Comparative Indicators of Education in the United States and Other G-20 Countries: 2015 is a comparison of the education system in the United States with those in the other Group of 20 (G-20) countries: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. (We do not show data for the European Union, although it is included in the G-20, since it is a political entity that represents a number of countries, not a single education system.) The G-20 countries, which are among the most economically developed, represent 85 percent of the world's economy and two-thirds of its population. These countries are some of the United States' largest economic partners.
The report draws on the most current information about education from the International Indicators of Education Systems (INES) project at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), as reported in the Education at a Glance series, as well as international assessments that range from grade 4 through adulthood. These international assessments include the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), which assesses fourth-graders in reading; the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), which assesses fourth- and eighth-graders in mathematics and science; the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which assesses 15-year-old students (regardless of grade) in mathematics, reading, science, and, occasionally, other subjects; and the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), which assesses adults, ages 16 to 65, in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology-rich environments.
The Comparative Indicators of Education report series has been published on a biennial basis since it began in 2002, although this year's is the first to expand its focus to the G-20 countries, having previously been focused on the G-8 countries. Please note that many of the report's indicators do not contain data for the complete set of G-20 countries. Data are not reported when a country does not participate in a study or when its data do not meet reporting standards for a study.
The main findings of this report are summarized below. These highlights are organized around the five major sections of the report—population and school enrollment; academic performance; contexts for learning; expenditure for education; and education returns: educational attainment and income.
The four indicators in this section primarily draw on data from the OECD's Education at a Glance 2013: OECD Indicators.
In the United States in 2012, there were 106.2 million 5- to 29-year-olds, representing 34 percent of the total population. Although students outside this age range enroll in school this is called the school-age population for purposes of comparison. In the other G-20 countries, the school-age population ranged from 25 percent of the total population in Italy and Japan to 50 percent in Saudi Arabia and South Africa. Eleven countries experienced growth in the population of 5- to 29-year-olds from 2002 to 2012, including the United States, with a gain of 5 percentage points. However, as a percentage of the total population, 5- to 29-year-olds declined in the United States and all other reporting G-20 countries (indicator 1).
In France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom, the percentage of 3- to 4-year-olds enrolled in preprimary or primary education programs in 201 was above 90 percent, whereas in the United States, the rate was 64 percent. In the United States, it was not until age 6 that at least 90 percent of the population was enrolled in formal education. G-20 countries with enrollment rates below 20 percent among 3- to 4-year-olds included Indonesia and Turkey. In all G-20 countries except France and Italy, a higher percentage of 3- to 4-year-olds were enrolled in 201 than in 2001. Among 5- to 14-year-olds, all reporting G-20 countries had universal or near universal (more than 90 percent) school participation in 2011. At ages 15–19, participation rates again varied—from 34 percent in China to 92 percent in Germany, with U.S. participation at 80 percent—which may reflect different policies regarding the age at which compulsory education ends. In the United States and four other countries, compulsory education ends at age 17. In 1 countries, compulsory education ends when students are between ages 1 and 16. In Germany, attendance is required until 18 (the highest of the G-20 countries). There were few changes in enrollment rates between 2001 and 201 among 5- to 14-year-olds or 15- to 19-year-olds in the G-20 countries (indicators 2 and 3).
International students1 made up a smaller percentage of enrollment in higher education2 in the United States (3 percent) in 201 than in every other G-20 country with data, including Australia (20 percent), the United Kingdom (17 percent), Canada (7 percent), and Japan (4 percent). (At the same time, the absolute number of international students in the United States was larger than in any other G-20 country reporting data [OECD 2013, web table C4.7]). Within higher education, international students made up a smaller percentage of enrollment in academic higher education below the doctoral level than at the doctoral level in every reporting G-20 country except Germany. Foreign students3 made up less than 5 percent of total enrollment in higher education in 8 out of the 10 countries reporting this measure, including Brazil, China, Indonesia, Italy, Korea, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. Foreign students also made up a smaller percentage of enrollment in academic higher education below the doctoral level than at the doctoral level in 6 of 7 countries with data for both levels (indicator 4).
The 10 indicators in this section draw on student and adult results from the four international assessments described in the introduction (i.e., PIRLS, TIMSS, PISA, and PIAAC), each of which has a different number of participating G-20 countries (see Exhibit 1 in the main body of the report). Most of the indicators are from the most recent administrations of each assessment, though the three indicators on changes also draw on earlier administrations.
