The results for PISA 2012 are in. PISA is an international survey done every three years to assess the competencies of 15-year-olds from 65 countries in key subject areas. Here's what they found.
The survey, called the Programme for International Assessment (PISA), is organized by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Some 510,000 students between the ages of 15 years 3 months and 16 years 2 months took part. The paper-based tests took two hours to complete and involved three primary areas: reading, science, and (especially) math (as it's considered a key indicator for post-secondary success).
Here are the official rankings:
Asian countries did the best, with Shanghai performing so well in math that the OECD compares their scoring to the equivalent of nearly three years of schooling in most countries. Canada finished in 13th (read the CBC's assessment ), the UK 26th (read the BBC's assessment), and the US 36th (read NPR's assessment). Of the countries surveyed, 19 reported an average annual improvement in science, 37 showed no change, and eight recorded a decline.
Boys scored higher than girls in math in 37 out of the 65 countries (56%). And there was a strong correlation between a higher GDP per capita and successful performance.
For a thorough overview of the results, read the Guardian's analysis. The same publication also offers a critical review, saying that the tables are "dubious" and that "there is more to learning than this." And in anticipation of spectacularly shitty US results, the Washington Post put out an article titled, "How public opinion about new PISA test scores is being manipulated." Richard Rothstein and Martin Carnoy write:
Our report further challenges the conventional view that U.S. performance on an international test has serious consequences for the nation's future prosperity. Certainly, a country needs a sufficient number of highly educated workers. However, there is little reason to believe that the United States is not now at that sufficiency level, or that continued growth in educational credentials is necessary to ensure we remain there.
The writers caution that "any conclusions drawn quickly from such complex data should not be relied upon."