The United States is no stranger to bad global education rankings. Why can’t we just follow Finland’s model of education? They’re doing it right, right?
An FKD Feature exclusive

It’s easy to overlook where the United States actually is in their education efficiency, which isn’t a total disaster. Even still, it’s in dire need of improvement if we want to get back to leading the rest of the pack.

The United States, as of 2014, is ranked 14th globally in education, falling behind South Korea (first), Finland (fifth) and Russia (13th). These come from research done by Pearson, one of the leading education assessment and publishing services. The schools are calculated by looking at cognitive skills (testing) and attainment (literacy and graduation rates).

We Have to Be Doing Better Though

As a nation, the United States has actually been climbing the educational ropes, jumping from 17 in 2012 to 14 in 2014. Students are slowly growing academically in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) areas.

According to the results of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test taken in 2012 by 15-year-olds, the United States falls somewhere in the middle in both science (35 out of 64 countries) and math (27 out of 64). These scores and placements are different from the States’ national ranking because it focuses only on this PISA test, which looks at Science and Math, not literacy or graduation rates.

That’s a Whole Lot of Numbers…

Yes, the United States is doing better by those measures. The nation has pulled itself up three spots in two years, which is better than Finland’s drop from first to fifth. However, it’s important to understand that these are just numbers and it’s difficult to determine where nations need to improve based on them alone.

It’s true that the United States could look at what South Korea, Japan and Singapore are doing that we aren’t, but that’s not where the problem lies. There is a multitude of factors that go in to determining what makes an education system work in a nation, including government, taxes, public versus private education, and even the communities in which the schools reside.

Acts and grants like No Child Left Behind, Common Core States Standards and Race to the Top are the nation’s attempt at climbing the rungs of the educational ladder, but each has pros and cons that ultimately keep the United States floating somewhere in the middle.

Our Take

The United States is not South Korea or Singapore or Finland. What’s important in education is the students and what they gain through their schooling experience. Being ranked internationally is a bragging right, but it shouldn’t be what the United States is focused on nor what the students and their parents should be worried about.

With large differences across socio-economic levels and a slow (but steady!) increase in our rankings, the United States is far from horrible. But, yeah, we’re in need of some serious improvements across the board.

Next time, we’ll take a closer look at the similarities and differences of the United States and other countries.

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Posted 12.11.2015 - 04:45 pm EDT