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K-12 Blues
Foreign Students Say U.S. High School Classes Are Absurdly Easy

When the Brookings Institution’s Brown Center on Education Policy surveyed foreign exchange students studying in the U.S. in 2001, it found that they thought that American education was a cake walk compared to secondary education in their home countries. And when it conducted the survey again in 2016, it found that exchange students thought that U.S. education was even less challenging than before. Some excerpts from the findings:

The survey asked students the following: Compared to students in your home country, do you think U.S. students spend more, less, or about the same amount of time on schoolwork? … In 2001, 34.0% said much less, a figure that grew to 44.0% in 2016.

In the 2001 survey, foreign exchange students reported that high school classes in the U.S. seemed easier than classes in their home countries. When asked to rate the relative difficulty of U.S. classes, 56% replied “a lot easier” and 29% said “a little easier.” Only 6% said “a little harder” and 5% said “much harder.” […]

Students from abroad are even more likely today to describe U.S. classes as easier than they were in 2001. The combined “much easier” and “a little easier” responses grew from 85.2% in 2001 to 90.0% in 2016. The change in the “much easier” rating, increasing from 55.9% to 66.4%, is statistically significant.

Foreign exchange students’ perceptions of U.S. education clearly depends on their own educational background and their school placement. Students placed in underperforming Chicago schools, for example, are more likely to say that U.S. education is easier compared with foreign students placed at top-tier high schools in upper-middle class university towns.

The study doesn’t offer details about these alternative variables that might offer a more granular account of where U.S. schools are succeeding and failing; nonetheless, the overall picture—that teenagers from abroad overwhelmingly think that American schools demand less of them than schools in their home countries—is not exactly a ringing endorsement of this country’s educational establishment.

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  • GS

    we should return to the streaming as a matter of policy. A platoon marches at the speed of its slowest private.

  • Gary Hemminger

    Didn’t need a study to tell me this. And also to know that least at the colleges I attended (Berkeley and Stanford) there appears to be rampant grade inflation.

  • f1b0nacc1

    Yes, but the kids in the US have so much better self-esteem!

    • FriendlyGoat

      Except for the pesky problem that, at this time, they most likely don’t.

      • f1b0nacc1

        I can assure you from a position of extensive experience….they do. Oh, they shouldn’t, but they do. Don’t take my word for it, go visit any website where professors (or for that matter many teachers) congregate, and you will have no trouble finding endless stories to confirm what I am telling you. Today’s students are entitled, utterly convinced of their ‘special nature’, and completely unwilling to even entertain the notion that reality might not completely conform with their expectations.

        • FriendlyGoat

          I’m aware that too many students have their heads in an unreal world, and I’m aware that many adults in the education community try to boost students’ self esteem because having such will improve educational outcomes in school measurements. But I’m not convinced that the self-esteem of our kids necessarily exceeds that of all other countries who might send exchange students here. The entirety is the USA is not much like Johnson County, after all.

          • f1b0nacc1

            I have taught at the university level on both costs as well as in TX, KS, and MO, and work with teenagers in several states (and counties other than Johnson County…I don’t even live in Johnson County), and the experiences I (and every other instructor I have worked with) are identical. The self-esteem of our kids is off the charts, and often the less they know, the higher it is. There is a reason that the most common epithet for ignorant, self-entitled students these days is ‘snowflakes’….

          • FriendlyGoat

            You are indeed speaking of your experience with college and the college-bound. I am thinking in terms of all kids taken as a whole—-including those in poverty, those in bad neighborhoods, those living with bum parents, those being bullied, those not graduating, those already into drugs, those out of the cool side of social life, those who just never got anything but mediocre grades.

            You made a generalization as a matter of snark. I just thought I’d point out that—-since it was for snark——it’s most likely bullsh*t anyway.
            And, good morning.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Ah, so you speak for the downtrodden and the poor….how noble of you….

            Do you have any DIRECT experience with these kids, or have you just watched some after school specials? Unlike you, I have volunteered with a fairly wide variety of kids, and not just those who are on ‘the cool side of social life’. Most of the kids I work with come from single-parent families, and by no means all of them are college bound. Lets hear about your experience….

