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U.S. Students Lag behind Their International Counterparts In Skills

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Recent study findings released by Harvard’s Program on Education and Governance show that although over the last decade a great deal of everybody’s attention has been focused on improving academic achievements of U.S. students and increasing their interest in such STEM-related disciplines as mathematics and science, the results still come short of satisfactory.

American students cannot keep up with their peers from highly-developed countries. In recent years the U.S. public education system has undergone some major changes aimed at making it more efficient and competitive. We have seen charter schools and online K-12 schools, school choice initiatives and programs like NCLB, but according to the PEPG all of these have had very little effect on students’ academic outcomes so far.

The PEPG study shows that there is in fact very little interrelation between the amount of money spent on a student and the improvement he makes. That means it is not about money after all. Increasing funding and investing many more billions of dollars into different programs will not fix the problem.

The study indicates that the U.S. ranks in the middle with 24 countries outachieving and other 24 countries underachieving it. However, the thing is that even those countries which are currently doing worse tend to improve and recover their educational system twice or three times as fast as the U.S.

The Harvard researchers predict that if nothing changes any time soon, U.S. students will be unequipped to compete with their international peers, which in its turn will result in the U.S. being unable to prosper in the global economy.

The PEPG study calls current U.S. students’ results ‘unacceptably low’ and indicates strong correlation between the growth in the nation’s gross domestic product and students’ progress in mathematics. Thus, not paying enough attention to or neglecting math teaching can cause serious damage to the national economy.

The research paper also dispelled a theory that U.S. students’ academic underachievement results from their great social, racial and religious diversity. The study proved that although the U.S. tends to educate most of its school-age children, these figures are not more impressive than those in other 48 countries, which in fact have very little per cent of kids aged 8 to 15 who do not go to school at all.

Eric Hanushek, one of the study’s co-authors, believes that this situation resulted from the government’s unrealistic and poorly thought-out approach to the problem.  Setting grand goals and having no clear strategy for achieving them is the recipe of failure, he says.



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