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International Education Report
By Michael Hodges (email)
(updated 12/2007)

- a sub-section of the Grandfather Education Report -
- which is a chapter of the Grandfather Economic Reports -

Graduation Hat

GOAL: The best quality in the world, without any doubt !
and - without any excuses!!

This is a sub report of the Grandfather Education Report, a chapter within the Grandfather Economic Reports, a series of picture reports on various subjects showing difficult challenges facing the economic future of our young, compared to prior generations. Poor education quality is a major threat

Education Quality Compared to the World

  1. A better quality education than the children of other nations without any doubt, instead of poor performance where our 8th graders ranked below students in 27 other nations, and where our 12th graders came in near last on math & science? (one-third of our economy depends on trade - 3 times more than before - deficits at record levels - competition is accelerating).
  2. The highest quality education at the lowest cost per student reasonably attainable, instead of the lowest quality with the highest cost?

For some answers to these critical questions, read on


The Paris-based international Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, whose 1994 survey of the U.S. economy devoted an entire chapter to U.S. education, concluded that "the effectiveness of the primary and secondary education system can broadly be characterized as mediocre at best." The OECD analysts went on to observe, "While it is true that American schools do a particularly poor job of educating blacks and Hispanics, one should not conclude that white students in middle-class suburbs are uniformly well served. In mathematics and science, the nation's top high school students rank far behind much less elite samples of students in other countries."

Were you surprised with the release in December 2000 of the results of the newest International Math & Science Test Series showing U.S. 8th graders showed no improvement on the same test as our 8th graders scored on the prior series, when they scored behind 27 other nations ? The quality gap is real, compared to foreign nations today, and to prior generations at home.

International Evaluation of 21 Nations - 12th graders near last

On the new international math & science test series, the Associated Press reported "American high school 12th graders scored near the bottom of all nations - out performing only Cyprus and South Africa. A comparison of the high-school elite - those who took physics and advanced math - showed American tied for the bottom. William Schmidt of Michigan State University said, 'for sometime now, Americans have comforted themselves when confronted with such bad news about their education system by believing that our better students compare favorably with the better students in other nations - but, this test again bursts another myth.' There is no excuse for this', said President Clinton to the National Council of Jewish Woman. Asian students, which consistently outscore American students, were not included in this latest study. (for graphics comparing U.S. students to other nations. For graphics on this test series, see the International Education Evaluation Test Series Report)

taking advance examsA 1996 US News & World Report study showed that students in Japan, Germany & France:
  1. spend 100% more hours studying math, science and history than U.S. students.
  2. a full 50% of all students take advanced examinations, compared to but 6.6% in U.S.
  3. the left chart shows this equates to 500 per1,000 foreign students taking advanced exams vs. but 66 per 1,000 in the US.
  4. which means foreign schools are 8 times more intense in pushing for measurable quality at advanced levels of learning

See Chapter on Education Documents - link #6 'Education Around the World'

passing exams Not only do more foreign students take advanced exams, but the same data shows:
  1. their passing rate is 8 times higher than U.S. (33% vs. 4%).
  2. the left chart shows that a foreign school of 1,000 students produces 165 advanced exam graduates vs. only 3 advanced graduates in the same size U.S. school.
  3. this equates to foreign schools having a success rate 57 times higher than U.S. schools for advanced examinations.
  4. the contrast paints a terrible picture for U.S. successful competition in a global economy. (Its as if our football team has 3 good players vs. the competition with 165 good players)

Shouldn't our system demand a higher level of advanced graduates, including math & science scores, than all other nations? Does the school system report to parents how each of their children is performing compared to foreign students of the same age? NO!! Why not?? If parents knew they would demand major changes.

It may be concluded from the above evidence that foreign schools compared to U.S.:
  1. require 100% more hours studying math & science.
  2. require 800% more students to take advance examinations.
  3. produce 5,400% more advanced exam graduates.
  4. and, other data shows they spend a smaller percentage of their economy on education.
SUMMARY: A picture emerges of a very dangerous deal for U.S. students and the future of the U.S. economy concerning foreign trade balance of payments, standards of living and national security. (one-third of our economy depends on trade - 3 times more than before - competition is accelerating - and, trade deficits are largest in history - see the Foreign Trade Report link at bottom of page). We MUST have the best quality in the world, without ANY doubt !


Math 13 yr-olds International The left chart shows the low U.S. position (the red bar) in international math tests of 13 year-olds relative to other nations.

Note that not only is the U.S. at the bottom of this list, but the list does not include Germany, Japan, Holland, or Austria, some of the strongest math education systems in the world.

