5 Ways Today’s Ailing Education System Could Hurt Tomorrow’s Business World

Every three years, the Program for International Student Assessment (or PISA, for short) collects the results of tests administered to high school students from 65 countries around the globe. The results of the most recent assessment have just been made public, and for American students, the “grade” was hardly a good one. American high school students failed to place within the top 20 nations in thee of the most important categories: science, math and reading. That’s of course bad news in and of itself, as it shows there has been no improvement in our students’ abilities for many years, but it also bodes poorly for the generation tested once they reach adulthood and enter the workforce. If we can’t compete well in any educational category, how can we compete in the realms of business, economics, politics and the sciences?

5 The Skills Needed in Tomorrow’s World Are the Exact Ones American Students Lack

In the future, the vast majority of jobs will rely, at least to some extent, on technology. That holds true even for work such as farming, which integrates ever more complex systems such as GPS navigation and computer monitoring. Therefore the countries producing students with the best skills in mathematics and technology will be those that prosper the most across all fields, not just those jobs currently thought of as in the tech arena.

4 We Spend Far Too Much Money Per Student for Such Poor Results

On average, the annual cost of a public school education in the United States was $10,615 in 2012. In some states it was as low as $6,000 (Utah, for example) and in others it peaked near $18,000 (Washington, D.C.). That means that when averaged out, we spend nearly $130,000 tax dollars on a 12-year public education. And yet we still can’t break past #20 in any major educational categories. Some of the other countries studied spend less than half what we do and yet produce students with more aptitude in school and who are more prepared for the professional world ahead.

3 U.S. Math Skills in Particular Are Slipping

It would be bad enough if American high school students had simply failed to improve between the most recent PISA report and the last. Instead, though, the study of data from 2012 shows that American students are slipping when it comes to mathematics, arguably the most crucial educational field of the future. In 2009, U.S. high school students ranked 25th in math skills. This time around, they slipped all the way to 31st.

2 Poor Test Scores Today Might Mean Fewer Good Jobs Tomorrow

If the American educational system cannot find a way to improve the aptitude and performance of its students, the generation now floundering in the classroom will see itself searching in vain for good jobs tomorrow. Countries with the best scores in mathematics and sciences will be producing the most successful doctors, engineers and tech entrepreneurs of tomorrow, and companies will hire those most qualified regardless of nationality. For America to maintain its economic and technological primacy, we must first enhance our schools.

1 Our Competitors in the Economic and Political Worlds Are Currently the World’s Best Students

For many years, Finland was lauded as having the world’s best all-around educational system. Today, based on the results of the PISA survey, the top honors go to a handful of countries in Asia. And across all three major categories, reading, math and science, the clear winners are the Chinese. Using Shanghai as a snapshot for the rest of that vast nation, Chinese students handily outpaced global competition, and dominated American students.

Steven John is a published novelist and competitive pole vault champion. (The latter is not true.) His writing runs the gamut from speculative fiction to essays fueled by a mix of mirth and derision. He has never been to Lisbon but, statistically speaking, is probably taller than you.

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