So today was another example of how different secondary education and higher education is in other countries as compared to the United States.
I cannot imagine being tracked into a mathematics or humanities system. For the longest time I had been in school looking to work in a medical field or biosystems engineering. It was not until my 11th grade summer that I had even considered architecture as a profession, or drawing as a hobby or skill. That summer I had an internship with an architecture firm and found out I really enjoyed it.
I now love architecture and have continued into graduate school in an effort to become qualified to teach future generations about the potential architecture holds in creating environments for people, and how to integrate nature into buildings. If I had been tracked I could not have made the switch so late in my academic career, but at the same time I would probably become very prepared for work or education at higher levels, given that I had specialized at an early age.
Furthermore, what would happen if I had taken a test at a young age and then scored poorly? I have horrible test anxiety. Would I then suffer from that score for the rest of my life? The accumulated difference between students who scored well initially and then had more opportunities could increase as time went on. In the end, I am not saying that any system is right or wrong, it just seems that some of these systems are very stressful, and the social pressures associated with some of the national tests would be overwhelming for me personally.
When I hear about where international students come from and the things they have accomplished in order to have an opportunity to study with us at Virginia Tech, I am amazed. From obnoxious visa processes, to national scholarships in fully funded higher education systems, these students have had a truly unique education experience.