Teacher travels to Asia and warns US students of their biggest threat

Kieth Ballard videotapes students doing homework in India. Some schools do not have windows or doors.

Teacher travels to Asia and warns US students of their biggest threat

CREATED Jun 17, 2012

Reporter: Valerie Cavazos

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) -- Some frustrated teachers are trying to change the future of education. One of them is a San Diego teacher, Keith Ballard, who recently returned from China and India. And he's predicting what he says will be the next tsunami.

"We are going to have to step it up. We are not competitive in terms of public education. We simply aren't," said Ballard. So what did this award winning teacher see in China and India that has him so convinced that America's educational system is losing its competitive edge.

"They take a relentless amount of academics. Basically their core is driven by Math and Science," he said.  Case in point. In 2009, Shanghai high school students outscored their global counterparts on PISA, an international standardized test. And the U.S. was buried somewhere in the middle.

"India is way behind China but they're catching up. Many schools didn't have doors, windows or lights in the room. But you could see those kids were learning." And succeeding, he said, in their efforts to gobble up our jobs in the U.S.

"They really seem to like Americans in general, but they have no problem of eating our lunch and our dinner and taking our jobs away from our kids here. And they're willing to work for it and they're hungry. You can see it in their eyes."

But is modeling China's educational system the answer? Many Chinese complain that their system is too regimented and stifling -- ultimately killing  independent thought and creativity -- those sought after skills in the 21st century workforce.

KGUN9 reporter Valerie Cavaozos asked Ballard: "Is that the extreme we need to get to match China?" Ballard answered, "Well, I'm not sure that that system is going to work for us here in the US but we're going to have to really improve and kick it up." Because, Ballard said, China and India are working feverishly to copy the best teaching practices of the U.S. He said Asia's private schools are sprouting everywhere and boast of their focus on creativity.

Cavazos asked, "Are they outscoring us in the workforce? Are they better employees? Are they the most creative employees even if they come here to the United States?" Ballard replied, " Well a lot of people say they are.That's debatable."

But Ballard believes if the U.S. doesn't take action soon, more American students will face more competition for high skilled, high paying jobs. "I saw what they're competing against, it's unbelievable," said Ballard.

Ballard said his mission is simply to raise public awareness about the increasing challenges our children face. He said he hopes that through his campaign change will occur, although he doesn't expect it to happen overnight.