Amazingly under-performing when you take into account the supposed wealth of this country. But it’s not easy to notice when you have to wade through a bunch of numbers. Let’s make it clear by looking at the data in two different ways. We’re evaluating educational quality in comparison to the size and wealth of a country’s economy. One would expect that the more money a country has, the better education its children would receive.
The graph below has the most recent OECD country PISA scores, which are 2015, compared to the per capita GDP for the same countries in 2015. [The PISA scores shown are the average of Reading, Science, and Mathematics.] The GDP data looks like this, with the U.S. framed in red; the 5th highest GDP of developed countries shown:
But when you graph the per person GDP vs. the Education Scores, it looks like this:
And some countries begin to stand out. Mexico (in green) has the lowest GDP figure AND the lowest educational levels. Which makes sense; the country has less resources with which to educate its population. Luxembourg, in light blue, stands out for another reason. It has far and away the highest GDP, but it’s education scores are below average. You cannot stuff 5 or 7 times more education into a person just because the GDP is that much higher, but still one would expect a better performance for a rich country, even if that GDP is a statistical outlier based on a very small population. Next, Estonia, in gold, stands out if you consider that it has a weak economy, but the 2nd highest education scores.
A clearer way to view these disparities, without magnifying very high and low values (like Luxembourg’s $102,554 GDP per capita), is to RANK each country from 1 to 35 on both education and GDP, and then see how their ranks on each measure compare by subtracting the Education rank from the GDP rank to create a Net Ranking. Mexico, for example, is 35th in both measures, so has a Net Ranking of Zero, which would seem normal. The chart below shows the Net Ranking for all 35 OECD countries. The U.S. (in red) has a net ranking of -19: 5th in GDP but 24th in education. And this is truly horrible performance which must be remedied for the good of our country, as described in Our Biggest Crisis: Education.
This statistical viewpoint is born out by teacher strikes in several states, and by anecdotal evidence like the article below.