OECD: Math, Reading Scores Plummet in Teens

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The Facts

  • The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, has documented some of the biggest drops in performance since it began evaluating 15-year-olds' reading, arithmetic, and scientific skills every three years in 2000.

  • The study is the most comprehensive international comparison of education achievement, closely watched by policymakers. Last year nearly 700K youths in 38 of the OECD's developed country members and 44 non-members took the test.

The Spin

Establishment-critical narrative

This is an eye-opener for educators in the West. Something is wrong. Asian students are outperforming the rest of the world, demonstrating years of progress. Students from Singapore top the list and are three to five years ahead of their peers in the US and Europe. In math, Macao, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea were near the top, whereas they scored near the top in reading and science. This suggests that deep systemic change is needed in Western education systems.

Pro-establishment narrative

These results are a mixed bag, especially for the US. The US climbed in the OECD ranking to 28th place out of 37 participating OECD countries, but this was mostly due to other countries' decreases. A lot more work does indeed need to be done to support American education, but this wasn't an entirely catastrophic report — especially when the abnormalities of COVID and school closures are factored in.

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