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U.S. Education vs. the World

The following info-graphic from USC Rossier Online shows an interesting comparison between educational spending and test performance of the U.S. and 12 other countries. It seems like throwing money at a problem is not always the road to success…


4 responses to “U.S. Education vs. the World

  1. Emily Fisher November 24, 2011 at 9:52 am

    It could also be the case that the US educates far more children and tests a much larger proportion of its students rather than a select few university-bound students. I believe Americans also tend to value individual creativity and thinking and in the past have put more energy into educating students to be able to think through a process, analyze, synthesize, and build an opinion rather than just churn out information. I don’t dispute that the US spends a lot on education with mediocre test results, but when I compare US educated friends with children I know who are products of the Korean, Russian, French and British school systems, I am not envious of their ability to recite facts. I want to throw Australia into the previous sentence, but I am genuinely impressed with parts of the Australian education system–the autonomy and responsibility teachers have for assessing their students’ growth, planning curriculum and instruction, and child-centered approach. I do think they could be a tiny bit more creative. I think where the US has gone wrong is the last decade or so of extreme focus on test scores and drilling information into students rather than committing to teach students how to think, read, wonder, and create. One of the things I like about the Finnish education system is the focus on play at early ages rather than putting small children in academic learning situations. On the other end of their school career, older students have more than one educational path to choose–academic or vocational. I’m sure the rigidity of the vocational system might have some drawbacks (Can students choose university if they followed a vocational path? Are they tracked at too young of an age?), but it would be nice for more US students to have the option.

    • @k_ferrell November 24, 2011 at 12:59 pm

      Fantastic points Emily! Thanks so much for your comments. I agree with you whole-heartedly about the Finnish system (and the other Scandinavian systems for that matter), and the fact that in the past, the US system valued artistic creativity as much as mathematical ability. I say in the past because when I taught in the California public school system, I was saddened to experience cuts in art, music, pe, etc. and more focus on standardized tests. I’ve been teaching internationally for more than 10 years now, and my hope is that this trend has reversed.
      I don’t think the info-graphic is purporting that one school system churns out better students than any of the others. Perhaps it does and I’m just seeing something different. In my view, it’s simply showing that when you compare standardized tests results and the amount of cash that is spent on an average student in said country, you don’t get a positive correlation.
      Could it be that there is just too much emphasis placed on standardized tests?

  2. VocabularySpellingCity Mayor May 25, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    Wow, for such pretty colorful graphics, I find this very hard to interpret. Here’s my thoughts.

    I’m ignoring the literacy line in the sense that 9 out of 12 of the countries are at 99% or above. It’s hard to derive meaning from that line except that Mexico, Brazil, and South Korea don’t spend that much and have relatively low literacy rates. The South Korea point is weird since they have great math & science results but still have a low 97.9% literacy rate. Maybe that’s just a statistical problem and should be ignored.

    Finland & Canada show that if you spend a lot, have a homogeneous population and implement well, you can do well in math and science. Congratulations.

    The US is the striking part of this story with the highest spending per student and very mediocre math and science results. This is always bad news to see, it’s not news at this point though.

    • Keith Ferrell May 25, 2011 at 7:04 pm

      Thanks for your thoughts, Vocabulary Spelling City Mayer. The main focus of the info-graphic in my mind is that the US is throwing a ton of money at education and hoping that something good will come out of it. Perhaps there is a need for more money in education, but if that’s the case, the US is putting it into the wrong places. The fact that other countries are spending significantly less and excelling, points out that money is not always the quintessential quick fix that we often hope for.

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