Is the American education system producing talent that can carry the U.S. forward in a competitive global economy? With a 77 percent high school graduation rate, the U.S. is ranked 22nd of 28 nations with measurable data by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Among 18 countries analyzed for post-secondary education, the U.S. tied for last. On the other hand, students in Asia are far outperforming American students, especially in the areas of math and science. According to Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan composed the top five in math among fourth- and eighth-graders.
A recent article in USA Today highlighted the fact the difference is not in the curriculum but rather in the culture. From a very young age, children in Asian countries are indoctrinated with the idea that education is the most critical pathway to success. Children feel tremendous pressure to preform academically and approach their education with a purpose. Parents are extremely invested and involved in their child’s education. Whereas previous options were to work in factories or farms, new centers for finance, technology and energy have created a future for today’s students. This notion, coupled with the fact that government subsidies make a college education affordable at many Asian universities have been significant drivers for Asian academic success.
In light of the fact that the U.S. spends more money per student than any other country, it seems counterintuitive that the U.S. is falling behind in educational system rankings. President Obama has said that America must “out-educate” other countries in order to continue to thrive economically. Perhaps an accompanying shift in the culture surrounding the U.S. education system is necessary as well.