Two reports released by the Department of Education on Tuesday, Dec. 11 showed that American fourth- and eighth-grade students still lag globally in math and science. The United States ranked 11th and 7th in fourth-grade math and science, respectively, and 9th and 10th in eighth-grade math and science.
This comes after what feels like an eternity of debate on education in the United States, during which nothing was clear. Well, something is clear now — what we’ve been doing has been failing. We’re falling behind countries like South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan, which placed first in the reports in both math and science.
Worse yet, the amount of American students who understand math and science at an advanced level pales in comparison to students elsewhere. Only 7 percent of American students reached an advanced level of understanding in eighth-grade math, compared to 48 percent in Singapore and 47 percent in South Korea.
The failures of our education system aren’t limited to only science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. The United States only ranked sixth in reading performance, falling behind countries like Hong Kong and Russia.
It’s clear that our education system needs to be changed, but we have to be careful with how we change it. We can’t be rash, we shouldn’t move haphazardly, and we shouldn’t expect results right away — teaching kids takes time, after all.
We have to start early, and we can’t just only focus on STEM education — we also need to focus on humanities and arts programs that have been decimated over the past few years, because the key to success isn’t math or science, it’s thinking.
Our kids each deserve enough individual attention in their youth, so they can build a strong foundation to learn. They deserve well-trained teachers like those in Finland who are ready for unexpected challenges. They need input from their parents, because learning doesn’t take place only at school.
There’s been a lot of action in education lately, and there will be more to come. Let’s just make sure it’s the right kind of action. (end)