monitor and enhance quality in higher education, examining higher education through a business model framework and research funding. I would have like to read the entire report, in particular the section dealing with strengthening’s business models in HEIs. For those of us who took Financing of Higher Education with Professor Apfel, we discussed often that higher education institutions run a fine line between being considered a business and a charity. While strengthening the business side of HEIs are important it is also good to note that any changes to the business model should keep in mind the mission and goals of colleges and universities. An article in the New England Journal of Higher Education discusses the need and importance of exploring new business models. The New England College Board of Higher Education website also provides information on the topic. It is clear that HEIs have to explore new options to deal with the continuous changing landscape of higher education.
The second reading, also authored by the OECD looks at reforms related to education in OECD countries. Reforming education is an ongoing process. I am not sure if there has been a time in any country where the stakeholders related to educational policy have been pleased with education for a long-period of time. In the United States as with other countries there have been policy cycles related to education. These cycles depend on who is in charge and what they see as the problem. In the 1960s, President Kennedy and Johnson focused on greater equity in schools, this also was the time of desegregation in public schools. By the 1980s, President Reagan believed that the educational standards in America were leading to a “rising tide of mediocrity”. By the 2000s, President Bush had established “No Child Left Behind” as the educational policy for the country and currently President Obama, created “Race to the Top” and backed the Common Core initiatives. The United States has a history of trying to reform education using the policy levers that are mentioned in the OECD piece. However, when administrations change the policy are not continued or they change as well.
The challenges and reforms discussed in both reading can be connected to the internationalization of higher education. As HEIs are looking to become more internationalized, they will face challenges related to the cost effectiveness, improving the quality of programs as well as issues with equity. Any challenges that are related to the internationalization of higher education have to be addressed the same way we address traditional issues in higher education, by always keeping in mind the mission and goals of HEIs.
So as I read through this week’s readings and looked at the various charts outlining the different policies OECD countries have in place and the specific area it is targeting (whether it is funding or early childhood education, etc.), I noticed the lack of presence the U.S. had. This is not surprising since most policy reforms happen on the state level because that is how the U.S is structure. While there are national-level policy reforms in place, it is ultimately up to the states to decide how they interpret and implement these policies. In the Education Policy course I took last semester, we examined the various policy trends of the U.S. and the various opinions of both sides of the spectrum in what each side supports and believes. We discussed and learned about how policy in discussion can differ greatly from when it is actually passed and implemented (sometimes in a good way and sometimes in a not-so-good way). The various barriers to get through and government bodies to get buy-in from can partially explain why it is a long and arduous process to implement education policy reform in the U.S. and why it never seems to end up how policymakers first pictured it.
This is not the same many of the other OECD countries mentioned in the readings. In an Atlantic article, it mentioned that Asian countries, in particular, have a clear outline of when a student should know what topics in what subjects and have assessments and evaluations in place to ensure that the student reaches it. The article also mentions how the policies are formed with the idea that all students can be high-achievers and there are policies in place to make sure that if a student falls behind, they are intervened and provided extra help to keep things from getting to a point where things are irreparable. The article also points out that the U.S. typically expects less from certain groups of students of certain backgrounds, because the argument is that those particular students should not be put to the same standards as others. While I don’t think that schools should expect less from a student because of her/his background, I also don’t agree with how the U.S. implements the policy of same standards for everyone, which is probably why the Common Core and No Child Left Behind has received so much criticism.
The Atlantic article also mentions how the Asian countries discussed purposely allocated extra resources for students who need extra help and have programs in place to help students catch up to their peers, while this may be the case, but having taught in Hong Kong, the article seems to overpraise the programs in place. On the surface, the programs and policies seem to envision the ideal, but implementation and action again falls short. Although I do agree that the pay for teachers is definitely not affected by the location of the school in Hong Kong, which is not the case in the U.S. and causes an issue because it deters good teachers from going to schools with disadvantaged students, who need them the most, since those schools typically cannot offer the same pay rate as other schools.
