Obama called the kids in the US to raise the bar to compete against those from Bangalore and Beijing, if they care about a better future. As usual with his talks, this got some applause from the domestic folks. But the truth is, it is not just difficult, it is impossible.
Because, foundation of education is built on social culture. And it is known that America is a low context culture while India, or China are high context culture (read more here). In the latter, a lot is unsaid, and need to be derived from the context of usage which makes its people very good at analytics. A low context culture calls for everything to be explicit and said. There are no hidden meanings. This reduces the need for analytical thinking to figure out day to day life. But that gives people room for out of the box or creative thinking, and question stated facts openly. Over a period, low context cultures become less analytical and more creative. (At the same time, high context culture excels in areas that thrive on hidden or layered communication, films for example)
Given these, asking an education system to move from creative to analytical planes, ie., to a new direction is a huge task, and if attempted will take at least 4-5 generations to reach anywhere near. And then the culture itself will prevent that from happening since they will openly question the need itself. So it is safe to assume that Baltimore and Bangalore will stay as is for sometime to come. If Obama is hoping otherwise, it’s habitual. That is all what he has been giving the Americans all along – hope!