At the fourth-grade level in reading in 2011, 86 percent of U.S. students performed at least at the Intermediate level on a set of international benchmarks set by PIRLS to describe the knowledge and skills of students at various points on a performance scale. The percentage of students in the United States and the Russian Federation reaching the Advanced benchmark was larger than the percentage in most other participating G-20 countries and the percentage reaching only the Low benchmark was smaller. In mathematics and science, U.S. and Russian fourth-graders again performed similarly, but generally behind students from Japan and the Republic of Korea. For example, 13 and 15 percent of U.S. fourth-graders reached the Advanced benchmark in mathematics and science, respectively, compared with 39 and 29 percent of Korean fourth-graders (indicator 5). At the eighth-grade level, 7 percent of U.S. students reached the Advanced benchmark in mathematics, as did 10 percent in science; in both subjects, the U.S. percentages were lower than those of students in four of the 10 participating G-20 countries: Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom (England) (indicator 6).
At age 15 in reading in 2012, 8 percent of U.S. students reached the high end of the performance scale (defined in PISA as proficiency levels 5 and 6), while 17 percent reached only the lower end (level 1 or below). The United States had larger percentages of high performers and smaller percentages of low performers than 9 of the 14 participating G-20 countries, but Australia, Canada, France, Japan, and the Republic of Korea each had larger percentages of high performers and smaller percentages of low performers than the United States. Nine percent of U.S. 15-year-old students reached the high end of the performance scale in mathematics and 7 percent did so in science, which was lower than in 7 and 6 countries, respectively (indicator 7).
In 2012, the percentage of adults ages 16 to 65 who reached the high end of the performance scale in literacy (defined in PIAAC as level 4 or 5) ranged from 3 percent in Italy to 23 percent in Japan. In the United States, 12 percent of adults reached level 4 or 5. The percentage of adults at the low end of the scale (i.e., at level 1 or below) ranged from 5 percent in Japan to 28 percent in Italy. In numeracy, the percentage of adults at the high end of the performance scale ranged from 4 percent in Italy to 19 percent in Japan. The percentage of adults at the low end of the performance scale ranged from 8 percent in Japan to 32 percent in Italy (indicator 8).
The overall performance scales in reading, mathematics, and science described in indicators 5 through 7 are composed of subscales that allow a more detailed look at student performance within each content area. In fourth-grade reading, the subscales are related to the purposes for reading. The United States had a mean score of 563 on the reading for literary experience subscale, which was higher than the scores in 8 of 10 other G-20 countries. On the reading to acquire and use information subscale, the U.S. mean score was 553, which was higher than the scores in seven other G-20 countries (indicator 9).
In mathematics and science, subscales at both the fourth and eighth grades are related to content subdomains (such as algebra in mathematics or chemistry in science). In mathematics, the United States was relatively weaker in geometric shapes and measures in the fourth grade and geometry in the eighth grade, with more countries outperforming the United States on these subscales than on the other mathematics subscales, including number (both grades), data display (grade 4), data and chance (grade 8), and algebra (grade 8). In science, U.S. differences on the subscales were not as apparent (indicators 9 and 10).
Mathematics subscales on the assessment of 15-year-olds also are related to content subdomains. U.S. 15-year-olds were relatively stronger on change and relationships and uncertainty and data, outperforming students in more countries on these subscales than on the quantity and space and shape subscales (indicator 11).
PIRLS, TIMSS, and PISA, the three main international student assessments, are each administered regularly, allowing an examination of changes in student performance across time. At the fourth grade, four G-20 countries increased their scores in at least one subject from the most recent prior assessment, whereas four countries decreased their scores in at least one subject. Japan and the United States showed the most consistent differences over the recent time period, with the United States improving its 201 reading and mathematics scores from 2006 (reading) and 2007 (mathematics) and Japan improving its 201 mathematics and science scores from 2007. Both countries (among others) also demonstrated longer term gains in these subjects from 2001 (reading) or 1995 (mathematics and science). Indonesia and the United Kingdom (England) were the other two G-20 countries that showed recent gains (in reading, in both cases). In contrast, reading scores decreased in Germany and Italy from 2006 to 2011 and science scores decreased in Australia, Italy, and the United Kingdom (England) from 2007 to 201 (indicator 12).