          • FriendlyGoat

            Last I had heard, the kids you worked with were all being pushed to college by a bunch of over-educated left wing parents. I’ll just tell you, if I haven’t before, that I lived for a few years barely inside Johnson County, just as you live barely out of it. The experience was the most unreal of my life, coming from a small town as I did, and returning to a small town environment as I have. You are knocking adults for helping kids boost their self-esteem—–and yet (YET) any volunteer work you do ultimately is for that purpose. I just get tired of the perpetual cynicism expressed here in the TAI comment section—–so, why not start by exposing some of the tee-hee-hee on liners as being sorta stupid and entirely unnecessary? Your opener in this thread was just a dandy target for that, okay?

          • f1b0nacc1

            Most of the kids I work with are in fact being rammed into college by their overly status- conscious parents. I have had a few bits of success helping them learn to push back though….

            The volunteer work that I do MAY help some of the kids increase their self-esteem, but ONLY because they earn it…it is thus a side effect, not the purpose of what I do. When the kids achieve something, they feel good about it, and about themselves. That is WORLDS different than simply saying ‘I am Somebody” and demanding respect without doing anything to earn it. The kids I work with in fact know me as a very harsh taskmaster who isn’t easily impressed, which is precisely the point. Their victories mean something because they are real victories, not simply synthetic feel-good bromides foisted upon them by guilty liberals too dumb to understand otherwise…

            As for the ‘various brown minorities’ (wow, glad it was a lefty saying that….if I said it I would be a racist!), if they don’t have much self esteem, it is more often than not because they don’t achieve much, and thus don’t find much reason to believe in oneself. Some of the brightest kids in my group are NOT from wealthy families (and yes, several are quite brown), and their self-esteem comes from what they achieve…

          • FriendlyGoat

            “Various brown minorities” is not inappropriate when the reason they are “various” has to do with several separate tribal identities plus Latinos who are a majority here but not in the nation as a whole.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Of course….you just go right on saying that….

          • FriendlyGoat

            Okay. After being here for some time, I’ve learned that it is quite unnecessary to bleat about racism every other minute. Most people here actually don’t.

          • texasjimbo

            Yes. The fake, unearned high “self esteem” many American schools attempt to impart to their students may be as wide as the ocean, but it is of necessity thinner than a hair’s breath. Real self esteem is based on completing a challenging task well and by preforming better than most of one’s peers at challenging tasks. They very thought of the occurrence of such an event is largely antithetical to most of the left and almost all of American public educators. The ersatz “self esteem” imparted via repetitious indoctrination is so difficult to maintain and goes a good distance toward explaining the behavior of SJW’s. Their unmerited view of themselves as morally superior to those who disagree with despite their inability to make any actual factual arguments to support their positions is vital to maintain that false self esteem. Hence, any disagreement with their positions is perceived as a vicious attack against their fragile psyche, and most be responded to with maximum force.

          • FriendlyGoat

            You are arguing that teachers can and should go into hard public classrooms with hard kids and (in so many words) tell them they aren’t special, aren’t important and very likely won’t amount to anything because they’re starting at the low end of some curve.

            And MOST LIKELY, you are with the party supporting “school choice” where a kid from the hard life can go to a Christian School on a voucher. When he/she gets there (if the Christian School is any good at the Christian part) do you know what he/she will be told?

            “YOU are special—-BECAUSE God made you in His own image, BECAUSE He created you just to be YOU. Jesus loves you and He cares about your life on earth and your soul in eternity. Don’t ever doubt that you are special in God’s eyes.”

            I understand that we all need to be spurred to accomplishment. I also understand that self-esteem for children is how you help them get started down that road. For the right-wingers who SUPPORT the church version of that esteem-building process to make fun of the left wingers for doing the SAME thing (but without religion) is not any kind of “high road”, capiche?

