An interesting read about the state of higher education in America. In a nut shell, having a degree in higher ed does give you more skills (ie higher reading and numerical literacy), but as a country we still fall behind other countries. Honestly, the finding that the US is behind other countries in terms of education is nothing new. The reason this study is getting attention is that it actually shows that education does actually teach people some useful skills. Sadly, up until now, this has largely been a belief without much empirical evidence behind it, especially on a global scale. So, although it is something that most people will look at and go “no surprise there”, it is useful to have the data to back up the claim.
What’s not mentioned in the article, but included in the report itself, is that we also fall behind in those skills at the High School level. To me this raises an interesting question given the debate over providing “free” college to everyone at either the 2 or 4 year level. My thought is that rather than everyone needing the college degree what we really need is to be doing a better job at teaching these skills in the K-12 arena. Let me be clear that I do not fault teachers for this problem. There are many issues that go into the quality of a K-12 education that are to a large degree beyond the control of teachers, and unfortunately that control often ends up in the hands of politicians. Having national standards is an attempt to raise the standard across all schools, but unfortunately those standards are often seen as a goal to reach rather than a minimum to maintain. If things were really working as they should in education the fear over whether a school is able to reach that minimum level of skills on some arbitrary standardized test would be a non-issue. Reaching the minimum should be a given. If it were, we could then focus on raising the bar for our students. But again, there are several other factors that come into play, so I’ll leave that discussion for another post.
Americans with bachelor degrees lag behind other nations in labor skills