Education Writer & Consultant


Edward B. Fiske is an education writer, editor, and consultant whose areas of expertise range from college admissions in the United States to the debate over how to provide "education for all" in developing countries.

 

Durham, cheap
N.C.

NO one seriously disputes the fact that students from disadvantaged households perform less well in school, on average, than their peers from more advantaged backgrounds. But rather than confront this fact of life head-on, our policy makers mistakenly continue to reason that, since they cannot change the backgrounds of students, they should focus on things they can control.

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Today’s guest post, pilule written for BookMarks by Edward B. Fiske, is a review of Vivien Stewart’s A World-Class Education: Learning from International Models of Excellence and Innovation (ASCD, 2012).

Delving into Vivien Stewart’s new book, A World-Class Education: Learning from International Models of Excellence and Innovation, is, to indulge a metaphor from Chinese cuisine, a simultaneously sweet and sour experience. The savory part comes from the fact that no one is better qualified than Stewart to discuss what the United States has to learn from other countries with successful school systems, and she does so clearly and persuasively. The sour taste emerges as it begins to dawn on you that most reform-minded educational policymakers in the United States are not only oblivious to most of these lessons but are, in fact, moving in exactly the wrong direction.

Stewart, who is the senior education adviser at the Asia Society, knows her subject well. She has traveled the globe and written with authority on the characteristics of successful school systems in both Western and Asian cultures. In this book, she introduces us to the usual high-performing suspects: schools in Singapore, Canada (Alberta and Ontario), Finland, China, and Australia. In each case, she talks about how and why the strong, effective system evolved in the particular culture, what makes it successful, and what insights it might hold for U.S. policymakers.

Stewart is no Panglossian. There are, she writes, “no quick fixes in education” or, for that matter, countries that stand as ideal models for the United States. She is frank to discuss the challenges that each of these countries are facing—high dropout rates in Ontario, a growing immigrant population in Finland, an oppressive college examination system in China—and why some of these challenges may limit their relevance as lessons for the United States.

Nevertheless, Stewart comes up with a compelling list of characteristics that run through each and every one of these countries, including ambitious standards, strong early childhood and preschool programs, curricular coherence, alignment of goals and practices, and high quality teachers who are treated as professionals and respond accordingly. Above all, she says, policymakers and leaders of the successful school systems around the world start with “a sense of moral purpose about the need to deal with inequities and promote a more just society.”

Step back from Stewart’s observations, and you realize that, far from moving to emulate the features of successful schools in other countries, the current thrust of school “reform” in the United States is moving in opposite directions. None of these countries draw their ideas from the corporate world or suffer from the delusion that successful hedge fund managers intuitively understand what’s good for education. None of them views choice and competition as elixirs, rely on top-down management, worship standardized tests, or define the public interest in education as the sum of private benefits. Above all, none of them believes that the way to improve teacher performance is through shame and humiliation. These successful systems prefer quaint concepts like “trust” and “professional.”

In one revealing passage, Stewart recalls visiting a school in Finland in 2009 as part of a delegation of American chief state school officers and encountering a group of Chinese educators who were there to observe how the Finns were implementing cooperative education—a practice that they first learned about from the United States. Yes, as Stewart emphasizes a number of times in this volume, there was a time when Americans where known around the world as educational innovators. Think individualized learning, special education, and even the research that undergirds Singapore math.

The global marketplace of ideas about school improvement can and should work both ways. While leaders of other successful school systems are frank to admit that they want to learn from us, the “benchmarking” bug does not seem to have infected the ideologically driven national- and state-level policymakers and leaders of private foundations who are currently driving the school reform agenda in the United States. Maybe if they read this insightful book, it might dawn on them that their ideas are out of sync with those of just about every other successful educational system, East and West.

Edward B. Fiske, a former education editor of the New York Times and author of the Fiske Guide to Colleges series, is currently working on a study of gender equality in developing countries for UNESCO.

