December 5th, 2013
11:48 PM ET

Is the U.S. making the grade in education?

By Fareed Zakaria

The United States has done very well in harnessing the talents of its top 1 percent and in attracting the top 1 percent from the rest of the world to live and work here. These are the engines of innovation, growth and dynamism. But the country’s vast middle class — and below — has seen its wages stagnate for three decades. And this is getting worse as technology and globalization depress job prospects for people in the middle.

The real story of these tests has been “the rise of the rest.” The United States has muddled along over the past few decades, showing little improvement or decline. Meanwhile, countries including South Korea and Singapore have skyrocketed to the top, and now China, Vietnam and Poland are doing astonishingly well. These countries have workers whose productivity levels have been rising in tandem with their educational achievements.

There are many reasons, but to put it simply, many of these countries are playing to win.

Read the Washington Post column

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Topics: Education • United States

soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Joseph McCarthy

    This report shouldn't be very surprising, given the declining status of our middle class and our excessive military spending. We sorely need to change our priorities and soon!

    December 6, 2013 at 8:49 am | Reply
  2. j. von hettlingen

    The same day the PISA list was published, the Swiss TV announced the good news that Switzerland was among the top ten in maths. The screen showed that Switzerland's tiny neighbour – "Lichtenstein" – instead of Liechtenstein, ranked 8th, one place ahead of Switzerland. This Swiss public stormed immediately the TV station with scorn and criticism. It was hilarious!

    December 6, 2013 at 10:13 am | Reply
  3. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

    It is true that USA citizens with incomes in the top 1% tend to be very well educated. However, it is difficult for me to see this as an entirely bad situation.
    Many of those in the top 1% are brain surgeons. Others fire rockets high over our homes and even into outer space.
    Imagine what might might happen if these individuals were not well educated.

    December 6, 2013 at 10:20 am | Reply

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