What does Belgium have that the United States does not?

It has 16th place in a list of best-educated countries. The United States is in 17th place. Here is the list starting with Finland, the best-educated country in the world:

South Korea
Hong Kong
New Zealand

So, my question for you is why can't the richest country in the world come in ahead of Belgium, Poland, and Canada?

One man thinks he knows...

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant suggested on Tuesday that a decline in American education was precipitated by the mass entry of mothers into the work place.

Bryant's remarks, which came during a Washington Post event, immediately stirred controversy amid a recent broad discussion over women's roles as family "breadwinners."

At the Washington Post event, Bryant was asked why he thought the country's educational state had gotten "so mediocre."

"I'm going to get in trouble. You want me to tell the truth? You know, I think both parents started working," Bryant said. "The mom is in the work place."

According to the Post, Bryant immediately tried to clarify his remarks, saying that "both parents are so pressured" in modern family situations. (source)

Now, it's hard to talk about this subject without women getting their backs up because they know that a lot of people are happy to blame one more bad thing on the improvement of the lot of women over recent decades. I heard one female commentator say that Finland has an even higher proportion of families with two employed parents and yet they have a better educated populace than the United States. I wonder, however, how many Finlandish families have latchkey children? Perhaps Finnish children do not leave school for an empty home but instead have some sort of free childcare for the younger children and perhaps activities for the older children.

Anyway, on what do YOU blame the poor performance of American schools.

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I noticed that many of those countries don't have near (the closest being japan who still has less than half) as many people as the US and have rather homogenous populations. I do wonder how our large population and our great diversity of culture in America plays into our success in education. Considering that the US has a population larger than all but two countries in the world and that only the other 7 of the top 8 most populous countries have larger than half of the population of the US and considering we spend an equivalent amount of GDP and similar levels of per capita spending on education, I think it's safe to say that the US is doing really well as far as education goes at the global level.

Most of the countries in the top 20 spend between 5-6% of GDP on education except notably Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore who spend less than 4 (Russia was close at 4.1%). I also figured out per capita spending just to see the comparison. Japan has the most cost-effective education in the top ten and Switzerland the least by a wide margin. Although, I should note that Russia spends about $720 per student and has a population slightly larger than Japan.

Finland: 5.266 million, 93.4% Fin, 6.8% of GDP spent on education, $2558.07 per capita on education

South Korea: 49.955 million, "homogenous" population, 5.1% of GDP spent on education, $1644.70 per capita on education

Hong Kong: 7.182 million, 93.6% Chinese, 3.4% of GDP spent on education, $1721.77 per capita on education

Japan: 127.253 million, 98.5% Japanese, 3.8% of GDP spent on education, $1351.25 per capita on education

Singapore: 5.460 million, 76.8% Chinese, 13.9% Malay, 7.9% India, 3.3% of GDP spent on education, $1964.89 per capita on education

UK: 63.395 million, 83.6% English, 8.6% Scottish, 4.9% Welsh, 5.6% of GDP spent on education, $2052.02 per capita on education

Netherlands: 16.805 million, 80.7% Dutch, 5% EU, 4.8% Other, 5.9% of GDP spent on education, $2490.96 per capita on education

New Zealand: 4.365 million, European 56.8%, Asian 8%, Maori 7.4%, Pacific islander 4.6%, mixed 9.7%, other 13.5%, 7.2% of GDP spent on education, $2119.59 per capita on education

Switzerland: 7.996 million, German 65%, French 18%, Italian 10%, 11.5% of GDP spent on education, $5212.11 per capita on education

Canada: 34.568 million, British Isles origin 28%, French origin 23%, other European 15%, Other 6%, mixed background 26%, 5% of GDP spent on education, $2091.53 per capita on education


US: 316.668 million, 64.86% white, 15.1% Hispanic, 12.85% black, 4.43% Asian, 5.4% of GDP spent on education, $2670.43 per capita on education


"US: 316.668 million, 64.86% white, 15.1% Hispanic, 12.85% black, 4.43% Asian, 5.4% of GDP spent on education, $2670.43 per capita on education"

This is NOT an accurate number.  The actual amount of dollars spent per child differs greatly between the 14,000 school districts, some districts are very poor, some are very rich. The inequities can be quit large.

