Last, Dead?

otWelcome to the future- if you made it here.

The 2013 Skills Outlook from the OECD came out.  In literacy, the United States was in the below-average tier; Japan and Finland were on top.  In numeracy, bottom tier, and in IT skills, US youth were… effectively last, pending countries with incomplete data.  Korea and Finland, top.  Needless to say this does not bode well for a tech economy.

Note that this year is consistent, pre- and post-recession, so that’s not it.  And I don’t think our starved education system completely explains it, though that’s one part.  I’m afraid our students simply avoid tech subjects; either they lack confidence, access and resources, or there’s a simple “ewww” factor.

The numbers tabulate both adult and student scores; while the US adult scores are concerning on their own, US youth did even worse in all three subjects.  Again, a leading (or should I say dropping) indicator for our future workforce, computer fields especially.

In computing, I don’t think the “digital divide” completely explains it, either.  While it’s true that many in the US lack access to tech skills and experience, we also had fewer adults and youths score in the upper tiers, too.  This also negates the “better colleges” argument, too.  Some try to spin the education gap by saying our high schools are bad, but our colleges make up for that somewhat.  Sorry, the youth category is defined here as 16-24, and again our adults are only marginally better (eh, less bad).

Also note that we did not literally slip; Asia and Scandinavia among others emphasized education, and left us even further back.  Iceland has effectively universal literacy, and the highest rates of book buying and authorship.  Finland declared internet access (and fairly fast) to be a human right.  Meanwhile, for all we talk of a 21st-century workforce, the system isn’t doing enough, and the kids aren’t going for it, either.


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