U.S. education ranks in top half internationally

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By Ashly Riches

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It’s no secret that the United States is falling behind academically.

The Organization for Economic Co-opertation and Development (OECD) runs the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), a respected program that tests 15-year-olds across the globe in math, reading, and science.

The top ranking country in all three categories is China, followed by South Korea and Finland. The United States is ranked fourteenth in reading, twenty-fifth in math and seventeenth in science.

“I feel like this shows we have educational value, but we still need to improve our education system, so we can strive to be on top,” Kaitlynn Olivas, senior, said.

Attending school in China is mandatory for 6-14 year olds, guaranteeing nine years of education for every child. Government funding for schools is low, especially in rural areas, and funding for higher education is non-existent. Still, parents sacrifice monetarily to send their kids to school, as it is a prerequisite for doing well later in life.

Education in Korea is extensive, teaching students Korean, Chinese, English, algebra, geometry, science, social studies, Korean history, moral education and the fine arts. Higher education is extremely competitive and students rarely get vacation time. High school students sleep about three hours a day in order to get ahead of their peers. Like in China, those who fall behind are subject to reduced prospects for social and economic advancement.

“I feel like this intense competition is not developing them as people– you’re not a machine, everything is not work,” Aireyawna Youmans, senior, said.

Finnish children focus on life, that is, learning about empathy, self-realization, nature, and good habits. Day care, where they learn to socialize and make good decisions, is provided for free to every child. At age seven, children begin mandatory schooling. Students are not ranked, but students who excel and students who struggle are placed in classes together. Tuition is free, and both healthcare and lunch are provided.

“Finland makes sense; you don’t hear a lot of scandalous things about Finland, so they have a lot of time to focus on education,” Jacob Albarian, junior, said.

In the United States, schooling is operated mainly by state and then by school system, meaning that each school across the country has different methods of grading and different curricular standards. Each state decides its own standardized testing regime. Elementary schools usually teach basic math, basic science, basic English, music, art and physical education.

Upon leaving elementary school, students are given more independence, allowed to move between classes, and choose their own electives. Beginning in ninth grade, marks are included in the students’ transcript. Almost all U.S. high schools require three years of science, four years of math, four years of English, three years of social science, and one year of physical education. Advanced students may take honors, Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate classes.

“I think the current education system might be outdated,” Albarian said.

The United States’ test scores are falling behind those of other countries, according to the Program for International Student Assessment.

“America needs to spend more money on education and spend it more efficiently,” Ryan Everson, senior, said.