Education advocates point to a recent spate of test scores that show the United States falling behind other nations. But what's the real story?
Most of the latest test-score coverage focused on the sky-high Shanghai results. But those numbers don't say much about Chinese education system overall. Shanghai is a talent magnet that's showered with government spending. It just doesn't represent the whole country. Therefore, we shouldn't panic about international comparisons. A new Brookings Institution report shows that the United States ranked 11th out of 12 countries when the first international math tests were given way back in the 1960s. Further, the recent scores show that the U.S. actually improved modestly in test scores.
Ben Wildavsky's article on the myths and realities of global education in the new issue of Foreign Policy put it this way “We do have a smaller piece of the educational pie, but the pie has gotten much bigger. And that's good. We shouldn't fear that other countries' educational gains come at our expense. Knowledge crosses borders and benefits everyone. Yes, we must improve. But we're all better off in a better-educated world”.