In a recent Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) ranking, the U.S. fell in its math rankings from #34 to #36, while it went from not ranked in reading to #23, all in a 6 year time frame. Big “surprises” are China which wasn’t surveyed in 2006, but leads both categories along with other Asian countries like Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. Canada is ranked #12 in math (down from #7) and #8 in reading (down from #4) from 2006-2012. This survey is based off of testing 15 year olds on basic academic skills. One criticism that comes to mind, especially in countries like China, is that students only have to attend school for 9 years. So, families, especially those in rural areas, often elect not to continue educating their children after 15. This is a sample selection problem. In simple terms, the students tested by the PISA will only be the students whose families want to keep them in school, which usually includes the rich, smart, educated or those with highest educated earning potential. The students who aren’t as smart or have a smaller potential to earn more money by continuing education drop out and work in the family business or on a farm. Therefore, the PISA rankings are slightly bias because they only sample China’s best students. Now, a case can be made in other countries it is the same and I agree that it is true to some degree. In developed countries some states or provinces allow students to drop out also at 15 or 16, but high school drop out rates are small. (They are roughly 7% in the U.S.) So, although this assessment is an indication of where countries rank side-by-side there are some issues with devising policy upon it. Are there any other issues you see?
- U.S. High School Students Slide In Math, Reading, Science (npr.org)
- American Schools vs. the World: Expensive, Unequal, Bad at Math (theatlantic.com)