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Lack of Education

A report published on Wednesday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development... offers up a distressing take on the state of the world’s learning. Even among relatively wealthy countries, many students fail to master the most basic skills. ...

In the 2012 PISA test, 54 percent of Mexican students failed to meet the most basic level of proficiency, which the O.E.C.D. considers “necessary for participating productively in modern economies.”

Achieving PISA’s Level 1 requires no more than a sort of modern functional literacy. Fifteen-year-olds need to be able to figure out, for instance, how many South African rand Mei-Liing will get if she changes 3,000 Singapore dollars into the South African currency at the rate of 1 Singapore dollar for 4.2 rand. (The answer is 12,600.)

Among 15-year-olds, 89 percent of Ghanaians failed to reach this level, as did 74 percent of Indonesians and 64 percent of Brazilians. So did 24 percent of Americans.

- More in School, but Not Learning, Eduardo Porter, MAY 12, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/13/business/economy/as-global-number-of-pupils-soars-education-falls-behind.html?ref=education



Readers should be aware that last November, the NEA released a new study, available online, even more dire in its findings than the one Jacoby cites. The 2007 study, which NEA Chairman Dana Gioia termed "alarming," found "reading proficiency rates are stagnant or declining in adults of both genders and all education levels," and that, as of 2005, scarcely more than a third of high school seniors read at or above the proficient level.
- Art Winslow, Dumbing down America (a review of Susan Jacoby's ''The Age of American Unreason, Los Angeles Times, February 10, 2008




After citing poor teaching and economic inequality as possible reasons for Americans' poor reading skills, David Kipen mentions another possible explanation:

A few weeks ago, while we were all looking the other way, the triennial survey comparing the world’s educational systems came out. For America, the news wasn’t good. Math scores dropped, while reading numbers weren’t much different from last time. Neither finding puts us on course to lap Singapore anytime soon.

Predictably, of the limited media coverage the survey received in the United States, most articles focused on math and science. Who cares if Johnny can’t read well, so long as he can multiply? ...
... proficient reading still makes all the difference in life. A country where only a third of kids can read well, however, is easily controlled.
- David Kipen, ‘Language at the Speed of Sight’ Fights to Reopen Our Closed Book on Literacy, NYT, Dec. 28, 2016




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