1. In the People’s Republic of China, the decision was made in 2007 to fund nine years of compulsory public education for the 80% of young people who live in rural poverty and cannot afford the many fees attached to schooling in China.
2. In India, less than 40% of adolescents attend school. An increased commitment of India to educating its young people has resulted in only 9.6 million school children not being enrolled in school at all.
3. In Mexico, only 68 % of children completing first grade will complete nine years of education. Compulsory education now extends to 8 years of schooling, a recent extension across the country.
4. In Afghanistan, only 14% of female children are enrolled in primary school.
5. In Morocco, approximately 40% of females between the ages of 15-24 are illiterate.
6. In Saudi Arabia women attend gender-segregated schools and are prohibited from studying architecture, engineering, and journalism.
7. In Japan, gender gaps in society, workforce, and education continue into this century. Women make up only 38% of students enrolled in Japanese universities as compared to 54% of college students in the United States.
8. In South Korea, performance on exit exams is considered a “life and death” matter. Parental pressure and personal pressure lead to high suicide rates, inflated grades, and enrollment of significant numbers of students in private tutorial schools. Even the American military limits operations to provide maximum quiet on exam day.
9. In Finland, 40% of teenagers in school reported being heavily intoxicated within the last thirty days, almost double the U.S. reported rate.
10. In Germany, most “special needs” students attend “special schools” that only serve students who have learning or emotional difficulties.
Bashing public education has become a national sport for media and politicians who compete 24/7 for public market share. While our public education system certainly has room for improvement across multiple factors, we continue to educate far more of our young people for more school years than either India or China. Our best students may not be as academically driven as South Korea’s best or as academically successful as the Finns, but overall our young people are far less self-abusive teenagers. Our young women today have far more educational and career opportunities than their peers in Japan, the Middle East or on the African continent. Children who enter the United States from third world countries are better served in our Statue of Liberty Schools than in their own countries. We are dedicated to including, not excluding, special needs and immigrant children in our regular school communities and to keeping learning doors open rather than closed.
11. America’s dreamers created the reality that all young people, regardless of class, gender, race, ethnicity or religion are afforded the right to a free, public education. This gift, I do not take for granted.