One of the European countries (I forget which one) allots the monies to the child (each child allotted the same amount), the schools are all private corps, when the child moves from a school the money follows the child.  The parents are the ones who select the school, so the better the school performs the more parents they attract.  Performance drives the system not politics.

It's an average, and really, I should have used the population of school age children rather than total population, which I just realized this morning. That's likely why Japan's number are heavily skewed since they have a more rectangular age demographic vs. a more triangular one of other countries.

The one thing that the information points out is that more money spent doesn't necessarily equate a great education. There's no denying it helps. After all, it's hard to teach kids to read and write if they don't have things to read or things to write with, but regardless of whether it's a correct number, investing lots money in education doesn't have a significant effect after a certain point.

From the BBC:

"Looking at education systems that succeed, the study concludes that spending is important, but not as much as having a culture that is supportive of learning.

It says that spending is easier to measure, but the more complex impact of a society's attitude to education can make a big difference.

The success of Asian countries in these rankings reflects the high value attached to education and the expectations of parents. This can continue to be a factor when families migrate to other countries, says the report accompanying the rankings.

Looking at the two top countries - Finland and South Korea - the report says that there are many big differences, but the common factor is a shared social belief in the importance of education and its "underlying moral purpose"."

Apparently, this is what we are lacking. That shared social belief is kind of what I was getting to with the homogenous populations. A homogenous population is likely to have a homogenous culture that may be focused towards getting a good education.

Children are born with innate curiosity, and structured school regimens strip most of that curiosity and creativity away in their early years.

This seems to contradict your second item, criticizing a decreased focus on the three Rs. It also contradicts the Asian model of very rigid rote learning, and Japan is still ahead of us, so it's not holding them back.

But I agree with this nevertheless. I think our unique advantage is our creativity and environment of innovation here in the US, despite the lower quality of our schools.

And why did mothers HAVE to join the workforce?

Many families who claim they need a second income leave unstated that it's not to survive but to maintain the kind of affluent lifestyle they prefer to have. They could certainly live on less income very easily. They could move to a part of town/suburb where property values are lower. They could convert a large part of their yard into a vegetable garden. They could raise chickens for eggs and meat. They could eschew cable TV and the Internet and have dumbphones instead of smartphones. They could get by with one car instead of two or use public transportation.

And so on...

But Father Knows Best didn't have to raise chickens to maintain a modern lifestyle with the same amenities all his neighbors enjoyed. I don't think it's a moral failing of ours to aspire to a modestly higher standard of living. Rather, it's a tragedy that a single income would require all those cutbacks you mention—basically becoming an urban farmer with limited communication with the wider community. I'd hardly call TV and internet access "affluence".

What will be those future jobs that aren't already performed by robots?

Engineering, science, innovation.... basically all the smart jobs that robots aren't smart enough to handle.

I'd hardly call TV and internet access "affluence"

Internet I agree, but cable/satellite TV? Maybe it's different in the US but here in Australia it is about $80 a month and you still have to pay extra for decent access to movies and extras channels. If that's not affluence, I don't know what is.

It might be affluence compared to much of the world, but it's nothing like a new car or SUV payment. It's not "bling". It's far cheaper than my monthly bill for two smartphones. It's many low-income families' only form of regular entertainment. It might be financially smarter to forego cable, but I don't know too many who would argue that it's an extravagant expense.

Who in the U.S. could call themselves affluent if they couldn't afford TV and Internet?

Anyway, the point (which you missed apparently) is that one could live much less expensively by giving up a lot of the conveniences most of us have grown used to.

Come on, I didn't miss your point. I'm questioning it's relevance. Why would most people choose that kind of a lifestyle just so they could get by on one income? That's not returning to an idyllic Father Knows Best past, it's going back to the 19th century. It just seems like the opposite of progress.

TV/Internet are necessary but not sufficient for affluence.


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