(Source: http://bit.ly/ImKesm)

A Nation at a Loss

(April 25, clinic 2008) TOMORROW is the 25th anniversary of A Nation at Risk, a remarkable document that became a milestone in the history of American education albeit in ways that its creators neither planned, anticipated or even wanted.

In August 1981, Education Secretary T. H. Bell created a National Commission on Excellence in Education to examine, in the reports words, the widespread public perception that something is seriously remiss in our educational system. Secretary Bells expectation, he later said, was that the report would paint a rosy picture of American education and correct all those widespread negative perceptions.

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Fiske Guide to Colleges

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For over 20 years, this leading guide to more than 300 colleges and universities has been an indispensable source of information for college-bound students and their parents. Hip and straightforward, the Fiske Guide to Colleges reliably describes the academic climates and the social and extra-curricular scenes at the best and most interesting schools in the United States and Canada. Fiskes unique insight into whats not to be missed and whats to be avoided at each university reveals the academic strengths, the role of athletics, and the social highlights at each school.

Compiled from surveys of thousands of students and administrators, the Fiske Guide to Colleges is thoroughly updated annually. The resulting resource is the best guide to colleges and universities available; USA Today has called it the most readable and informative of all the college guides.

Fiske Guide to Getting Into the Right College

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An AZ of admissions secrets, the Fiske Guide to Getting into the Right College takes you behind the scenes of the college application process. The expert advice and tips in this book will help you get accepted at the schools of your choice. This clear, accessible guide takes students and their parents step-by-step through the admissions process. (With Bruce G. Hammond.)

Fiske Countdown to College

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Fiske Countdown to College is a comprehensive collection of simple, easy-to-use checklists that explain everything you need to do in each year of high school to make preparation for college a breeze. There are 28 to-do lists for parents and students, ten dont lists, three top 10? lists, and two glossaries, divided by year, that walk you through high school to college. Quotes from students, parents, and counselors offer advice and support from people whove been through all of this before. (With Bruce G. Hammond.)

Fiske Real College Essays That Work

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College-admission experts Edward B. Fiske and Bruce Hammond give you all the advice you need for an application essay that will open the door of the college of you choice. Fiske Real College Essays That Work includes samples from both great and not-so-great writers, and describes how to take your essay from initial draft to final submission. (With Bruce G. Hammond)

Fiske WordPower

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A powerful vocabulary opens a world of opportunity. Building your word power will help you write more effectively, communicate clearly, score higher on standardized tests like the SAT, ACT, or GRE, and be more confident and persuasive in everything you do.

But in order to truly increase your vocabulary, you need a system that works. With most guides, you end up only memorizing the new words for a short time, often not even long enough to use them in tests. Fiske WordPower is different.

Using the exclusive Fiske system, you will not just memorize words, but truly learn their meanings and how to use them correctly. This knowledge will stay with you longer and be easier to recall-and it doesnt take any longer than less-effective memorization. (With Jane Mallison and Margery Mandell.)

Fiske 250 Words Every High School Freshman Needs to Know

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Every year, thousands of families trust Edward Fiske, author of the #1 bestselling Fiske Guide to Colleges and the former education editor of the New York Times, as their guide for honest advice on creating the best educational experience possiblebecause he knows and listens to students. Together with vocabulary experts Jane Mallison and David Hatcher, Fiske 250 Words Every High School Freshman Needs to Know gives students the most important words theyll encounter in high school, across a wide range of subjects and skill levels. (With Jane Mallison and David Hatcher.)

Fiske 250 Words Every High School Graduate Needs to Know

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Every year, thousands of families trust Edward Fiske, author of the #1 bestselling Fiske Guide to Colleges and the former education editor of the New York Times, as their guide for honest advice on creating the best educational experience possiblebecause he knows and listens to students. Together with vocabulary experts Jane Mallison and David Hatcher, Fiske 250 Words Every High School Graduate Needs to Know gives you the most important words youll need to know to build your success across a wide range of subjects and skill levels. (With Jane Mallison and David Hatcher.)