At the eighth grade, five G-20 countries' scores increased in one or two subjects (mathematics and/or science) from the most recent prior assessment, whereas one country's scores decreased in at least one subject. The Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey showed the most consistent differences over the recent time period, with all three countries increasing scores in both mathematics and science from 2007 to 2011. The Republic of Korea and the Russian Federation also had longer term increases in both subjects from 1995 to 2011. In contrast, students' scores decreased in Indonesia in science from 2007. The United States showed no measurable changes in mathematics or science from 2007, though there were longer term increases from 1995 to 201 in both subjects (indicator 13).
Among 15-year-old students, five G-20 countries increased their scores in at least one of three subjects tested (reading, mathematics, and/or science literacy) from 2009 to 2012: France, Germany, Japan, Russian Federation, and Turkey. In contrast, three countries decreased their scores in at least one subject: Australia, Canada, and Mexico. The Russian Federation again showed the most consistent differences over this time period, with increases in both reading and mathematics scores from 2009 (as well as longer term increases from 2000 and 2003, respectively). France, Germany, Japan, and Turkey had score increases in reading from 2009 to 2012. In contrast, Australia's, Canada's, and Mexico's performance declined in mathematics over the same time period. In Canada, students' mean scores decreased in all three subjects over the long term (2000 to 2012). The United States showed no measurable change in any of the subjects over any of the measured time periods (indicator 14).
The eight indicators in this section draw on student and teacher questionnaire data from the most recent administrations of the international student assessments (i.e., PIRLS, TIMSS, and PISA).
In PIRLS 2011, fourth-grade students were asked various questions about how much they liked reading, their motivation to read, and their confidence in reading. Their responses were used to create three indices: like to read, motivated to read, and confident in reading. In the United States, the highest percentages of both female and male students were motivated to read and the lowest percentages liked to read, a pattern generally mirrored in the other G-20 countries. Whereas the percentages of females and males who were motivated to read ranged from 67 to 92 percent and 57 to 90 percent, respectively, across countries, the percentages of females and males who liked to read ranged from 30 to 43 percent and 13 to 28 percent, respectively. In at least 8 of 1 G-20 countries (including the United States), higher percentages of female students than male students had a positive attitude on each of the three indices. For example, 33, 74, and 43 percent of U.S. females liked to read, were motivated to read, and were confident in reading, respectively. For U.S. males, the respective percentages were 20, 67, and 37 percent (indicator 15).
Fourth- and eighth-grade students were asked similar questions in TIMSS 201 to develop indices about their attitudes toward mathematics and science. In mathematics, there were no differences in the United States and three other countries (the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom [England], and the United Kingdom [Northern Ireland]) between the percentages of male and female fourth-graders who liked learning mathematics. (In the United States, 45 percent of males and 44 percent of females liked learning mathematics.) In the seven countries in which there were gender differences, males' attitudes were more positive than females' in five countries and females' attitudes were more positive than males' in two countries (Saudi Arabia and Turkey). Differences were similar at the eighth-grade level, with six countries (including the United States, with a difference of 2 percent) having a higher percentage of males than females who liked learning mathematics, but one country having a higher percentage of females than males (Turkey) (indicator 16).
In PISA 2012, 15-year-old students were asked about the extent to which they agreed with a statement about interest in mathematics. In 12 of 15 participating G-20 countries, higher percentages of male than female students were interested in what they learned in mathematics (defined as those who agreed or strongly agreed), with differences ranging from 2 percentage points in Mexico to 17 percentage points in Germany. The difference between the percentages of U.S. males and females who were interested in what they learned in mathematics was 7 percentage points (indicator 16).
In science, there were no differences in five countries, including the United States, between the percentages of male and female fourth-graders who liked learning science (TIMSS 2011). (In the United States, 57 percent of males and 55 percent of females liked learning science.) In the six countries in which there were gender differences, males' attitudes were more positive than females' in three countries and females' attitudes were more positive than males' in three countries. In contrast to fourth grade, gender differences were more widespread at the eighth-grade level: higher percentages of males than females liked learning science in all countries except Turkey (in which more females liked learning science) and Saudi Arabia (in where there were no gender differences). In the United States, 33 percent of males liked learning science, compared to 25 percent of females (indicator 17).