          • texasjimbo

            There is a vast difference in telling someone they have value as a person (and that a good deal of that value is based upon what they do) and telling them that they are special by their mere existence. I hope that most Christian schools have not adopted that type of language, but I don’t doubt that some have. But an important difference between the “specialness” referred to sometimes by conservative Christians and the “specialness” referred to in public schools is that with conservative Christians, it is extrinsic: it exist only because it is granted by God. With the left, it is intrinsic: it exist because the person exist. Furthermore, with conservative Christians, it exist in the context of a firm commitment to the doctrine of the depravity of man. With the left, it exist in the context of a firm belief in the basic goodness of human nature. I’d be willing to be more critical of “Christians” who slide up next to the leftist notion of “specialness” than I am of leftists for holding to that notion. But it is undoubtedly *much* more destructive both to it’s alleged beneficiaries and society as a whole when it is not tempered by a firm belief in one’s imperfections and the existence of a higher moral authority. The morality of the modern leftist SJW warrior is one that informs them how far their opponents fall from perfection and makes no demands upon them to improve or reign in their own appetites and impulses. Traditional doctrinaire Christianity emphasizes both the fallen nature of all people and the need for self control. It is, therefore not only vastly superior to leftism, it is the philosophy that birthed modern liberal culture and the source of most of the positive aspects that remain in our culture.

          • FriendlyGoat

            The thing is——religion, OR NOTHING, more specifically YOUR INTREPRETATION of religion, OR NOTHING——-is a non-starter with people who insist on the freedom to think and to find value or virtue where THEY find it. This is precisely why almost everyone in America, whether Christian or secular, reserves a “right to reject” the claims from Islam that the sayings of Muhammad are from a “Prophet” and, as a matter of fact (to them),
            “the FINAL Prophet”.

            I have increasingly noticed that I run into people like you who have adopted the newly fashionable (to them) habit of making fun of SJWs or social justice warriors—-as if social justice is evil or a joke. From one long-time Christian to another, I’ll give you a tip. You are being hijacked, the tone of this particular shtick is off-putting to those with either heart or sense, and it shoots your witness.

          • texasjimbo

            I went back and reread my comment after reading your latest comment to see if I had said anything that could reasonably be interpreted as opposition to freedom of expression. I was relieved to see I hadn’t. Which pretty well makes your first paragraph indecipherable. (You and Anthony always get to that point; it usually just takes you a little longer than him.)
            Large portions of the left (almost certainly including you) have for at least 40 years relied largely on public ridicule as their go to response to people they disagree with. The difference is that the targets of my ridicule richly deserve it and that I’m prepared to have a substantive argument while they are not. I have no idea what your actual (professed) theological beliefs are, so I don’t even know if it is appropriate to pretend to listen to your advice about religion, but your own self righteousness is pretty off putting and doesn’t help your cause either. But in any case, my evaluation of the relative merits of any religion/religious faction versus any other religion/religious faction or secularism has little to do with the accuracy of their description of the spiritual, but with their utility as a social institution.
            Granted, that is an issue that ultimately has a large subjective element, but there are plenty of objective facts relevant to it. Judaism, Christianity, and Shintoism fare very well (as do some smaller sects such as Jainism). Hinduism and Buddhism do well also. Secularism that still holds to the moral legacy of a religion will probably do ok. The type of secularism embraced by the American left (hostile to most moral traditions and aggressively anti religious) hasn’t really fared well anywhere it has been tried on a large scale over a long period of time. The demographic decline of Europe and the long term threat they face from political Islam might be exhibit #1.

          • FriendlyGoat

            You and I are having a conversation because you arrived for no reason but to tag me with your disdain for helping kids have self-esteem in the school setting, to slap public educators, to slap social justice warriors and complain that our psyches are fragile enough that we might forcefully defend against your onslaughts.

            We’ll, we do. I correctly guessed you as one of the many modern church guys who have gone completely off the rails and are now walking around with a chip on your shoulder—-looking to peddle hatefulness in the name of religion. I resent the unnecessary vitriol in your first reply to me as your way of introducing yourself. I resent that your style and ilk are grinding real Christianity into the dirt.
            And, after looking at a few of your other comments, I resent that you are part of the political deception now ruining our country.

