Underworked American students

U.S. students are underworked compared to Europeans, writes The Economist.

(Americans) have one of the shortest school years anywhere, a mere 180 days compared with an average of 195 for OECD countries and more than 200 for East Asian countries. German children spend 20 more days in school than American ones, and South Koreans over a month more. Over 12 years, a 15-day deficit means American children lose out on 180 days of school, equivalent to an entire year.

American children also have one of the shortest school days, six-and-a-half hours, adding up to 32 hours a week. By contrast, the school week is 37 hours in Luxembourg, 44 in Belgium, 53 in Denmark and 60 in Sweden. On top of that, American children do only about an hour’s-worth of homework a day, a figure that stuns the Japanese and Chinese.

Closing schools for three months in the summer “acts like a mental eraser, with the average child reportedly forgetting about a month’s-worth of instruction in many subjects and almost three times that in mathematics.” While middle-class kids are signed up for sports, music and other enriching activities in the summer, low-income kids tend to stay home and watch TV.

Via Carpe Diem.

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Comments

  1. Mark Roulo says:

    American children also have one of the shortest school days, six-and-a-half hours, adding up to 32 hours a week. By contrast, the school week is 37 hours in Luxembourg, 44 in Belgium, 53 in Denmark and 60 in Sweden.

    At 60 hours/week, the school is *clearly* providing daycare services whether explicitly or not. I get paid to think, and I am an adult and I can’t think hard for 10 hours/day 6 days/week. I doubt that Swedish 10-year-olds can either.

    -Mark Roulo

  2. Okay, I’m Korean and I love my country (recent acts of stupidity notwithstanding), but let’s not act as if Asia is a completely stellar model of education everywhere. The article conveniently neglects to mention that suicide is one of the highest causes of death for children in South Korea. It’s not unheard of for teens to kill themselves if they don’t measure up academically. I think the same is true for Japan. SK even has a curious saying re: studying for exams: “Sleep four hours and pass, sleep five hours and fail.” Perhaps American children do need to work harder, but I’m not sure we should be looking to a country that runs its children *that* ragged is very smart.

    My parents (who seemed like unreasonable hardasses to me as a kid — they had the audacity to make me to go SUMMER SCHOOL! *gasp*) left South Korea because they did not like the education system, and they thought the amount of stress that Korean society places on its children with respect to school was too much. And my parents do indeed care about academics; even now, they keep telling me to go on to grad school. 😛 But at some point, the other extreme becomes just as bad. American slackdom should not be encouraged, but neither should the South Korean GET-HIGH-GRADES-DANGIT-OR-ELSE-YOU’RE-A-MISERABLE FAILURE-dom.

  3. American students may be underworked, but this sloppy article in the Economist hasn’t shown that; all it’s done is picked and chosen statistics to support this argument.

    For example, it cites the fact that Germans go to school 20 days more than American students to show that American students are underworked. The article also points out that the 6.5 hours that American students are in school per day is shorter than that of some different countries. But it fails to point out that, for example, the German school day is only 5 hours long. 180×6.5=1170 US school hours; 200×5=1000 German school hours. Meaning that US students go to work 170 more hours than German students – which equals out to 26 US school days or 34 German school days.

    But this whole article is silly. FWIW, I think that American students are underworked, but because they are underchallenged, not because they aren’t spending enough time in school.

  4. Not in San Bernadino County, apparently…

    “Chino district’s error delays summer break by 34 school days for some students”

    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-summer16-2009jun16,0,2614495.story?track=mostemailedlink