Strategies to help students with reading. In 2011, teachers participating in PIRLS were asked which strategies they usually used to assist fourth-graders having difficulty reading, including: asking parents to help their child with reading, working with students individually, and waiting to see if performance improved with maturation. The first two strategies were used more frequently than the third among teachers in the 1 G-20 countries participating in PIRLS. For example, the percentage of fourth-graders whose teachers reported asking parents to help their child with reading ranged from 88 percent in France to 100 percent in Germany and the Russian Federation, and the percentage whose teachers reported working with students individually ranged from 77 percent in Germany and Indonesia to 97 percent in the Russian Federation. (The U.S. percentages for these strategies were 95 percent and 94 percent, respectively.) In contrast, the percentage of fourth-graders whose teachers reported waiting to see if performance improved with maturation ranged more widely, from 22 percent in the United Kingdom (Northern Ireland) to 79 percent in Saudi Arabia; this strategy was reported by 37 percent of fourth-graders' teachers in the United States.
In terms of access to reading professionals, the United States had the highest percentage of fourth-graders whose teachers indicated that such professionals were always available (45 percent), as well as the lowest percentage of fourth-graders whose teachers indicated that they were never available (12 percent) (indicator 18).
Collaboration in mathematics instruction. In 2011, teachers' reports also indicated varying levels of collaboration in mathematics instruction (categorized as sometimes collaborative, collaborative, or very collaborative), based on how often they engaged in certain interactions with other teachers. At the fourth-grade level, the United States was the only country in which a larger percentage of students had teachers who were very collaborative (49 percent) than who had teachers who were only collaborative (40 percent) or sometimes collaborative (11 percent). At the eighth-grade level, there were no countries in which higher percentages of students had teachers who were very collaborative than had other teachers in other categories; instead, in all countries except the United States and Indonesia, higher percentages of students had teachers who were collaborative. In the United States and Indonesia, there were no measurable differences between the percentage of students who had teachers in the very collaborative and collaborative categories (39 and 40 percent, respectively, in the United States; 45 and 50 percent, respectively, in Indonesia) (indicator 19).
Participation in professional development. A lower percentage of fourth-grade students than eighth-grade students had teachers who reported participating in professional development in various areas of both mathematics and science in the 2 years prior to the TIMSS assessment in 2011. In the United States, the percentage of fourth-grade students whose teachers participated in professional development in mathematics ranged from 49 percent in the area of integrating information technology to 68 percent in the area of mathematics content, the latter of which represented the highest rate of participation across the participating G-20 countries in that area. The percentage of eighth-grade students in the United States whose teachers participated in professional development in mathematics ranged from 61 percent in the area of assessment to 73 percent in the areas of mathematics content and pedagogy (indicator 20). In science, in the United States and nearly all other reporting G-20 countries, less than half of fourth-grade students' teachers reported participating in professional development in any of the four areas of professional development identified. The percentage of eighth-grade students in the United States whose teachers participated in professional development in science ranged from 57 percent in the area of assessment to 75 percent in the area of science content (indicator 21).
Career satisfaction of reading teachers. In terms of teachers' satisfaction with their careers as reading teachers, across all participating G-20 countries except France, less than 10 percent of fourth-graders had teachers with low career satisfaction in 2011, with percentages ranging from 2 percent in Saudi Arabia to 6 percent in Australia, the United Kingdom (England), and the United States. In France 17 percent of fourth-graders had teachers with low career satisfaction. Higher levels of career satisfaction were more common: in 8 of the 11 participating G-20 countries, at least half of the fourth-graders had teachers with high career satisfaction, with a high of 89 percent in Indonesia. In the United States, 47 percent of fourth-graders had teachers with high career satisfaction, and an equal percentage had teachers with medium career satisfaction (indicator 22).
The two indicators in this section draw on data from the OECD's Education at a Glance 2013: OECD Indicators.
Of the 14 G-20 countries reporting data in 2011—Argentina, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Republic of Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom (England and Scotland), and the United States—Germany reported the highest average starting salary of public school teachers at both the primary and upper secondary levels, followed by the United States. In most G-20 countries in 2011 (Germany and Turkey being the exceptions), public school teachers at the beginning of their careers earned less than the average gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in their respective countries (indicator 23).
In 2010, the total expenditures per student and the portion of these expenditures devoted to core education services were higher in the United States than in all other reporting G-20 countries at both the combined primary and secondary education levels and the higher education level.4 (The other reporting countries were Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.) Annual expenditures per student on core education services in the United States were about $10,900 at the combined primary and secondary education levels and about $19,700 at the higher education level. In the other G-20 countries reporting data, annual expenditures per student on core education services ranged from about $1,900 in Turkey to $9,600 in Australia at the combined primary and secondary levels and from about $5,900 in Italy to $15,100 in Canada at the higher education level. In 2010 the Republic of Korea and the United States spent a higher percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), 6.8 percent, than any other reporting country. Between 2000 and 2010 spending at all levels of education tended to hold steady or increase in the reporting countries (indicator 24).