This week’s readings took a look at higher education reform and the state of higher education through two OECD reports: (i) OECD Education Policy Outlook 2015 Making Reforms Happens; and (ii) The State of Higher Education 2014. Both reports challenged us to not only view higher education through an internationalization lens as we have been doing so far, but also to look at educational systems in general in terms of where they are and where they need to go. I thought this was a useful exercise because without a strong foundation of internal higher education systems and reform, cross-border partners and relationships cannot be developed and sustained in a productive manner. Sound internal policy in home countries can then lead to sound policies as they relate to internationalization and global higher education policies.
The OECD 2015 report set forth trends in education policies through which effective ways to improve education systems can be achieved. According to the OECD 2015 Report, education policy trends fall into the following categories: (i) quality and equity; (ii) preparing students for the future; (iii) school improvement; governance; and funding. Of interest to me were the second and third categories. First, it is worth noting that policy reform in the area of tertiary education involved internationalization directly and policies in Australia, Finland and Japan were noted in the OECD 2015 Report (p.11). For Japan, the way to improve tertiary education seems to largely rest on internationalization efforts as noted in the Report (see also http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20141120233337379).
I also found that in the school improvement category, there is robust policy reform activity around improving the quality of teachers and learning (see pp. 13-15). As we have seen in earlier readings, quality of teaching is also an important facet to the forward movement of internationalization. Without quality teachers who are the key to effective learning, the quality and credibility of programs rooted in internationalization cannot thrive. Indeed, while the scholar mobility component of international higher education programs is important, strong and well trained teachers in home countries will make access and funding easier for international programs that can rely on internal teaching talent to promote cross-border and internationalization efforts. In addition, professional development efforts and focus on teaching goals for the global context can assure that faculty who are at the core of the delivery of educational services are equipped to deal with the challenges that internalization efforts face in terms of quality and credibility.
The OECD Education Policy Outlook 2015 talked about national educational policies and reforms across a number of different countries. K-12 education was the main focus, while vocational education and training, tertiary education, and transitioning students to the workforce were also touched upon. This article looked at different policies across OECD countries and identified common themes. What I mostly took away from this reading is the importance of cooperation, not only for international exchange and partnerships, but also to help support each other as countries try to overcome similar challenges. This can be done by looking at different policies and reforms that were successfully implemented and applying those solutions in a way that is relevant to your country’s situation. Some of these challenges include improving equity and access by supporting disadvantaged schools and populations, ensuring high quality education through the educational environment and well-trained, effective teachers, and following up with evaluation an assessment.
I thought Korea’s exam-free semester was a unique idea. I looked into it and found that the main motivation for this policy was to increase creativity and self-discovery outside of the classroom. An article from The Korea Times explained that unlike in standard semesters where students spend 33 hours per week studying academic subjects, during this test-free term, students will study for 21 hours per week and have the other 12 hours to explore other interests, as long as it is approved by the principal. This article noted that, “Korean schools have a poor reputation when it comes to cultivating creative and self-directed individuals.” Parents and students are satisfied with the pilot program, which is set to be fully rolled out on a national level in 2016. Critics believe that this break from tests could negatively impact academic performance. It is important to note that taking into account a specific county’s context and unique situation is important before implementing any new reform. Most of the other policies listed in the student assessment chart (Table 14) include specific grades when standardized assessments will be administered. A policy like Korea’s test-free semesters would not be necessary or effective in countries that already encourage creativity and pursuing one’s passion.
The State of Higher Education 2014, also published by OECD, similarly looks at common challenges faced across OECD countries, but this time focuses specifically on higher education. This executive summary notes that there have been many changes in higher education in response to the recent transition to mass participation in higher education experienced by many OECD countries. These changes include increased diversity and flexibility among higher education institutions and a need for increasing transparency and quality improvements to stay competitive. The most interesting thing discussed in Chapter 2 for me was the idea of an institution’s value proposition. A value proposition is like a mission statement, yet also highlights the institution’s specific strengths as a way to separate it from its competition. This is beneficial to various stakeholders and a well-defined value proposition can help institutions identify what they are good at and build upon those strengths. It can also help students and parents differentiate between the various types of institutions.