Many Americans Say U.S. Students Are Outranked in Science by Counterparts Abroad
A plurality of Americans say that U.S. high school students rank far behind students in other developed countries in their knowledge of science.
A plurality of Americans (44%) say that average American 15-year-olds rank at the bottom on standardized tests of science knowledge, when compared with students in other developed nations, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in March.
But that is incorrect: According to the most recent available data from the Program for International Student Assessment, U.S. students rank among the middle of OECD nations (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development).
The survey finds that 35% correctly know that U.S. 15-year-olds are about in the middle when it comes to science knowledge; 7% say incorrectly that American students rank among the top of developed nations.
The survey asked an open-ended question about what one subject K-12 schools should emphasize more these days; 30% of respondents say math; 19% say English, grammar or writing, while 11% say science; and 10% say history, social studies or government. Overall, 45% mention some aspect of science, technology, engineering or mathematics.
When asked why many young people do not pursue degrees in math and science, a 46% plurality says it is mostly because they view these subjects as too difficult. Young people have about the same opinions as older people for why many do not pursue math and science degrees: 47% say it is because those subjects are seen as too difficult. Read more
(This survey reflected the results of a nationwide quiz on science and technology. Take the 13-question quiz and see how your score compares to others).
Bruce Drake is a senior editor at Pew Research Center.