• Bernhardt Wealth Management

How Has the Pandemic Affected Education in the US and Internationally?

We don’t yet have a clear report card on how well-educated America’s students were during the 2020-21 school year, with so much remote learning during the pandemic. And with the worrying rise of the delta variant and its ongoing effects on American schools, it will also be a while before we know what the educational landscape will be like for 2021-22. But there is a wealth of statistics about how America’s educational system compares with other countries. The National Center for Education Statistics examines between 58 and 61 different educational systems around the world and measures the academic proficiency of their students from a variety of angles.

For instance, in a recent survey, US fourth-grade students tested at an average reading literacy score of 549, which was higher than the average scores of 30 educational systems, tied with 15 others, and behind Russia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Ireland, Finland, Poland, Norway, China, the United Kingdom, and Latvia. But in an assessment of students’ ability to comprehend online information, the US students scored higher than students in all but three nations, finishing only behind Singapore, Norway, and Ireland. Meanwhile, US 15-year-old students achieved a 505 average reading score, behind eight other education systems.


In mathematics, US fourth-graders scored lower than ten education systems: Belgium, China, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, Northern Ireland, Norway, the Republic of Korea, Russia, and Singapore. US eighth-graders also scored relatively high on the world stage, but their mathematics proficiency was behind students in Canada, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Russia, and Singapore.


American fourth-graders were slightly better in their science proficiency, finishing only behind China, Finland, Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, Russia, and Singapore. Eighth- grade American students once again finished beyond China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Russia, Singapore, and Slovenia.


What does this tell us about the overall educational status of American citizens? The US is actually at or near the top in terms of the percentage of adults with a college education—an estimated 24% of Americans have a bachelor’s degree, another 12% hold a master’s degree, and 2% have earned PhDs. This is almost exactly the same as the United Kingdom and Israel, but slightly behind Australia (27%, 8%, 1%), Ireland (35%, 15%, 2%), and New Zealand (29%, 5%, 1%). Only 3% of Americans are functioning with just a primary school education, and 42% stopped their education with a high school diploma.


How has education been impacted by the pandemic? A recent report tells you what you already know: that the lockdowns in response to COVID19 have interrupted conventional schooling around the world. Later, the report talks about the opportunity that the pandemic experience has provided to global educational systems to build on what they’ve learned about distance learning approaches, and the chances that classroom sizes will be permanently reduced going forward. Virtually every country in the world is entering a new untested period of hybrid learning, and some countries where school attendance is optional (Canada, the Czech Republic, France, and Spain) may find that many students prefer to stay at home and interact with their school through their computer or iPad. But much depends on our ability to contain the spread of the delta variant and how that impacts attendance policies and distance-learning capabilities in schools across the nation and the world. Further, American students in varying school environments and differing socioeconomic groups face very different prospects for the ability to continue their learning under pandemic conditions. Addressing this disparity is vital for extending the maximum opportunities to all US students.


At Bernhardt Wealth Management, we offer professional, evidence-based guidance to parents and grandparents who want to help the next generation achieve its full educational potential. Our services and recommendations are always structured with the client’s best interests foremost. To learn more about the surprising ways a financial advisor can help, click here to read our article, “The Real Value of a Financial Advisor.”


Buen Camino!

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