Thursday, September 1, 2011

Astonishing Posting About International School Comparisons

I am not in a position to check the accuracy of the claims, but this is a very thought-provoking posting by a Kurdish Iranian who immigrated as a child to Sweden, and is now working on his Ph.D. in Public Policy at the University of Chicago.  He compared scores from a test given in multiple countries, and discovered that amazingly enough, if you control for demographic differences, American schools actually slightly outscore European schools.  White, non-immigrant American scores compare very well to white, non-immigrant European scores.  Asian-American scores are better than Asian scores:
Of course, the biggest myth that the media reporting of PISA scores propagates is that the American public school system is horrible.
The liberal left in U.S and in Europe loves this myth, because they get to demand more government spending, and at the same time get to gloat about how much smarter Europeans are than Americans. The right also kind of likes the myth, because they get to blame social problems on the government, and scare the public about Chinese competitiveness.
We all know that Asian students beat Americans students, which "proves" that they must have a better education system. This inference is considered common sense among public intellectuals. Well, expect for the fact that Asian kids in the American school system actually score slightly better than Asian kids in North-East-Asia! 
So maybe it’s not that there is something magical about Asian schools, and has more to do with the extraordinary focus on education in Asian culture, with their self-discipline and with their favorable home environment. 
This guy's English isn't perfect, but it's good enough to understand his point.  He does point out that we are spending a lot more pupil than just about any European country, so it isn't surprising that our students are outscoring the European students on this test--but it does suggest that our schools are not the big problem, but that we have a very large immigrant population, with many of the problems that immigrant children usually have in school:
In almost all European countries, immigrants from third world countries score lower than native born kids. 
Why? No one know exactly why. Language, culture, home environment, income of parents, the education level of the parents and social problems in the neighborhood and peer groups norms are among likely explanations. But it is generally not true that the schools themselves are worse for immigrants than natives. In welfare states, immigrants often (thought not always) go to the same or similar schools and have as much or likely more resources per student.
Well worth reading and pondering.

1 comment:

James B. Shearer said...

Above a certain minimal level school doesn't make much difference. Smart kids do well, dumb kids not so well.

And genetics likely explains a lot of the difference in how different groups do.