Furthest Right

A teachable moment

The Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program at USC produced this interesting infographic:

The US spends the most of any of these nations on education, and comes in ninth in science and tenth in math test scores.

The UK, the next biggest spender, trails right behind.

Who tops those scores? South Korea, Finland, Canada, Japan, Australia, Germany.

Each of those spends less than the US.

What’s the difference? I nominate a few factors:

  • A culture of pity. Here in the US, we view ourselves as successful when we spend 75% of our education dollars on at-risk kids, who have the lowest success rates of any group.
  • Diversity. Diversity causes instability and incompatibility. The result shows in the educational scores and the resulting costs. Other diverse nations — Brazil, Mexico, and Russia — actually clustered with the USA on the results.
  • Politicization. The US school system measures its success through a complex matrix including help for the poor, egalitarian teaching, amount of athletic fields, and other things entirely unrelated to learning.

If we take a lesson away from this chart: the most homogenous nations with the most “nerdly” (focus on hard learning) triumphed, while here in the US we spend up to twice as much per pupil for results we’d expect from a wealthier version of Brazil, Mexico or Russia.

Fifty years ago, we would have clustered in with Japan, Finland, South Korea and Germany.

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