NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Other Countries Surpass U.S. Graduation Rates

November 24, 1998

Long the world's leader in producing high school graduates, the U.S. has relinquished that position to 11 other industrialized countries, according to a new study from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. While U.S. students are staying in school longer than they had previously, other counties have made even greater strides.

  • In 1990, the average number of years a 5-year-old American was expected to attend school or college was 16.3 -- a figure which by 1996 had risen to 16.8 years.
  • But by 1996, 11 other countries -- including Canada, Spain and Finland -- had surpassed that number.
  • And while college enrollment in the U.S. remained relatively stable between 1990 and 1996, it increased by more than 25 percent in 16 OECD countries.
  • The U.S. has one of the highest university dropout rates in the industrialized world -- 37 percent.

Among the 29 member nations of the OECD, the U.S. high school graduation rate, at 72 percent, is next to last -- surpassing only Mexico. The study also reported Americans are among the industrialized world's least literate populations. Yet U.S. spending per pupil is among the highest in the group at all levels of education.

Source: Ethan Bronner, "Long a Leader, U.S. Now Lags in High School Graduation Rates," New York Times, November 24, 1998.


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