Seeing the United States Education System through the Prism of International Comparisons

By Schleicher, Andreas | Middle School Journal, May 2009 | Go to article overview

Seeing the United States Education System through the Prism of International Comparisons


Schleicher, Andreas, Middle School Journal


The world is rapidly changing, and the challenges to individuals and societies imposed by globalization and modernization are widely acknowledged. Increasingly diverse and interconnected populations, rapid technological change in the workplace and in everyday life, and the instantaneous availability of vast amounts of information represent but a few of these new demands. In this globalized world, individuals and countries that invest heavily in education increasingly benefit socially and economically from that choice. Among the 30 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries with the largest expansion of college education over the last decades, most still see rising earnings differentials for college graduates, suggesting that an increase in knowledge workers does not necessarily lead to a decrease in their pay, as is the case for low-skilled workers. In addition to education, another factor in the globalization process is technological development, but this, too, depends on education, not just because tomorrow's knowledge workers and innovators require high levels of education, but also because a highly educated workforce is a pre- requisite for adopting and absorbing new technologies and increasing productivity. Together, learned skills and technology have flattened the world such that all work that can be digitized, automated, and outsourced can now be done by the most effective and competitive individuals, enterprises, or countries, wherever they are. The current economic downturn is likely to reinforce the impact skills will have on the economic and social outcomes of education for individuals.

The United States is losing its educational advantage

To date, no country has been able to capitalize on the opportunities this "flat world" provides more than the United States, which can draw on the most highly educated labor force among the principal industrialized nations, at least when measured in terms of formal qualifications. However, this advantage is largely a result of the "first-mover advantage," which the United States gained after Word War II by massively increasing school enrollments. That advantage is now eroding quickly as more and more countries reach and surpass U.S. qualification levels. In fact, many countries are now close to ensuring that nearly all young adults complete at least a high school education, which the OECD indicators highlight as the baseline qualification for reasonable earnings and employment prospects. Over time, this will translate into better workforce qualifications in these countries.

In contrast, the United States stood still on this measure, and among OECD countries, only New Zealand, Spain, Turkey, and Mexico now have lower high school completion rates than the United States. Even when including qualifications such as the GED (variously refers to "Graduate Equivalent Degree," "General Equivalency Diploma" or "General Education (al) Diploma,") that people can acquire later in life to make up for unsuccessful school completion, the United States has slipped from rank 1 among OECD countries for adults born in the 1940s to rank 12 for those born in the 1970s. Again, that is not because completion rates in the United States declined, but because they have risen so much faster in many other countries.

Two generations ago, South Korea had the economic output of Afghanistan today and was at rank 24 in terms of educational output among today's OECD countries. Today it is the top performer in terms of the proportion of school graduates, with 96% of an age cohort obtaining a high school diploma, compared with 75% in the United States. Similar trends are visible in college education, in which the United States slipped between 1995 and 2005 from rank 2 to rank 14 - again, not because United States college graduation rates declined, but because they rose so much faster in many other OECD countries. U.S. graduate output is particularly low in science. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Seeing the United States Education System through the Prism of International Comparisons
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.