This Week's Herman Trend Alert

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  The Herman Trend Alert

December 19, 2012

US Playing Catch-Up in Education

Once again, the more-developed Asian nations including Hong Kong, South Korea, and Singapore led the ranking of international student achievement. Obviously, this result reflects a continuing strong commitment to elementary education.

As more nations have tightened their focus on education, various studies found achievement by international students has generally improved over the past decade. The top-performing Asian countries continue to hold their lead in math and science and gain ground in reading. According to Ina Mullis, a Boston College professor involved in the studies, "The improvement [in reading] reflects a focused effort both by parents to read more to their children in the home and official efforts to make school reading programs more rigorous".

The studies' top three scores in fourth-grade reading were earned by Hong Kong, Russia and Finland. In science, South Korea, Singapore, and Finland led the rankings, while Singapore, South Korea and Finland led in math.

The good news for the US is that it ranked sixth in fourth-grade reading, whereas Canada ranked 12th. The US ranked eleventh in science, and seventh in math; most of Canada did not participate in the science and math rankings. These scores represent progress in raising the rankings for the US.

This Boston College-sponsored report "Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study" evaluated 63 countries' performance in science and math; their "Progress in International Reading Literacy Study" evaluated 49 nations' performance in reading.

Morocco and several Middle Eastern nations scored lowest in the rankings of fourth-grade student performances in reading, science, and math, mirroring the challenges of their poverty and new educational systems.

"If you go back 30 or 40 years, many of these countries really did not have an educational system, with only a small group of people getting a decent education. When parents . . . are not literate, [there] is a big problem to overcome."

The top performing students were those children raised in homes where books were present, they regularly were read to, and saw others reading or engaged in math-related activities....

Country states need to value literacy and excelling in science and math, if they want their rankings to continue to get better. Countries that ignore these imperatives will suffer the consequences on the global stage.

It is interesting to note that while Chile participated in the latest studies, Brazil and Mexico did not.

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