Fiske New SAT Insiders Guide

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The Fiske New SAT Insiders Guide is the first book to take a critical look at the whole process of preparing for the test, from the inflated claims of the Test Prep Giants to the questionable statements of the College Board. Youll learn: The truth about raising your score-and why students from coast to coast say not to waste money on an expensive prep course The ins and outs of the new Writing Section-and why it could be your key to a higher score Why the new Math section really isnt about math-and how you can teach yourself to beat it The inside story of the new SAT-and why you shouldnt believe everything the test makers say about it. (With Bruce G. Hammond.)

Elusive Equity:Education Reform in Post-Apartheid South Africa

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Elusive Equity chronicles South Africas efforts to fashion a racially equitable state education system from the ashes of apartheid. The policymakers who came to power with Nelson Mandela in 1994 inheried an education system designed to further the racist goals of apartheid. Their massive challenge was to transform that system, which lavished human and financial resources on schools serving white students, while systematically starving those serving African, coloured and Indian learners, into one that would offer quality education to all persons, regardless of their race.

Edward Fiske and Helen Ladd describe and evaluate the strategies that South Africa pursued in its quest for racial equity. They draw on previously unpublished data, interviews with key officials, and visits to dozens of schools to describe the changes made in school finance, tacher assignment policies, governance, curriculum, higher education, and other areas. They conclude that the country has made remarkable progress toward equity in the sense of equal treatment of persons of all races. For several reasons, however, the country has been far less successful in promoting equal educational opportunity or educational adequacy. Thus equity has been elusive.

The book is unique in combining richly textured descriptions of how South Africas education reforms have affected schools at the grass-roots level with careful analysis of enrollment, governance and budget data at the school, provincial and national levels. The result is a compelling and comprehensive study of South Africas first decade of education reform in the post-apartheid period. Read an excerpt here.

The Handbook of Research in Education Finance and Policy

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Sponsored by the American Education Finance Association (AEFA), this groundbreaking new handbook assembles in one place the existing research-based knowledge in education finance and policy, thereby helping to define this evolving field of research and practice. It provides a readily available resource for anyone seriously involved in education finance and policy in the United States and around the world. The Handbook of Research in Education Finance and Policy traces the evolution of the field from its initial focus on school inputs (per pupil expenditures) and the revenue sources (property taxes, state aid programs, etc) used to finance these inputs to a focus on educational outcomes (student achievement) and the larger policies used to achieve them. It shows how the current decision-making context in school finance inevitably interacts with those of governance, accountability, equity, privatization, and other areas of education policy. (With Helen F. Ladd.)

When Schools Compete: A Cautionary Tale

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In 1995 New Zealand embarked on what is arguably the most thorough and dramatic transformation of a compulsory state education system ever undertaken by an industrialized country.

Under a plan known as Tomorrows Schools, this island nation of 3.8 million people the population of a typical American state abolished its nearly 2,700 primary and secondary schools over to locally elected boards of trustees. Virtually overnight, one of the worlds most tightly controlled public education systems became one of the most decentralized. Two years later, with a new government in power, New Zealand introduced full parental choice of schools and set up a situation in which schools competed with each other for students.

Debate rages in the United States about whether similar market-based reforms would improve the performance of the countrys troubled public school system. Unfortunately, judgments about the potential benefits of these ideas central to proposals for charter schools and vouchers have been hampered by the lack of concrete evidence about how they work out in practice. The decade-long experience of New Zealand, whose school system functions much like the American system, provides policy makers with a wide range of insights and lessons to consider as they gauge the merits of bold education reform.

When Schools Compete, written with Helen F. Ladd, is the first book to provide detailed data-based analysis of a comprehensive experiment with market-driven reform in a country similar to the United States. Combining the perceptive observations of a prominent education journalist and the analytical skills of a distinguished academic policy analyst, this book will help supporters and critics of market-based education reforms to better anticipate the potential long-term consequences of such reforms and to build in appropriate policy safeguards. Read an excerpt at Amazon.com.

