Despite having some of the most highly regarded universities in the world and spending a large portion of its GDP on higher education, the United States' adult population is in the middle and sometimes back of the pack when it comes to core skills, according to a new Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) study.
This study, the first of its kind and breadth, is based on a new series of tests given to people ages 16 to 65 in 23 developed nations around the world. The study examines literacy, numeracy, and "problem solving in technology-rich environments."
Japan and Finland are powerhouse nations, coming in first and second respectively in all three areas. The U.S., however, scores below average on each of the three assessments and is near the bottom for math skills.
In the literacy assessment, the U.S. is well below average, ranking 16th out of 23 countries. A level-1 reader can get a single piece of information out of a simple text. A level-4 or 5 reader can pick multiple pieces of information out of lengthy or competing texts, and evaluate subtle arguments. Over 20% of people scored at level 4 or 5 in Finland and Japan. Only 11.5% of people managed those scores in the U.S.:
When it comes to skill with numbers, the U.S. is even further behind, ranking 21st out of 23 countries. Only 9% of U.S. adults were in the top two levels, which is well below the average. The U.S. also has one of the largest proportions of people below level 1, meaning they can only cope with very basic, familiar mathematical situations:
The data is less complete when it comes to technology related skills, as people could opt out. The test wasn't geared at assessing the ability to use a mouse or keyboard, but the ability to "access, process, evaluate, and analyze information effectively in a goal-oriented way" using those tools.
The U.S. scored 14th out of the 19 countries that provided enough information:
Read the full report here.
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