The world is catching up

According to an international study, the rest of the world is catching up to the U.S. in educational attainment. Some 87 percent of Americans 25 to 34 have finished high school, which ranks 10th in the world.

“They’re catching up with you in the proportion that finish school (and) the proportion that go to college,” said Barry McGaw, director of education for the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which develops the yearly rankings.

“The one area you remain ahead is how much you spend,” McGaw told U.S. reporters Monday. “They don’t need to catch up with you on quality, because many of them are already ahead.”

The U.S. ranks second, behind Canada, in the percentage of adults with a four-year college degree: 38 percent. But other countries are sending more young people to college, narrowing the gap.

The U.S. spends an average of $10,871 per student, more than any other country. In addition, the U.S. “has the highest number of teaching hours per school year in the primary and high school grades, and the second highest for middle-school students.” U.S. teachers are paid more than teachers in most developed countries.

U.S. teen-agers have average academic skills compared to students in other developed countries, but much loftier ambitions.

. . . U.S. students’ reading performance sits around the middle of a 27-nation pack, just five points higher than average; math performance is five points lower than average. U.S. students also rank below average in high school graduation rates and just about average in school “engagement,” or how much they participate and feel a sense of belonging.

But when asked what kind of job they expect to hold by the time they’re 30, 80.5% of U.S. students said they’d have a white-collar, high-skilled job, far exceeding the average of 62.2%. U.S. girls had even higher expectations of themselves, with 85.8% expecting a top job by age 30. Among all nations, only students in Mexico had higher expectations.

America’s best students are as good as the best in the world; our worst students drag down average scores.

Via Education Gadfly.

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  1. Cousin Dave says:

    I don’t know if I would read too much into an increase in graduation rate, by itself. We’ve all heard the reports about grade inflation and how the diploma is nothing more than an attendance certificate at some schools.

    What would be interesting would be a comparison of the graduation rates for traditional high schools, and the rates for non-traditional means of acquiring a diploma (adult schools, GED).

  2. I wonder what percentage of the highest achieving students are native-born? I know that in Canada, it is often the students of relatively recent immigrants that are at the top of the scale (at least with respect to higher than proportional numbers).

    I know a number of professors in the USA who are complaining bitterly about the loss of foreign students (due to higher security, etc.) that kept academic standards up.

  3. The level of immigration in the US is expected to place Caucasians in minority status by 2050. Statistially education levels vary with region. Well educated male immigrants from India, Korea, Japan, Taiwan and China earn 25% more than even White men in the US. It gives us the perception that there is a genetic ethic in being Asian, but is also considered the ‘brain drain’ that reduces our focus from the desperate plight of people in their country of orgigin. India still struggles with a caste system. While China, in a move toward authoritarian capitalism has sparked the unprecidented migration of 500 million people to cities. It is important to identify the people who promote the scores because the majority of US immigrants are adults from Latin American competing for low-wage jobs and do not raise academic test scores.

    “If a sending country has more inequality than the US (an unlikely case for most sending regions except Latin America), then those at the top of the income distribution will have less incentive to emigrate, while those at the bottom will have more.”

    What we fail to understand is the benefit and influence of measurements. Is the goal of education to fuel the division between culture, race, labor and aristocracy? If education seeks to reward itself based on measurements rather than thoughtful contribution to just and equitable social growth, it provides little balance to roaming resource predators.

  4. Notice the term “native-born”, not a particular racial marker. High achievement is due far more to cultural factors that encourage educational diligence than anything else.

    The whole point about achieving properity is so that you and your children don’t have to work as hard and don’t risk failure. It’s entirely natural (and almost inevitable) that immigrant cultures might value education more and thus work harder at it.

  5. It’s entirely natural (and almost inevitable) that immigrant cultures might value education more and thus work harder at it.
    It’s very healthy to strive for advantage and the rewards are well deserved. My concern is that good human qualities can be manipulated in evil ways by mass control. IMHO general social health is measured by a healthy middle class. In an ideal world the middle class should be achievable for the poor and not a terrible place to fall. It gives the general population a way to peacefully react to oppression.
    Schools have a more militant aspect today and more influence since children grow up in day care. The goal of social planners is a repeatable process, replaceable person, and not personal empowerment. That’s ok too but, if it gets out of hand it becomes a dictator. If it is a global corporation , it becomes a global dictator. I think we need to take a hard look at the large tyrannies of the world and watch the economic impact they have on the countries around them. In spite of the fact that China is in a state of deep struggle, Australia, Tawain, Korea etc are all reacting to the changes. The cultural influence of ancient, bonded, educated people has not spared them. Education can be a path to tyranny and only balanced by judging the value of the uneducated person in society.