Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Tiger Moms or Tiger Schools

In yesterday’s post about how poorly American schoolchildren compare academically with children in other parts of the world I suggested that we needed more Tiger Moms. After all, how could anyone miss the fact that the best students in the world are all in Asia.

Today, in an editorial, the Wall Street Journal took up the point:

American teenagers seem especially weak in core academic subjects with high cognitive demands, such as translating concepts into solutions for real-world problems. A quarter never become proficient in math. In Shanghai and Korea, the comparable figure is 10% or fewer. Some 7% of U.S. students reached the top two scientific performance levels, compared with 17% in Finland and an amazing 27% in Shanghai. Is it tiger moms or tiger schools, or maybe both?

The Journal adds an important point here. American teenagers especially lack the skill required for translating concepts into solutions. They have been trained to be idealistic critical thinkers, not to be engineers who are tasked with solving a problem.

It is worth underscoring that the nations who are outcompeting us are not outspending us. We Americans spend more on education and get less in return.

The Journal writes:

The U.S. is way out front in one measure: per-student spending. Only Austria, Luxembourg, Norway and Switzerland spend more. Despite laying out $115,000 per head, the U.S. did no better than the Slovak Republic, which spends $53,000.

As I mentioned yesterday the results are skewed against America because of high poverty levels and a high number of broken homes. When you compare apples to apples, as the saying goes, and compare students in a state like Massachusetts, known for academic excellence, against Shanghai, which scored best in the world, the results are sobering:

Then again, Massachusetts has been running public schools since 1635 and today is home to some of the best performers in the nation. The state entered Pisa as if it was its own country—but students of the same age in Shanghai performed as if they had two more years of math instruction than those in the Bay State.

If it’s a consolation, students in Massachusetts were only two years behind the best in the world.


JP said...


"Interestingly, the U.S. is ranked number one for adults and number two for kids! But if you just looked at the average, the U.S. would be ranked in the middle of the pack. And in PISA 2009, the U.S. actually edged out Japan for the lead (see here). Of course, not all countries took part in these exams, including China (as a whole) and India."

JP said...

I love Amy Chua's book.

"World On Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability is a 2002 book published by Yale Law School professor Amy Chua. It is an academic study into ethnic and sociological divisions in regard to economic and governmental systems in various societies."

Anonymous said...

Tiger. Schools. Absolutely. No doubt.


Anonymous said...

When I was in high school in th early 80's, a student from Poland was in my physics class. The teacher sat her next to me because I speak Polish, assuming I would be able to help her by translating when necessary. Well, the student and I spent the entire class chitchatting because she didn't need me to help her understand the lectures since she had already had 2 years of physics in her Polish high school. I wonder if the schools in Poland are still as rigorous.

JP said...

Basic science and mathematics can be understood rapidly and intuitively if you have a certain kind of intelligence.

I slept through calculus was able to perform better than my classmates.

Schools, as a form of education, are basically a complete waste of time.

n.n said...

The contemporary concept of progress is a measurement of instant or immediate gratification. The Tiger phenomenon is not a quick fix, therefore it will be rejected by a majority of Americans as inconvenient.

Not coincidentally, corruption is directly proportional to progress.