U.S. Schooling Falls Back in Global Ratings

Ben Feller, AP, Sept. 14

WASHINGTON—The United States is losing ground in education, as peers across the globe zoom by with bigger gains in student achievement and school graduations, a study shows.

Among adults ages 25 to 34, the United States is ninth among industrialized nations in the share of its population that has at least a high-school degree. In the same age group, the United States ranks seventh, with Belgium, in the share of people who hold a college degree.

By both measures, the United States was first in the world as recently as 20 years ago, said Barry McGaw, director of education for the Paris-based Organization for Cooperation and Development. The 30-nation organization develops the yearly rankings as a way for countries to evaluate their education systems and determine whether to change their policies.

McGaw said that the United States remains atop the “knowledge economy,” which uses information to produce economic benefits. But, he said, “education’s contribution to that economy is weakening, and you ought to be worrying.”

The report, released yesterday, bases its conclusions about achievement mainly on international test scores released last December. They show that compared with their peers in Europe, Asia and elsewhere, 15-year-olds in the United States are below average in applying math skills to real-life tasks.

Top performers included Finland, South Korea, the Netherlands, Japan, Canada and Belgium.

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In all levels of education, the United States spends $11,152 per student. That’s the second highest amount, behind the $11,334 spent by Switzerland.

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