There’s lots of evidence that American higher education could be doing significantly better. But how? It’s a question The Hechinger Report set out to answer by visiting countries on three continents and examining their new higher-education agendas. Our stories will be appearing in major publications over several months. You can also follow our blog on these issues.



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How is Australia beating the U.S. at graduating first-generation, low-income college students?

By Sarah Butrymowicz

PARRAMATTA, Australia — Students in polos and plaids streamed into the auditorium at the University of Western Sydney as Lorde’s “Royals” blasted on repeat. While she sang about having “no post code envy,” hundreds of low-income high school seniors and students who would be the first in their families to go to college took their […]

Australian students in their final year of high school take a break during a conference about what to do after graduation. The country is trying to boost its high school completion rates to 90 percent. (Photo: Sarah Butrymowicz)

Skip school and lose welfare? The good and bad of Australia’s tough tactics on truancy

By Sarah Butrymowicz

What if the punishment for skipping school was a loss in welfare benefits for your family? It’s a strategy that some politicians are considering in the U.S. – plans have been floated in Missouri and put into action in Michigan last year. But in Australia, they’ve already tried it, and the experience is a cautionary […]

Can the U.S. learn from Australia’s high bar for new teachers?

By Sarah Butrymowicz

A major ongoing fight in the U.S. is how to make the teaching profession less a clock-in, clock-out job and more like the high-paid, high-demand career of a lawyer or doctor. Unions and teachers argue better pay will elevate the profession. Politicians and advocates want to put more scrutiny on teachers and end tenure, arguing […]

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Lessons from abroad: If Republicans controlled U.S. education policy? Australia offers a sneak peek

By Sarah Butrymowicz

What would happen if conservative ideas for improving education were given free reign in the United States? If Republicans take over the Senate and then the White House, a possibility, Americans might find out in the near future. Australia, similar in many ways to the U.S., provides a glimpse of what a transfer of power […]

Photo: Rosipaw

Which winning ideas could the U.S. steal from Singapore?

By Sarah Butrymowicz

Singapore has one of the best education systems in the world, according to international assessments. President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan talk about its performance. United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten visited in 2012 and her counterpart at the National Education Association, Dennis Van Roekel, has praised its teacher training. And […]

Lessons from Abroad: Singapore’s secrets to training world-class teachers

By Sarah Butrymowicz

Singapore has been a hot topic in education circles ever since it began to appear near the top of the pack of international assessments in math and science in the mid-90s. The country has been held up as an example of a place where education is being done right: Singapore’s standards were higher and better […]

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Rest in peace, Mandela; much work remains to be done

By Andre Perry

As we collectively give thanks for Nelson Mandela’s time with us, we pay a debt of gratitude by teaching his eternal lessons of togetherness among the living. As we mourn, we must continue to carry his message of unity because the tendency to segregate ourselves lives on. For instance, in the midst of Mandela’s passing, […]

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Top US students fare poorly in international PISA test scores, Shanghai tops the world, Finland slips

By Jill Barshay

Conventional wisdom is that top U.S. students fare well compared to their peers across the globe. According to this line of reasoning, the US doesn’t make it on the list of the top 25 countries in math (or top 15 in reading) because America has higher poverty and racial diversity than other countries do, which […]

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Shanghai likely to repeat strong results on international PISA test in December

By Jill Barshay

Back in 2010, experts were stunned when 15-year olds in Shanghai, China earned the top scores in reading, math and science on the 2009 PISA exams, also known as Program for International Student Assessment. And when the 2012 results come out on Dec. 3, it seems that Shanghai may be poised to do it again, […]

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In Bihar, hope—and some progress—despite the education system’s many problems

By Sarah Garland

On a 2011 reporting trip to visit schools in Bihar, India’s poorest state, one scene in particular stuck in my mind. After a touring a slum neighborhood on the outskirts of the state’s capital city, Patna, my contact there, Sunita Singh, of the Education Development Center, drove me past a small one-room schoolhouse that served […]

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