            The chances of you listening to me from a spiritual perspective are probably zero. That’s unfortunate, but you showed up unsolicited and determined to have your “substantive argument”. Mine is this:
            We either love each other as we love ourselves——or religion is worse than worthless.

          • texasjimbo

            “…you arrived for no reason but to tag me with your disdain for helping kids have self-esteem” No, I arrived because I saw a link to the article, was interested, read the story and decided to look at the comments to see if they offered any worthwhile information or argumentation. My disdain is not for the idea of helping kids have self esteem. It is for the lie implicit in the left’s formulation of “self esteem” It is for the notion that what the left has been advocating and doing in regards to self esteem does or even can help kids (in the realm or self esteem or otherwise). The disdain is for the fact that the left is mostly oblivious to the fact that their actions regarding kid’s “self esteem” is immensely harmful, both to individuals and society as a whole (and with part of the left, the inflicting of that damage is purposeful). The disdain for you specifically is because the real purpose of your actions is not to help kids have self esteem but to enable yourself to be viewed as righteous in the eye’s of yourself and your social in group. (And, secondarily, to view people in your social/political out group as bad.)
            You have absolutely no idea what my religious views are and you have guessed wrong.
            You really need to pay a therapist to listen to you. Internet comments are not the place to deal with your own self esteem issues. And the leftist clap trap you parrot about self esteem has obviously *not* worked well for you.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Of course I know what your religious views are. You described them in detail in your second reply to me. The question is why you ever wrote your first reply to me. Bye, dude.

          • texasjimbo

            By all means, definitely copy and paste the lines where I described my personal religious beliefs. You incapable of responding with a factual argument about anything you comment about here.

          • FriendlyGoat

            If you say so.

            “There is a vast difference in telling someone they have value as a person (and that a good deal of that value is based upon what they do) and telling them that they are special by their mere existence. I hope that most Christian schools have not adopted that type of language, but I don’t doubt that some have. But an important difference between the “specialness” referred to sometimes by conservative Christians and the “specialness” referred to in public schools is that with conservative Christians, it is extrinsic: it exist only because it is granted by God. With the left, it is intrinsic: it exist because the person exist. Furthermore, with conservative Christians, it exist in the context of a firm commitment to the doctrine of the depravity of man. With the left, it exist in the context of a firm belief in the basic goodness of human nature. I’d be willing to be more critical of “Christians” who slide up next to the leftist notion of “specialness” than I am of leftists for holding to that notion. But it is undoubtedly *much* more destructive both to it’s alleged beneficiaries and society as a whole when it is not tempered by a firm belief in one’s imperfections and the existence of a higher moral authority. The morality of the modern leftist SJW warrior is one that informs them how far their opponents fall from perfection and makes no demands upon them to improve or reign in their own appetites and impulses. Traditional doctrinaire Christianity emphasizes both the fallen nature of all people and the need for self control. It is, therefore not only vastly superior to leftism, it is the philosophy that birthed modern liberal culture and the source of most of the positive aspects that remain in our culture.”

  • Beauceron

    Of course they are.

    Look, the New York State Board of Regents just this week announced plans to drop the literacy requirement test for state teachers because “an outsized percentage of black and Hispanic candidates were failing the test.” (http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/03/13/ny-dropping-teacher-literacy-test-amid-claims-racism.html)

    You have illiterate teachers educating kids and you wonder why the courses are easy?

    But at least the state isn’t racist, I guess.

    We can’t stand up to these Leftists systematically wrecking our society in the name of social justice, we shouldn’t complain about the inevitable consequences.

    • Tom

      There are times when I wonder if this is all a conspiracy on the part of educated white liberals to keep minorities ignorant and render them uncompetitive for the jobs the educated white liberals want.

      • wagnertinatlanta

        How dare you, sir!

  • Anthony

    Limited or poor quality K-12 education = long-term underinvestment in societal human capital – that more than foreign student comparison ought to alarm.

  • Sally Dungan

    But do remember that these foreign students are voting with their feet to be in American classrooms.

