One of the challenging paradoxes during the past several decades is that American teenagers have consistently performed below average on international tests in math and sciences, and not especially well on reading tests, yet the American economy is more productive than any other.One reason he gives is that the education system in the United States builds up and gets harder as you move up each level, culminating with university, while in some other countries, elementary and secondary school is harder and college is seen as a "break" or a reward for doing all of the work in the first place. I can attest to this phenomenon from observing schools and talking to students in Japan. Another interesting reason he gives that I can relate to as a teacher is that:
American schools are less oriented toward rote teaching than are schools in many other countries, and they are more oriented toward giving students practice in thinking through issues and expressing themselves in discussions.Economist Arnold Kling boils the argument down to two propositions:
Which explanation do you find most convincing? Any other explanations that may be useful?
(1) International tests fail to measure the superior aspects of the U.S. education system.
(2) Education is not such an important factor in comparative economic performance.
I lean toward (2). It's better to have strong entrepreneurialism and mediocre education than the other way around.