Other Countries Catching Up to U.S. in Education
A major international study shows that American high school graduation rates, for generations the highest in the world, have slipped below those of most industrialized countries.
The report, released in November 1998 by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Pads, which helps coordinate policy for 29 of the richest countries, suggests that the changing picture is less a matter of American backsliding than of substantial recent progress by other nations.
For example, in 1990, the average number of years an American 5-year-old was expected to attend high school or college was the world's highest, 16.3. In 1996, the latest year for which data was available, the American score was 16.8, but 11 other countries, including Canada, Spain and Finland, had surpassed that number.
In addition, the report found that the United States devoted a smaller percentage of its national income to teacher salaries than other countries. The United States remains on top in the percentage of students who enter college, but a pattern similar to high school graduation rates is emerging.
"Entry rates to college education in the U.S. are still the highest in the OECD but that is likely to change soon," said Andreas Schleicher, principal administrator at the OECD and one of the study's authors. "While enrollments in the United States remained relatively stable between 1990 and 1996, they increased by more than 25 percent in 16 OECD countries." He added that the United States also has one of the highest university dropout rates in the industrialized world-37 percent.
The report was the fifth such study issued by the organization since 1991. when it started examining educational trends in member countries. Schleicher said that in recent years the report has been one of the OECD's best-selling publications.
The report offers far more data than analysis, but it suggests that growing emphasis in other countries …