By: Michael Grothaus
A new report issued by the National Center for Education Statistics has found that American workers rank “dead last” out of 18 industrial nations when it comes to problem-solving skills using technology, the Wall Street Journal says. The report is based on Program for the International Assessment for Adult Competency (PIACC) data that tested thousands of adults aged 16 to 74 on literacy, numeracy, and digital problem-solving.
The results show that in the 1970s the U.S. had the most educated workforce in the world—but since 2000 the skills and knowledge of high-school graduates here have stagnated while other countries have seen a rapid increase in those traits.
“One stark revelation is that about four-fifths of unemployed Americans cannot figure out a rudimentary problem in which they have to spot an error when data is transferred from a two-column spreadsheet to a bar graph,” the Wall Street journal says. “And Americans are far less adept at dealing with numbers than the average of their global peers.”
The countries that had the best problem-solving with technology skills were Japan, Finland, Sweden, and Norway. The U.S. was last. Poland ranked just above America.
“This is the only country in the world where it’s OK to say ‘I’m not good at math.’ That’s just not acceptable in a place like Japan,” Stephen Provasnik, the U.S. technical adviser for the International Assessment for Adult Competency, told the Journal.
More worryingly, the report showed that being a digital native had little bearing on an American’s competency to use digital technology to evaluate information and perform practical tasks. It revealed that for those aged 16 to 34, even people with college, graduate, or professional degrees can’t compete with their international peers with similar education levels.
“Just because you’re a digital native, doesn’t mean you’re tech savvy,” Linda Rosen, chief executive of Change the Equation, a privately funded nonprofit that advocates for technological literacy in schools, told the Journal.
And that lack of tech savviness is something to be very concerned about, notes Marc Tucker, president and CEO of the National Center for Education and the Economy. He points out that failure to keep pace with international standards means global employers can find better-educated and cheaper labor in other countries.
“The only way we can compete and live well in this country is if people in other parts of the world want what we have to sell them and we can only get there if we have a population that is very well educated and well trained,” Tucker told the Journal. “If people with the same skills are willing to work harder and charge less, that’s where the jobs are going to go.”