Smart Schools, Smart Kids

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Smart Schools, Smart Kids takes readers into dozens of pioneering schools across the country to describe successful programs and how they work, the problems they have encountered, and the results they have achieved. Innovative reformers are transforming every aspect of the nineteenth-century factory-model school into a new kind of public school capable of educating kids for twenty-first century challenges. Smart Schools, Smart Kids shows how. It is a book that is sure to be warmly welcomed by parents, teachers, administrators, and public officials alike who want to improve education for their own and for all of Americas children. This nation can no longer afford to wait for change: Smart Schools, Smart Kids will make a real difference now.

States Prepare for the Global Age

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This report provides an overview of the critical importance of international knowledge and skills to US competitiveness, including extensive analysis of selected state initiatives to improve international education in K-12 schools. The report includes state-by-state economic and education performance data and action steps to inform state and community planning.

Educating Leaders for a Global Society

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Educating Leaders for a Global Society details the challenges facing Americas education system in preparing young people to compete and succeed in a globalized economy. The report provides examples of investments other countries are making in education to stay competitive as well as examples of successful international education programs in the United States.

The Invisible Hand as Schoolmaster

(Available at The American Prospect.)

A Level Playing Field?

Its fashionable among some school reformers today to see simple governance changes as the key to improving urban schools. Proponents of charter schools and vouchers share a belief that if local schools are freed from the heavy hand of public school bureaucracies and forced to compete for students in an education marketplace, they will have both the means and the incentives to provide quality education to students.

These are intriguing-and, for some people, highly appealing-notions. The problem is that they are largely untested. Charter schools and voucher schemes in the

United States are either too recent or too small in scale to constitute legitimate tests of the theory. What is needed is evidence from a sustained large-scale experiment with self-governing schools in a competitive environment.

Fortunately, there is such an experiment-and it suggests that U.S. policymakers should think twice before counting on governance changes alone to solve the problems of troubled urban schools.

The Empty Aisles of Marketplace Reform

(Available at the American Association of School Administrators.)

Wasted Opportunities: When Schools Fail

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What can be done to make schools more efficient? What can decision-makers, communities and schools do to enroll all children and enable them to complete at least the entire primary cycle?

This report highlights the present situation of school wastage and reveals its enormous costs on educational systems, individuals and societies. Available at UNESCO in Adobe .PDF format.

World Education Forum Report / Dakar Framework for Action

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In April 2000 more than 1,100 participants from 164 countries assembled in Dakar, Senegal, for the World Education Forum. The participants ranged from teachers and researchers to government ministers and the heads of major international organizations.

This volume is a report on the people, the ideas and the commitments that shaped the World Education Forum and that reminded the community of nations at the dawn of the new millennium of the importance of achieving education for all. Available at UNESCO in Adobe .PDF format.

Status and Trends: Assessing Learning Achievement

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This fifth issue of Education for All, Status and Trends, examines the reasons for the growing global interest in educational measurement, lays out some of the central findings of the movement and then takes up the all important question of how assessment of student outcomes can be put to the service of promoting quality education for all children. Available at UNESCO in Adobe .PDF format.

Status and Trends: Adult Education in a Polarizing World

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This report highlights the present situation of adult basic education and some key trends in its development. The report outlines a rationale for increased investment in the basic education of adults, including its positive impact on the education of children. Available at UNESCO in Adobe .PDF format.

Monitoring Report on Education for All

The international goal of Education for All was given new vitality at the World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal, in April 2000. Building on the 1990 World Conference on Education for All in Jomtien, Thailand, and the mid-decade review meeting in Amman, Jordan, the Dakar Framework for Action provides a blueprint and set of strategies for achieving the goals of EFA by 2015. Available from UNESCO.

A Distant Laboratory

(With Helen F. Ladd. Published in Education Week, May 17, 2000.)

Decentralized management. Parental choice. Competition among schools. These are concepts that a wide variety of school reformers, including proponents of charter schools and vouchers, believe can bring about significant improvement in the quality of American schools.

Promising though they may be, these ideas are essentially untested in the United States. The first charter schools did not appear until 1993, and voucher programs are small and even newer. What we need is evidence from an entire school system that has applied these concepts over an extended period of time.