Note at the left the height of the bar on China, relative to U.S. China is expected to be one of the fastest growing economies, already causing massive trade deficits in the U.S. - - and their attention to educating their students is shown here. Further, the largest number of foreign students studying in the U.S. for advanced degrees in science and math come from China. A challenge to our education system, without a doubt.

The nations that took the test and are not shown are such 3rd world nations as from Africa.

Update > This test was taken again, and its report of December 2000 showed no improvement for our more recent 8th graders over the above scores. In that series the USA ranked #18, but again many important nations such as France, Switzerland and China, which took the 1995 test, did not participate in the new one - nor did industrial power house Germany. However, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Belgium, Holland, Czech Republic and Australia, which did not particpate in the above 1995 test did particpate in the new test - - and each of them well out-scored the USA in the latest test. Malaysia also out-scored the USA.

[*updated international test series periodically released - still pessimistic]

Science 13 yr-olds International The next left chart shows the same as above, except in international science tests - - with the same relative results.

Absent from the list of nations that did not participate in this particular series of science tests are such education power houses as Germany, Japan, Soviet Union, Holland and Austria.

Shouldn't the U.S. strive to be the best?

Wouldn't each student like to know where he or she stands vs. foreign friends?

Update - - in the latest 2000 8th grade science test the USA did not perform better. However, as discussed above for the Math test, some important nations that did not take the test in 1995 did so in 2000 and each outscored the USA. [*updated international test series for 15 year olds in 2006]

The U.S. spends more per student than any other G-7 nation, yet in 1991 our 13-year-olds came in last on science and math achievement tests given to virtually all students in those countries. E. Rubenstein - National Review [*raw data not yet available for evaluation of a newer evaluation. - see Powerful Documents below]

The 1996 Education Edition of the Organization for Economic Development (OECD) showed the relative performance of U.S. 8th graders continues to lag the other nations, yet the College Report shows most universities lowering admission and class standards to meet the lower output quality of high schools. Some are even dropping the SAT.


Shouldn't every single school board annually demand that each of their students take math & science (and also in history & geography) exams of the same type given to the same age group by such nations as Germany & Japan, for example, and communicate the findings to each student and his/her parents? Parents should demand said results or seek alternative schools.

Industry has learned long ago that it must regularly test its products vs. that of its foreign & domestic competitors. Should we require less of our public schools because we expect our young generation will face less international competition than prior generations?

Department of Education's International Assessment (1995 Digest of Education Statistics)*:
1.American 9 and 13 year old students are near the bottom of a long list of nations in math and science testing.

2.U.S. scores were below ALL industrialized nations, even below Spain, Hungary and China. The only nations we beat were such as Jordan and Mozambique.

3.Our per student spending is the highest in the world ('95 Digest), even after massive devaluations of our currency relative to most industrial nations.

4.Since such data is from an organization charged with education quality, it is doubtful this pessimistic view of relative U.S. education quality is over-stated.

*newer report being released. For summary go to link to 'references' at bottom of page


(U.S. COSTS 50%-300% more)

per student costs vs. foreignThe left chart shows 1992 public spending per student for the U.S. vs. other nations, for primary and secondary schooling.

Combining primary & secondary spending, U.S. spending per student is 45%-67% higher than the most advanced international competitors.

This data is direct from table #404 of the Digest of Education Statistics of 1995, per international assessment data - and does not take into account claims by others that U.S. figures exclude some spending areas..

Data is at the 1992 exchange rates.

spending adjusted exchange rates SPENDING 2-3 TIMES HIGHER if exchange rate effects removed.

This is about the same excess as seen in comparing to various U.S. private schools.

(In this chart 1992 foreign spending per student is adjusted to 1969 exchange rates - - to take out the decline of the U.S. dollar in foreign exchange, which inflates the dollar value of foreign spending - having nothing to do with school spending in those countries.)

average days in school The chart at left shows students of other nations have 22-35% more school days per year than U.S.

Additionally, some nations (like Germany) require 13 years for a high school diploma vs. 12 years in the U.S.

Not only do more days in school potentially assist their higher quality output, but it is done at LESS cost per student - - as seen on the preceding charts.

SUMMARY: U.S. spending per student is between 50% higher and 2-3 times higher than these nations despite fewer class days than others, yet our comparative test scores in math & science are lower.

The Report on Concentration and Centralization of Power ( shows that while U.S. public schools have moved to larger and larger school districts, which in the past 4 decades have reduce potential local parent influence on education by 93%, the new European Union's Maastricht Treaty explicitly calls for new ways to involve parents in controlling local education.


