Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What "Internationally Benchmarked" Means

At the risk of stereotyping, I'm going to guess that Singapore's approach to education in general, and English instruction in particular, is not very crunchy. So when I'm told these English standards are "internationally benchmarked," I already know how they compare to, say, Finland's progressive standards, but I figure I should also look at how they compare to what I imagine is a fairly conservative approach. It is a pretty easy analysis.


  • Language for Information
    As speaker, writer, reader, listener and viewer, the learner will access, retrieve, evaluate, apply and present information derived from print, non-print and electronic sources.
  • Language for Literary Response and Expression
    As speaker, writer, reader, listener and viewer, the learner will respond creatively and critically to literary texts, relate them to personal experience, culture and society, and use language creatively to express self and identity.
  • Language for Social Interaction
    As speaker, writer, reader, listener and viewer, the learner will use English effectively, both in its spoken and written form, to establish and maintain positive interpersonal relationships, taking into account purpose, audience, context and culture.

Of these, the Common Core standards only address the first -- language for information. Arguably, language for social interaction is less applicable when English is the native tongue, but more alarmingly, we're proposing to virtually remove "language for literary response and expression" from our curriculum. I'm not going to spend the whole evening looking up reading and writing standards for the rest of the world, but I'd be shocked if any other country had the narrowness of vision to impose such barren, culturally-inert expectations on their own children.

The complete lack of a philosophical explanation of the Common Core standards is symptomatic of the underlying problem. These things have to slip under the radar without ruffling any feathers or raising any questions about whether they can be "objectively" assessed. It's pretty grim though. A high price to pay for the dubious virtue of uniformity, and a mockery of "international benchmarked," which I guess means we get a small gray subset of standards used elsewhere.

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