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.

Tags: education

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Why would it not be proportionate?

I think on the whole that larger countries tend to have a larger proportion of poor people and, in the U.S. in particular, education funding is local, whereas I think in many other countries it is funded nationally. Poor people can't afford to fund their schools well and sometimes they place less emphasis on education than on flat out survival issues. This would drag that funding statistics down.

I'd have a hard time affirming or denying that. International poverty statistics seem to be often unreliable. It's difficult to frame it in the context of this topic as well. Japan seems to have similar poverty level as the United States, lower GDP per capita at PPP, lower Gini coefficient, ~1/3 the population (?), but higher ranking on the list in the OP. I haven't tried comparing others on the list.

I think you are wrong in this; most towns, counties, states and countries have their good and bad schools, it is probably the same all over the world.

Where I live there are private, faith, state funded grammar (selective), and state funded secondary schools.  The problems come from the types of children that attend those schools.

Private schools are very expensive and therefore exclusive, only the richest strata of the population send their children there. The teachers tend to be reasonably good, attracted by the pay.

Grammar schools are the best state schools but you have to pass an entrance exam.  Consequently the brightest and most motivated children go there and it is natural progression for most to go on to university.

Secondary and faith schools are where everyone else goes, the worst of which tend to be treated as free childcare for disinterested parents wanting their children out of the house.

It is ghettoised education, the more the parents want their children to do well the more support they give and the better the school they are prepared to fight for and travel to.

Motivated parents will also educate their children at home as well as school, reading to the young and doing fun educational stuff as they grow.  The disinterested and unintelligent parents will do none of that and leave all education to  the system and send them to whatever school that offers a place.

In short I believe education is mainly down to the parents attitude, but that is also affected by their education and intelligence.

Alan, you have at best a loose grip on education in the US (I realize you are UK). In the US, the quality of education is mostly based on affluence. In the poorest areas with their meager tax bases, the quality is very low. 

Blaming it on parents comes down, often, to blaming them for being poor or of a minority ehnicity. Such parents are often themselves very poorly educated or are drug or alcohol addicted. Those that do work often have to work two jobs or extra hours and, as I just said, with the time they do have left over can typically offer little help beyond the children's earliest grades.

As the kids get older, the parents lose influence over the children and they are drawn away from school and to the streets.

But back to what I first said: in the US it comes down to economics. Even with affluent parents, both of whom holding down jobs, they will typically still be involved in their childlren's education and where they can't be involved, they will do what it takes to take up the slack (after school programs, tutors, etc.). They will also reward their children for excelling in ways that the poor can't or don't.

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.

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.

That doesn't really seem all that unique though. Americans are decent at funding innovation, but is it really known as a country which drives it within its native populace at any extraordinary level?

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...


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