(Note: the following sections report relative intensity of foreign nations in higher education for math, science and engineering compared to the U.S. Other information suggests that approximately half the student degrees from U.S. schools are made up of visiting foreign students, and if their quantity were removed from U.S. data then the differences are even more dramatic. This is NOT a foreigner-bashing exercise; in fact higher qualified foreign students in our universities probably enhance the quality of said education. The purpose of these charts is just to show data.)

Science, Math & Engineering Undergraduate Degrees vs. Other Nations

- other nations more intense in developing technical talent -

undergraduate science This chart compares the U.S. (the red bar) with 17 other nations - percent undergraduate degrees awarded combined in science, math & engineering, including computer science.

It shows that most other nations are much more serious about producing a larger percentage of graduates in the disciplines that determine future technology - (pharmaceuticals, medicines, chemicals, materials, and high tech products.

Strong economic nations such as Germany & Japan are producing at twice the U.S. rate.

What does this mean concerning our nation's future relative standard of living and national security?

enineeringThe left data table compares the U.S. (red bar) to these nations only in engineering.

The results above continue in this very important discipline of engineering, often described as that which takes research and converts it to products.

Often the nation of engineers also controls the means and source of product production and delivery - and therefore the location of jobs, and their pay levels.

What does this say about the challenge to our next generation?

2004 - China emerging technical power > China, not shown in this chart, "is likely to become a major center of global technological innovation, as it joins Japan as a scientific and technological power. The United States graduates about 60,000 engineers each year; Japan 70,000. China is now graduating about 325,000 engineers annually." Ambassador C.W.Freeman, Jr. April 23, 2004

Graduate Degrees in Science, Math & Engineering

- relative intensity of developing tomorrow's technical research favors other nations -

science grad school This chart shows the next higher level of education: percent graduate school degrees awarded in the combo category of science, math and engineering.

Note: the U.S. is on the bottom of this listing, while many others are out producing by 100%.

This category is often the source for tomorrow's research leaders.

Often the nation producing the research, and who also controls product engineering, has a tremendous competitive advantage over competition - - their citizens gain in value added and resultant standard of living.

This category also has implications for future professorship and research jobs - and the percentage of future technology development by U.S. citizens vs. foreign nationals, compared to past generations.

Also, are there any national security issues here RE the future?

Additional shocking news >


These 3 charts may be overstating the U.S. performance if, as suspected, the U.S. data includes non-citizen foreign students - - which according to several testimonies represent 50% or more of our totals in these disciplines. If so, for a more fair comparison, the U.S. ratios in the charts should be lowered by said students, and the foreign totals increased - - further widening the U.S. gap.

According to the National Science Foundation, enrollment of science and engineering graduate students declined 1993-98, but in 1999 showed a minor up-tick in foreign grad students on temporary visas while the numbers for U.S. citizens declined again. Foreign students on temporary visas are less likely to stay in the U.S. and contribute to the economy. Source: Business Week, March 5, 2001, pg. 30.

So - - the technical 'brain drain' in the U.S. continues - - a most unhealthy trend.

And, a question arises as to why universities are using grant money for non-citizens. Is it because so few qualified citizens apply, or - - - ??

Further, we have reports that foreign students on average may be better prepared for the university experience in math & science than are their U.S. citizen counterparts, especially at graduate levels.

The point here is not to jump to conclusions of meaning, but to post the data and questions.



Should we evaluate this information, or ignore it?

Why are our secondary schools not requiring competitive examinations for all students in math & science of the same type exams at same age groups as major foreign competitors, and providing results to parents - so at least we know the relative position by age group?

(Not to compare regularly to ones competitors has been the down-fall of many businesses. Our students and their parents deserve to know where they stand, as they will face global competition of a breadth never witnessed by prior generations - - and, they must be the best prepared of all if we want this generation to be successful and enjoy great living standards and national security.)


Competition can help reform our schools


"It is time to stop fooling ourselves about government schools. They are not doing the job the taxpayers are paying for and are unlikely to improve unless education follows the example of business and engages in competition.

With competition, the bad (schools) would change and the good ones would get even better. There's no such thing as outcome-based competition to make sure nobody's feelings get hurt. The real world is not a padded romper room at McDonald's." R. Lutz, President Chrysler Corporation [a link at bottom this page takes you to this powerful report]


RECOMMENDED: read a summary of the latest international study by DOE (see the International Education Evaluation Test Series Report). Also, see our growing dependence on the global economy with poor performance (as shown in the Foreign Trade Report)

Exchange information via E-mail to Michael Hodges

Constructive input and links are welcome



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