Infographic Of The Day: How Our Students Stack Up Against The World

We give them a solid C!

If you only judged by the alarmist newspaper headlines, you’d think American education was on the brink of a nuclear holocaust. But this infographic by Column Five Media offers a more nuanced (if still incomplete) picture.

The Pulse of Education Around The World, for the education materials company Course Hero, shows global educational trends, including how the United States measures up against similar countries. The big takeaway: Americans are, well, average. Compared with 15-year-olds in 33 other nations, students in the states rank 14th in reading, 17th in science, and 25th in math, according to 2010 data for the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a worldwide scholastic aptitude exam. Not great, but also not a nuclear holocaust.

Clouds seem to gather over the U.S., though, when you look at how education has developed around the world over time. Global access to schooling has doubled since 1970. Literacy rates are rising. Post-secondary school enrollment is on the upswing everywhere. Some of the biggest strides are being made in Asia and Latin America. For instance: Between 1999 and 2008, East Asia and the Pacific saw an outsize 140% spike in the number of women and an 87% increase in the number of men enrolled in college. The United States and Western Europe, on the other hand, saw bumps of just 27% (for women) and 19% (for men)—the smallest gain of any geographic region. One way to look at it: The world is getting smarter (or, at minimum, more educated) while America and Europe stay about the same.

The problem with that interpretation, though, is that these figures don’t tell us anything about the quality of the education. The coursework at one university might qualify as high school stuff somewhere else. And where great schools are concerned the United States still ranks above the rest, at least at the college level: It’s got the largest concentration (22%) of the top 400 universities in the world.

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  • WilliamJohnston

    The United States are more focused on these brainless test than on education
    teachers have to spend more time on these test than on teaching the 3r's.
    While waiting in line at the teachers credit union. I over heard three teachers complaining about the time involved in these test, bluntly, I asked them if the test were removed how much more time would they have for teaching, All three agreed that they would have almost twice as much time to teach the 3r's. there are no emphasis on education in today's schools , Our teachers are wasting their education and time to teach irrelevant test. we need to emphasize learning 
    in Science ,math, and the fundamentals than anything else.. We are teaching the leaders of the next centuries and we are failing.

  • David Swartwood

    I think the bigger problem when comparing percent increase is that if 90% of your population is already educated than the most you could possibly increase is ~11% while if only 4% of your population is educated than you can have 100% increase and only be educating 8% of your population. It makes the part comparing the change in education participation almost meaningless since it isn't showing the baseline.

  • Jimmy

    Being very patriotic here - good effort for Oz to have 12% of the top 400 colleges (for a country of only ~2o million)