WASHINGTON (AP) — Easier classes, less homework and lots of sports — this is how American high schools are viewed by students from other countries studying in the U.S.
Easier classes, less homework and lots of sports — this is how American high schools are viewed by students from other countries studying in the US.
Despite a push in recent years to make the US education system more competitive and effective, foreign exchange students continue to view American high school experience as much less stimulating, according to a study published Wednesday.
"You get this feeling — the kids from abroad come here, they spend a year, they think that school is easier here," said Tom Loveless, a fellow with the Brown Center on Education Policy with the Brookings Institutions. "We think we have made great strides in making our schools more challenging, here is at least one outside group that is in fact saying they are not terribly challenging."
While the findings appear to corroborate international student assessment tests, in which American schools trail behind many developed countries, some experts disputed the methodology and the underlying principles of Loveless' study, saying that foreign exchange students did not represent typical teenagers in their home countries and that the focus on sports wasn't necessarily a bad thing.
In the survey conducted last spring, 259 teenagers from various countries compared their experience in American schools to that in their home countries. All the students were in the US as part of the AFS Intercultural Programs, an international youth exchange organization.
Forty-four percent of respondents said US students spend "much less" time on schoolwork than at their home countries, while 21% thought they spend "a little less." Asked how difficult their classes are in the US, 66% said they are "much easier" and 24% said "a little easier." The results were similar compared to a similar study Loveless conducted in 2001, but the differences were more pronounced.
Asked about the importance of sports for US students, 64% of respondents said it is "much more" important to do well in sports in the US and 23% said "a little more" important. By contrast, 16% said the focus on math was "much less" in America and 32% said it was "a little less," while 40% believed it was the same as in their home countries. Finally, 53% of respondents felt it is "much less" important to US teens to study a second language and 27% said it was "a little less" so.
"So the kids are saying, in terms of my peer groups in my home country, our peer culture rewards success at math more than it does in the US and it does not reward sports so much," Loveless said.
But Jack Buckley, senior vice president for research and evaluation at American Institutes for Research, said that the methodology for Loveless' study does not make sense.
"It's unlikely that foreign exchange students are a particularly representative sample of their home countries," Buckley said, adding that such students are likely more ambitious, come from wealthier families and thus attend better schools. AFS said that its one-year program in the US can cost up to $16,000, though some students get scholarships.
Buckley also noted that American high schools can be drastically different from one another. He cited an international student achievement study called PISA which last year ranked the US 25th out of 50 participating countries, below Canada, Britain and Poland. While the average math score for the entire country was 470, the wealthiest schools scored 530, similar to Japan and Finland, while the poorest schools scored 427, on par with Chile and United Arab Emirates.
"Anybody who tells you they generalize about American high schools by just looking at ratings and a few numbers is underestimating the variability in American education," Buckley said.
Martin Carnoy, professor at the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University, said that while some parents abroad like their kids to concentrate solely on homework, in the American culture many parents believe that playing sports makes one a well-rounded person and teaches them important social skills such as teamwork and perseverance. Also, it makes them feel good.
"We do put more emphasis on sports, we do put more emphasis on other activities, it's fun!" Carnoy said. "You are a teenager, have a good time, the rest of life is going to be hard. I don't know If it's such a condemnation of our school system. It depends what you want."
Abdalla Fadhili Abdalla, 16, an exchange student from Kenya agreed with Loveless' findings, saying he found his US high school to be less demanding than at home — the days are shorter, there are fewer subjects and less homework.
"School is easier here and harder in Kenya, I have a lot of homework in Kenya," Abdalla said. At the same time, he enjoys weightlifting at his Maryland high school, saying: "I think it's kind of good to combine sports and studies."
Nearly two-thirds of foreign exchange students surveyed, 64.1 percent, view American teens as valuing success at sports “much more” than teens in their home countries. Conversely, only 5 percent of foreign students said U.S. pupils place a much greater importance on success at math than their peers at home.What is the hardest high school in the country? ›
- International Academy*, Bloomfield Hills, Mich. ...
- Stanton College Prep*, Jacksonville, Fla. ...
- Paxon*, Jacksonville, Fla. ...
- Alabama School of Fine Arts, Birmingham. ...
- Jericho, N.Y. ...
- George Mason*, Falls Church, Va. ...
- Eastern Sierra Academy, Bridgeport, Calif. ...
- Myers Park*, Charlotte, N.C.
It can be extremely easy, or demonically difficult. It all depends on which classes you choose. Taking a bunch of AP or other advanced classes? You'll be closer to the 3–5 hours end of the spectrum, although it depends on the class, and your teacher.What is the most academically challenging high school? ›
- IDEA McAllen (charter), McAllen, Texas.
- Signature School(charter), Evansville, Indiana.
- Carnegie Vanguard High School, Houston ISD, Texas.
- Young Women's Preparatory Academy (magnet), Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Florida.
- IDEA Pharr (charter), Pharr, Texas.
- IDEA San Juan (charter), San Juan, Texas.
Despite this, almost every student who has experienced going to high school in the United States and in any European country shared the same opinion: in Europe, the school is harder and requires studying more, while in America studying does not require that much time or effort, and students get to enjoy their high ...What is the #1 high school in USA? ›
|1||Phillips Academy Andover||MA|
|3||Choate Rosemary Hall||CT|
|4||Phillips Exeter Academy||NH|
|1||Harvard-Westlake School||Los Angeles, CA|
|2||The College Preparatory School||Oakland, CA|
|3||The Nueva School||San Mateo, CA|
|4||Stanford Online High School||N/A|
Mater Dei High School
#1 Best High Schools for Athletes in America.
- Physics 1. As one of the hardest high school classes, this course includes not only algebra but also scientific inquiry and physics. ...
- Environmental Science. ...
- Chemistry. ...
- U.S. Government and Politics. ...
- U.S. History. ...
- Human Geography. ...
- European History. ...
Although some people might find that freshman year of high school is challenging, junior year would typically be the most difficult, busy, and important year because of everything you have to juggle from academics, extracurricular activities, and college preparation to still keeping a social life.
Pace. In the case of the British curriculum, it can be found that in primary/secondary school, the level of learning in the U.K. school system was considerably higher. This is because the students have in-depth knowledge of each topic taught in each stage.Does America have the best school system in the world? ›
No. 1: United States. The U.S. repeats as the No. 1 best country for education in 2022. The public education system in the country is funded largely through state and local taxes, with students required to begin compulsory education as young as age 5 and progress through at least age 16, depending on the state.Are American high schools easier? ›
More than half of American high school students who have studied in another country agree that our schools are easier. Objectively, they are probably correct: American high school students spend far less time on schoolwork than their counterparts in the rest of the world.What is the hardest school in America? ›
|School||Location||Acceptance Rate (Class of 2026)|
|1. Harvard||Cambridge, MA||3.19%|
|2. Columbia||New York, NY||3.73%|
|3. Caltech||Pasadena, CA||3.92%*|
|4. Stanford||Stanford, CA||3.95%*|
Michaela Community School, in Brent, North London, has developed a reputation for being the world's strictest school. Run by its famous headmistress and founder Katharine Birbalsingh, the school harks back to conservative values of yesteryear (without corporal punishment).