America’s Educational Standing in the World

10.06.17 REECH Foundation

How do American students compare with their companions around the globe? Recently published data from international forum on math and science assessments reveals that U.S. students continue to rank around the center of the pack, and behind several other advanced industrial countries.

PISA Ranking

One of the greatest cross-national tests is the program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which every three years measures reading ability, math and science education and other key skills among 15-year-olds in hundreds of developed and developing countries around the world. The most recent PISA results, from 2015, placed the U.S. an unimpressive 38th out of 71 countries in math and 24th position in science. Among the 35 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which sponsors and support the PISA activity, the U.S. ranked 19th in science and 30th in math.

Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study

Younger American students fare somewhat better results on a similar cross-national assessment, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study. That research, known as TIMSS, has tested students in four and eight grades every four years since 1995. In the most recent tests in the past, from 2015, 10 countries (out of 48 total) had statistically better and higher average fourth-grade math scores than the America, while seven other countries had higher average science scores. In the eighth-grade tests, seven out of 37 countries had statistically higher average math scores than the U.S., and seven had higher science scores.

Downfall in STEM

America has fallen far from its position as a leader in math and science. These outcomes likely won’t surprise too many individuals. In a recent research, only 29% of Americans rated their country’s K-12 education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (known as STEM) as above average or the best in the world. Scientists were even more critical: A companion survey of members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science found that just 16% called America’s K-12 STEM education the best or above average; 46%, on the other hand, said K-12 STEM in the U.S. was below average.

Innovative Countries and STEM

According to the World Economic Forum, STEM has been considered as a pretty big deal in China’s flourishing universities. In 2013, 40 percent of Chinese graduates completed their degree in STEM, over twice the share in American third level educational institutions.

STEM graduates have become an important cog in the wheel of global progress and unsurprisingly, China is on the top of the list and leading the way. The World Economic Forum’s research indicated that China had 4.7 million recent STEM graduates in 2016. India, another academic powerhouse, had 2.6 million new STEM graduates last year while the U.S. had only 568,000 graduates in STEM. Russian and Japan also stands at distinguish positions in this race.

Rest of the World Is Catching Up

India and Brazil are increasing their STEM enrollments at higher speed, as local companies operating in capital-intensive sectors become world leaders and need experienced and skilled workers. Accenture predicts that Brazil will increase its STEM graduates by 68% by 2016 and will bring more PhD engineers in the market than the US by 2017.

The race around the globe for STEM skills might become more competitive in the nearest future, as several countries in Africa and Asia are also planning to reverse the brain drain by imposing thresholds on outbound mobility and by providing incentives to foreign-educated graduates to return home. These graduates are seen to be particularly entrepreneurial. In 2014, some 30-40% of start-ups in Bangalore and Beijing were set up by STEM graduates of US universities.