Belgium beats US in classroom & World Cup

Mark D’Alessio
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Center for Education and Workforce.
Ok, I’ll admit it—I jumped on the World Cup bandwagon. Who knew that such a low-scoring sport could be so exciting to watch?

Which brings me to today’s marquee matchup—the United States vs. Belgium.

Some columnists and commentators believe that the U.S. has a decent chance at beating Belgium later today and moving on to the next round. (Fingers crossed!) But what if today’s competition were held in the classroom instead of on the soccer field? How would the United States perform against the Belgians?

We’d get our tails kicked.

According to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) which ranks 15-year-old students’ performance in math, reading, and science in 69 countries, Belgium is 15th overall while the United States disappoints at 36th.

Our postsecondary institutions don’t fare much better. In the inaugural Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) exam, which evaluates the skills of 16- to 29-year-olds with a bachelor’s degree in 24 countries, the United States is outperformed by Belgium again.

In literacy, Belgium ranks 8th of the 24 countries, while the United States is 17th. In math (numeracy) Belgium is an impressive 3rd, while the United States is near the bottom of all countries at 22nd.

In both subjects, the United States scored ‘significantly below the average’ while Belgium scored ‘significantly above the average.’ It’s not even close.

Let’s hope our soccer team performs a lot better than our students do later today. Otherwise, this will be a blowout.
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