Fortunately, such evidence exists. It comes from New Zealand-a nation whose population is the same as South Carolinas and whose national ministry of education operates as the functional equivalent of a state education department in this country. For the last decade, New Zealand has functioned as a laboratory for the key ideas underlying governance-based school reform movements in the United States.

Art on the Prairie

Art education shouldnt focus exclusively on art making, says a group dedicated to expanding the discipline to include a healthy dose of art history, criticism, and aesthetics.

Using Both Hands: Women and Education in Cambodia

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Cambodia has more women than men, and we must educate our girls as well as our boys. We have two hands, and if one hand is weak we can do nothing. The two hands must be strong. We must use both hands. These are the words of Neth Din, a 77-year-old resident of Spean Dek Village in Kandal Province who is raising his three granddaughters. There is a wealth of research on the role of women in education in developing countries and the critical strategic role that such education plays in overall development. Educating girls is arguably the single most important investment that a country can make. As Ruby Manikan, an Indian church leader observed, If you educate a man, you educate a person; but if you educate a woman, you educate a family. This study, carried out with three members of the Khmer Womens Voice Center in Phnom Penh, is the first ro focus on the nature and causes of Cambodias gender gap and to suggest ways of remedying it. Neth Din was speaking as a citizen of Cambodia, but his words could apply to most developing nations. Available at Asian Development Bank.

Decentralization of Education

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Decentralization of education is a global phenomenon, one that has manifold roots and takes many different forms in different countries. It is also a highly political process that by definition involves substantial shifts or at least the perception of shifts in power. This study, part of a larger effort by the Education Group of the World Banks Human Development Department to understand the decentralization of education systems, examines the ways in which decentralization developed and the impact that it had in nine countries. It shows, among other things, that school decentralization schemes often succeed or fail for reasons that have more to do with politics than with technical design. Available at The World Bank Group.

Education for All: A Global Commitment

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A Report of the United States to the International Consultative Forum on Education for All by Edward B. Fiske and Barbara OGrady, 112 pages.

In 1990, the World Conference on Education for All was convened in Jomtien, Thailand, to address concerns about the inadequate provision of basic education, especially in developing countries. The conference was attended by 1,500 participants from 155 countries and included representatives from 160 intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations. Conference participants adopted a World Declaration on Education for All and approved a Framework for Action to Meet Basic Learning Needs. This document constitutes the U.S. EFA 2000 Assessment report. The report was organized and prepared by AED with the oversight of an eight-member Commission made up of representatives of both government and private organizations in the United States. While AED prepared the report at the request of the EFA Secretariat, final responsibility for the perspectives and information contained in the report is that of AED. The report was carried out in consultation with numerous experts in the field, including representatives of non-governmental organizations, education associations, and representatives of various U.S agencies.

Basic Education: Building Blocks for Global Development

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Two out of three adults in the poorest developing countries lack basic literacy and numeracy skills and thus the skills to become productive workers, learn about good health and family planning, protect the environment and support democratic forms of government. This publication makes the case for a renewed commitment by the United States to invest in basic education. It brings together data that show the powerful and positive relationship between investments in basic education and outcomes in economic productivity, health and social well-being, the growth of democracy and conservation of the environment. In newly developing societies, each additional year of schooling beyond grade three or four can lead to up to 20 percent higher wages, up to 10 percent fewer births and up to 10 percent fewer child deaths.

Education has a profound impact on economic development. For example, research has shown that in modernizing societies, farmers with just four years of education are 9 percent more productive than farmers with no education, and literacy gains of 20 to 30 percent can boost a countrys gross domestic product by 8 to 16 percent. The yield from investments in basic education extends well beyond economics. Research shows that when citizens of developing countries receive basic education a foundation is laid for the development of democratic institutions and families have fewer children. Moreover, citizens understand and support programs to protect the environment, and infants and children eat more nutritious foods, are treated more effectively for childhood diseases and therefore survive at higher rates. Available at the Academy for Educational Development.

