US 29th Best Nation

The US has come in 29th in the ranking of science education, and we are “Statistically significantly below the [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] average.”

Pisa Survey Graph


Donna Druchunas is a freelance technical writer and editor and a knitwear designer. When she's not working, she blogs, studies Lithuanian, reads science and sci-fi books, mouths off on atheist forums, and checks her email every three minutes. (She does that when she's working, too.) Although she loves to chat, she can't keep an IM program open or she'd never get anything else done.

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  1. At least we're in the top 50, it could be worse. In high school in New Jersey, which has pretty good education depending where you are, I believe the requirement is Earth Sciences, Bio, Physics and CHemistry, except that I ended up taking a very weird mixture of science classes since I went to three different schools in four years. It isn't so much the courses that kids take as it is the content of those courses, a good teacher will go beyond the bare minimum if time permits and will assign interesting projects that get kids interested. I wrote one assignment where we had to right a first person essay from the point of view of ebola and I ended up learning a lot, I picked ebola because another science teacher read the class the Hot Zone, which is a great book for anyone interested in Ebola.

  2. As a former schoolteacher– no, as a RATIONAL PERSON– this makes me very sad.

    On the other hand, since most of my schoolteacher days were done in Taiwan, I’m also kind of proud.

  3. As a former student, I am not at all surprised. I took one year each of earth science and chemistry, and two years of bio. That’s it. Additionally, as my second year of Bio was considered a “UConn Level” course, I also got out of my science gen ed requirement for college. Anything else I know about science, skepticism, etc, I’ve had to find out for myself one way or another.

    Also bear in mind: I went to a good high school in Connecticut, which in all likelihood puts what little science education I got somewhere above the average level. Which means most people get, essentially, none at all.

  4. Wow, we’re behind Latvia, that kinda sucks. They have the lowest average age of death in the EU, but apparently they are better at science than the USA. (well statistically they are really about equal I guess)

  5. ‘Ere, Expatria– My own acument in various fields of natural science are mostly down to the fact that I consider things like “Developmental Plasticity and Evolution,” “From Lucy to Language,” “The Cognitive Neuroscience of Music,” and ” The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe” to be “light” or “fun” reading. -I used to get a lot of questions from nosey fellow-commuters on the train in the mornings.

    How many of us, I wonder, are self-educated as amateur scientists. Or at least to the point of scientific literacy.

    And is this more to the heart of the problem? How many of us were just so gosh darned curious that we dove into our arcane tomes of knowledge? And what are we failing to do as educators to instill that sense of curiosity and wonder in our charges?

  6. Well, i am not sure that this PISA test would be a good measure/test. Anyhow, people from the US should not be afraid of not improving your position… The fellow politicians and sociologists at the ministry of education in Hungary are doing their best to ruin the rest of our educational sys. (the rest, as this process is going on for more than a decade) A 20% cut on science courses is planned for next academic year.

    You know, nobody at the ministy needs physics, maths or chemistry. it is so obvious that these are unnecessary. Besides: normal students (like themselves) tend to hate such courses. What's more: such courses may increase the "difference" among students which would be politically incorrect. (There used to be huge differences among schools in Hungary which was considered not PC so their solution is to set all of the schools at the same standard – namely at the a very low standard)

  7. I saw that graph in the newspaper earlier this week. Apparently, Belgium is not doing so badly, but if you split the country up along the language border, it appears the Dutch-speaking part ranks as high as 5th place on some of the tables, and I think 12th place overall.

    Sadly, this means there’s a whole bunch of kids in the southern, French-speaking part of the country that are dragging the average waaay down.

    One thing they DID find out though, was that many Belgian kids, while having a high standard of knowledge, had very little interest in scientific subjects. They just didn’t think it was interesting. Now that‘s the real shame.

  8. We're Number 3! We're Number 3! You suck !!!

    And Ray, since Canada owns the Arctic, no, you can keep your stupid and incurious, we have enough of them in Alberta who prop up our Conservative Christian Minority Government… However, if you would like, we could ship down some people from Toronto. They are on average very well educated but quite pompous and annoying.


  9. Gorthos, you're missing the point: As the Arctic meslts, then all these schmucks will fall into the sea and drown!

    Exarch– It's not a half bad idea!

  10. I am not surprised.

    How many of the countries above us are having trials in the 21st Century to try and keep Creationism out of our schools?

  11. Rav.. aha.. Now I understand. Also, when they finally sing to the ocean floor, they will be on lands claimed by the Russians and they can have them at that point.. excellent.

  12. I'd gloat, but Norway's on 33rd. Although it must be said that other research has shown that Norwegian kids, when presented with a test that doesn't affect their grades, are more likely to cross the "don't give a fuck" box than Finnish kids. So PISA isn't a perfect crystal ball in any way.

    Not that it doesn't rankle. Grrrr.

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