    • Andrew Allison

      Why not, since they can breeze though US secondary and post-secondary education. The world will eventually notice that US post-secondary education is not much different from kindergarten, but until then what passes for education in the US offers benefit to foreign students.

    • Ofer Imanuel

      Most of these students are Chinese, whose parents are well to do. While American school are second rate, universities, at least STEP and MBA are not. It is extremely difficult to get accepted to the top tier (such as Beijing and Tsinghua universities).
      Also, American life are very well thought of in China, and giving the good life to your only child by having him go through American university is considered worth the price.

    • texasjimbo

      No, they are voting with there feet to be in the US and thus ending up in US class rooms of necessity. Not the same thing your comment implies.

  • Andrew Allison

    They are being kind. The result of US High School “education” is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpgCLMv3IEA.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    You’re suffering from a misunderstanding. You think America’s public schools are for teaching children. When America’s public schools are for lifetime employment of the members of the teaching related Labor Gang Monopolies.

  • ——————————

    What a load of crap. The results of this silly study mean nothing. Again, academia pushing it’s self-importance.
    It is our constitution, our brain-drain over the last few hundred years, our business and other laws, that puts us at the top of the global food chain.
    So we are supposed to make education harder and more complicated for??….maybe the iphone 10 will come out sooner?…not….

  • Will

    How much is that due to US education or the nature of foreign students? Something tells me a bunch of Chavs or their Continental European equivalents wouldn’t find our schools easy.

  • ვეფხისტყაოსანი

    Years ago, I had a long discussion with a group of Soviet mathematicians on American vs. Soviet educational practices. While things have changed (for the worse) in the U.S., a quick look at Russian mathematics texts will show that contemporary Russian practice is much the same.

    Even if you don’t know any Russian (but do know mathematics), a quick glance at Russian and American undergraduate mathematics textbooks will tell you volumes. American books are full of color and pictures; Russian textbooks are nothing but equations with the bare minimum of linking text. American books are long and heavy on explicit explanations; Russian books are short and assume that the student can work out whatever intervening steps were glossed over. (The most common phrase in Russian texts is “как известно” [as is known].)

    But — while Russian high-school graduates are vastly more knowledgeable and capable than Americans, the balance changes through undergraduate and graduate courses. The Russian emphasis on mastery gives short shrift to originality; Americans are slower to master their subjects, but an American Ph.D. from a top school is the gold standard for originality, creativity, and value.

    Well, in real subjects, anyway. In others (women’s studies, whiteness studies, etc., etc.), America manages to produce scholars capable of originality and creativity without value — which is an accomplishment of sorts, I guess.

  • Ofer Imanuel

    Compared to Chinese schools, the best performing American public schools are very easy. Chinese include Taiwan, Hong Cong, and Singapore. My nephew studied in a good boarding school in Changsha, capital of the Chinese province of Hunan (NOT Beijing of Shanghai). He started daily at 6AM, and finished at 10PM. Public schools are somewhat easier, but not by much.

  • Angel Martin

    I attended a UK prep school in the 1970’s that had Saturday morning classes. That particular school seemed to have scrapped it but many UK boarding schools still have that feature. As do many public school systems outside North America.

    In order to achieve true competence and skill, there is no substitute for time spent. And those extra 4 hours of schooling per week really adds up over 12 years.

    Students coming into USA schools from such school systems, of course, are going to find USA schools less challenging.

  • bflat879

    Liberals have been running education for well over 50 years and you’re seeing the results. Instead of educating, they’re more concerned about outcomes so they’ve dumbed-down the system so that more people have passing grades. The failure in the inner-cities is even worse and those people can’t vote with their feet.

    You can take heart about one thing, if we don’t change our education system soon, the Chinese will be sending their children elsewhere and we’ll know we’re truly on the road to ruin.

  • el_segundo

    Conversely, what do American foreign exchange students say about the classes they take in secondary education in these students countries? Has that question even been asked? Our schools do have problems, it seems we’re often focused on money, and how much of it we’re “spending on education”, always with an eye to spend more. But, we already spend more per student than most other countries, so we need to look elsewhere for a solution. We need to find efficiencies, and focus on things that will have the most impact.

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