Investing in Change: Training for Free-Market Economies and Democracies in the New Independent States of the Former Soviet Union

(Available at the Academy for Educational Development.)
Today’s guest post, pilule written for BookMarks by Edward B. Fiske, is a review of Vivien Stewart’s A World-Class Education: Learning from International Models of Excellence and Innovation (ASCD, 2012).

Delving into Vivien Stewart’s new book, A World-Class Education: Learning from International Models of Excellence and Innovation, is, to indulge a metaphor from Chinese cuisine, a simultaneously sweet and sour experience. The savory part comes from the fact that no one is better qualified than Stewart to discuss what the United States has to learn from other countries with successful school systems, and she does so clearly and persuasively. The sour taste emerges as it begins to dawn on you that most reform-minded educational policymakers in the United States are not only oblivious to most of these lessons but are, in fact, moving in exactly the wrong direction.

Stewart, who is the senior education adviser at the Asia Society, knows her subject well. She has traveled the globe and written with authority on the characteristics of successful school systems in both Western and Asian cultures. In this book, she introduces us to the usual high-performing suspects: schools in Singapore, Canada (Alberta and Ontario), Finland, China, and Australia. In each case, she talks about how and why the strong, effective system evolved in the particular culture, what makes it successful, and what insights it might hold for U.S. policymakers.

Stewart is no Panglossian. There are, she writes, “no quick fixes in education” or, for that matter, countries that stand as ideal models for the United States. She is frank to discuss the challenges that each of these countries are facing—high dropout rates in Ontario, a growing immigrant population in Finland, an oppressive college examination system in China—and why some of these challenges may limit their relevance as lessons for the United States.

Nevertheless, Stewart comes up with a compelling list of characteristics that run through each and every one of these countries, including ambitious standards, strong early childhood and preschool programs, curricular coherence, alignment of goals and practices, and high quality teachers who are treated as professionals and respond accordingly. Above all, she says, policymakers and leaders of the successful school systems around the world start with “a sense of moral purpose about the need to deal with inequities and promote a more just society.”

Step back from Stewart’s observations, and you realize that, far from moving to emulate the features of successful schools in other countries, the current thrust of school “reform” in the United States is moving in opposite directions. None of these countries draw their ideas from the corporate world or suffer from the delusion that successful hedge fund managers intuitively understand what’s good for education. None of them views choice and competition as elixirs, rely on top-down management, worship standardized tests, or define the public interest in education as the sum of private benefits. Above all, none of them believes that the way to improve teacher performance is through shame and humiliation. These successful systems prefer quaint concepts like “trust” and “professional.”

In one revealing passage, Stewart recalls visiting a school in Finland in 2009 as part of a delegation of American chief state school officers and encountering a group of Chinese educators who were there to observe how the Finns were implementing cooperative education—a practice that they first learned about from the United States. Yes, as Stewart emphasizes a number of times in this volume, there was a time when Americans where known around the world as educational innovators. Think individualized learning, special education, and even the research that undergirds Singapore math.

The global marketplace of ideas about school improvement can and should work both ways. While leaders of other successful school systems are frank to admit that they want to learn from us, the “benchmarking” bug does not seem to have infected the ideologically driven national- and state-level policymakers and leaders of private foundations who are currently driving the school reform agenda in the United States. Maybe if they read this insightful book, it might dawn on them that their ideas are out of sync with those of just about every other successful educational system, East and West.

Edward B. Fiske, a former education editor of the New York Times and author of the Fiske Guide to Colleges series, is currently working on a study of gender equality in developing countries for UNESCO.

(Source: http://bit.ly/ImKesm)

ted

Fiske served as Education Editor for the New York Times from 1974 until 1991, dosage
and he is well-known to college bound students and their parents as the editor of the Fiske Guide to Colleges, an annual publication that is a standard part of the college admissions literature, and other books on college admissions.

He writes frequently for UNESCO and other organizations dedicated to the promotion of basic education in developing countries, and he serves as a consultant to Widmeyer Communications, a Washington-based communications firm that specializes in work with educational organizations.