Why is education in the United States inferior to that of other industrialized countries?Why is education in the United States inferior to that of other industrialized countries?

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'm trying really hard to look past the tone of your question.  Let me just say that, from personal experience, the education system in the United States does SEEM inferior to other industrialized countries, ... and the reason is because we include EVERYONE!  We encourage ALL students equally, no matter what their class, race, gender, religion, or even intelligence level to give education their best shot in order to fulfill their dreams!

Personal story:  one of my best friends today is a German exchange student I had in my first year of teaching.  I'll never forget when she came up to me after class, her jaw dropping, ... saying that she absolutely ADORED the United States encouraging all of it's students to do their best and go after their dreams, but that it was so unnatural for her to understand that vastly "American" mentality.  She explained that, by the equivalent of fifth grade in Germany, students are separated into two classes of learners:  one class goes on to upper academia, the other does not.  Guess which set of students they test?  Uh huh.  (Granted, this was hearsay from a German high school student, but it sure made an impression on me!)  It makes a big difference when an entire segment of the population (granted, one that might even BE in the upper segment if appropriately encouraged) is left out of the equation.

Even in the inner city school setting where Nora attended, she saw the American Dream becoming a reality.  How awesome is THAT!?!

lhc eNotes educator| Certified Educator

American education has many problems, it's true, and I have no doubt that there are other industrialized nations that are doing things that we should probably be doing.  However, I think it's an overstatement to say that American education is inferior to education in other industrialized countries because there are plenty of industrialized countries we could be talking about; it would also depend on how such a thing would be measured.  Test scores?  Number of high school graduates?  College graduates?  Graduate school graduates?  That being said, I will offer one idea on why American education, on the surface, might look weaker than it is:  because we try to educate everyone, regardless of whether or not they want to be educated.  America's public schools struggle to reach every student, regardless of that student's willingness, interest, or intelligence level.  It sounds harsh, but it is true.  We don't write a student off when he or she is "not the brightest crayon in the box," nor do we write a student off when his or her behavior indicates that he or she is less than focused.  It would take hours to debate the problems in education related to this particular aspect of it; even just debating whether students who are discipline issues should be in school would take forever.  I believe lack of discipline in our schools is a serious issue, but I know many people believe that the undisciplined are the ones who need to be there the most. 

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
It's hard to prove that America's educational system actually is inferior to other industrialized countries. That argument is based on some faulty logic, including standardized tests. Test scores aren't everything. On the other hand, our system does have issues. Teacher training in this country is hit and miss. Some programs are excellent, but many are a joke. Once we get a teacher into the classroom, we throw her to the wolves. We give her the worst classroom (if she is lucky enough to get one at all, most likely she'll share with some grumpy teacher who resents the intrusion). We then give her remedial classes and all the worst behavior problems. We give her a limited number of substandard supplies and a salary that's not enough to live on because she has to spend so much of it on her class so that she can do her job. We give her no assistance throughout this process, but everything she does is scrutinized. Other teachers, parents, administrators and most of all students sill have no respect for her or faith in her abilities, because she is new and because she is a first year teacher. If she makes it to around March, she faces the high-stakes standardized tests and gets her layoff notice in the same month. If she makes it through the harrowing last months of the school year, she has to pack up her classroom and sit at home by the phone, waiting to see if she gets to do it all over again next year.
brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In short, it's not.  No truly accurate barometer exists for comparison of our educational system to others.  In the US, everyone is welcome to come to public school.  recent immigrant who does not yet speak English?  Welcome.  Physically disabled? Come on in.  Mentally challenged?  Have a learning disorder?  The door's open.  So compared to the Japanese, Korean or German systems where students are heavily tracked and only the most academically skilled attend secondary institutions, the numbers are skewed.  When you compare American Advanced Placement students to those of Europe, the difference vanishes.

Yet another way to look at it is that the United States is the largest, most diverse and powerful economy on the planet, even today, and the vast majority of its workers and citizens were educated where?  In the public school system.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is highly difficult and controversial to argue that one system of education is better or worse than another system of education. Whatever criteria you use to determine this is up for discussion and disagreement. Certainly we have to be very careful when considering such terms as "success" and "failure" in the context of education, where there is so much disagreement about the best and worst way of teaching. Certainly I don't believe that the education system in America is perfect, but that goes for every education system. For me who has taught in both the UK and the American education system, I think one benefit is the wide range of subjects that American students take until graduation, whereas in the UK you narrow the number of subjects you study at the age of 16.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

First of all, it is not clear that the US has an educational system that is inferior to those of other countries.  It is not completely clear how the quality of an educational system should be measured.

To the extent that the US system does lag behind others, I would argue that it is because the US system focuses less on learning hard facts and more on teaching people to be creative thinkers.  American students (compared to those elsewhere) are not required to do as much in the way of memorization of facts.  They are encouraged, instead, to become creative and to learn how to think.  This is good in many ways, but it can lead to the US falling behind other countries in test scores that measure simple knowledge.

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One thing is that in other countries, comprehensive examinations of both the written and verbal type are still administered. Another is that exams are graded within a collective framework, for instance, college papers are sent to a differenct for an external reading and marking (grading), which makes a necessity for uniform high level curriculum and instruction.

gjoyce | Student
Why is education in the United States inferior to that of other industrialized countries?

Why is education in the United States inferior to that of other industrialized countries?

There are many differences between how we educate our young in America and how other industralized countries educate their young. I can not in this environment discuss them all.  So I have chosen one which I believe is obvious: Scheduling

Americans have one of the shortest school years.  We  are open for education 180 days while schools in other industrialized countries  are open from 195 to  over 200 days.

Most of our out of school days, nearly 3 months,  are blocked to the summer.  This scheduling was designed when most Americans worked farms and industries that required intensive summer work from all able bodies in the family. There is no longer a need for this hugh block of "lost instruction."

Additionally, we have one of the shortest school days when compared to other industrialized countries.  Americans go to school for 6-12 to 7 hours a day.  A portion of this day is used for lunch, and other non-academic issues  Thus must Americans are getting getting less than 6 hours of instruction a day or less than 30 hours a week.   Children in many European and Asian countries receive more than 40 hours of school per week. Looking at these numbers it would appear that other countries are spending  almost twice as much time on an annual basis on instruction.