The five indicators in this section draw on data from the OECD's Education at a Glance 2013: OECD Indicators.
In 2011, graduation rates from upper secondary education were above 90 percent in four of the G-20 countries reporting data: Japan (96 percent), the Republic of Korea and the United Kingdom (93 percent), and Germany (92 percent). The lowest graduation rate was in Mexico, at 49 percent; in the United States, the graduation rate was 77 percent. Differences in graduation rates between males and females were generally small; the largest differences were in Mexico and the United States, where females had a 7 percentage-point higher rate than males. Graduation rates from higher education below the doctoral level ranged from a low of 18 percent in Saudi Arabia to a high of 55 percent in the United Kingdom. The graduation rate in the United States was 39 percent (indicator 25).
Across the typical working age population (i.e., 25- to 64-year-olds), the average highest level of educational attainment in G-20 countries was upper secondary education. This was the case in France, Germany, Japan, the Republic of Korea, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Higher percentages of young adults (25- to 34-year-olds) had completed higher education than working age adults in all but one of the G-20 countries. Only in Germany were the rates of completion of higher education by young adults and 25- to 64-year-olds the same (28 percent), although the differences were small in Brazil and the United States (with 1-percentage-point differences) and the Russian Federation (with a 3-percentage-point difference) (indicator 26).
In 2011, a greater percentage of first university degrees were awarded in the field of social sciences, business, and law than in any other field in all G-20 countries reporting data, except Germany and the Republic of Korea (which awarded the highest percentage of their degrees in the field of mathematics, science, and engineering) and Saudi Arabia (which awarded the highest percentage of its degrees in the field of arts and humanities). In the United States, 41 percent of first university degrees were awarded in the field of social sciences, business, and law, whereas 16 percent were awarded in the field of science, mathematics, and engineering (among the lowest percentages in any of the G-20 countries). The arts and humanities was the field of study in which the smallest percentage of first university degrees were awarded in six countries. In nine countries, the smallest percentage of first university degrees were awarded in education (including the United States, at 6 percent) (indicator 27).
In the United States and all other G-20 countries reporting data in 2011, adults with higher educational attainment had higher employment rates than adults with lower educational attainment. However, while in every reporting G-20 country, employment rates rose with each successively higher education level, the specific advantage of higher levels of education varied by system. For example, the difference in employment rates between adults with upper secondary education and those with lower secondary education ranged from 3 percentage points in Brazil to 22 percentage points in the United Kingdom; the U.S. difference was 16 points. Examining differences in employment rates by sex shows that, in all reporting G-20 countries, men at all education levels had higher employment rates than women with comparable education. In the United States, for example, the employment rate was 86 percent for men with academic higher education (vs. 76 percent for women); 72 percent for men with upper secondary education (vs. 62 percent for women); and 61 percent for men with lower secondary education or below (vs. 40 percent for women) (indicator 28).
In all reporting G-20 countries, higher levels of education were associated with higher income (as well as lower levels of low income). At each successively higher level of education, there were larger percentages of adults ages 25 to 64 who earned more than the median income and more than twice the median income (as well as lower percentages who earned at or below half of the median income). At both the lower secondary education or below and upper secondary education levels, the United States had the lowest percentages of 25- to 64-year-olds who earned more than the median income. For U.S. adults with academic higher education, 68 percent earned more than the median income (indicator 29).
1 "International students" refer to students who have left their country
of origin (i.e., where they obtained their prior education) for the purpose of studying.
2 As used in this report, "higher education" refers to the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED97) level 5A (academic higher education below the doctoral level), level 5B (vocational higher education), and level 6 (academic higher education at the doctoral level), except where specific data exclusions are noted.
3 "Foreign students" refer to students who are not citizens of the countries in which they are enrolled, but may be long-term residents or have been born in that country.
4 Expenditures on core services pertain to spending instructional services, including faculty/staff salaries, professional development, and books other school materials. [end footnote] Expenditures on core services pertain to spending on instructional services, including faculty/staff salaries, professional development, and books and other school materials.