The United States may have seen a rockier transition to online learning because its teachers had less first-hand experience with it. While 95% of teachers in Korea and China had learned online in their own professional development, only half of American teachers did.
Hybrid learning is the future, which means teachers must become coaches, mentors and designers of innovative learning environments. “The United States is lucky in that it has lots of money in education, but I don’t think it is using its resources very wisely,” said Schleicher. More money has to go into classroom learning and quality of instruction and teaching. While the United States invests more into school infrastructure, other countries direct more resources into instruction, he said.
There is less resiliency in higher education funding in the United States because a larger share of higher education costs are borne by the individual. In 2017, 65% of total U.S. expenditures in postsecondary education came from private sources, more than double the OECD average of 29%.
A growing push is underway to integrate workplace skills and education, an approach that pays huge dividends for individuals and economies, said Schleicher. The transition to career training has been smoother in other countries, in part because vo-tech historically was cast as a last resort for struggling students in America. In other nations, it has been a first choice for many young people.
While the United States has not lost ground on higher education enrollment, other countries are seeing their numbers rise faster. The United States is now in the middle of the pack in bachelor’s degrees where it once led the world, said Schleicher.
An area where other nations are surpassing America is early childhood enrollment. For example, Schleicher said the United Kingdom now enrolls almost every 3- to 5-year-old, a dramatic increase in the last decade. Poland had about 40% enrollment in 2005 and now is at 80%.
“It is an area where the United States is at the end of the spectrum, not because things got worse,” said Schleicher, “but because so many countries have seen so much evolution in this.” About 66% of 3- to 5-year-olds in 2018 were enrolled in school in the United States, compared to 88% on average across OECD countries