Cape coloured school children at Imperial Primary School in Eastridge, Mitchell's Plain (Cape Town, South Africa). Picture by Henry Trotter, 2006.
In 2003, the USA came 24th out of 29 countries when education attainment was measured. (Programme for International Student Assessment - Wikipedia.)
In 2007, Finland and South Korea were the top in education, according to a major international study.
The three-yearly Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) showed that Finland and Korea were in the top five for reading and maths.
"The UK has shown a downward turn in its standing - leaving the top 10 for both maths and reading despite an increase in spending on education." (Finland stays top of global class )
The UK was in 24th place for maths and 17th for literacy. (Pisa international rankings )
The last time we visited an international school, we were told that the most polite and hard working kids were the Scandinavians, Koreans, Japanese and Chinese.
The most disturbed and disruptive kids were the British, Americans and Australians.
This might suggest that the English language media has corrupted British, American and Australian families, and hurt educational attainment.
The Guardian reported on what happened in Bhutan when TV arrived.
"Four years ago, Bhutan, the fabled Himalayan Shangri-la, became the last nation on earth to introduce American-style television.
"Suddenly a culture, barely changed in centuries, was bombarded by 46 cable channels.
"And all too soon came Bhutan's first crime wave - murder, fraud, drug offences."
According to a study in 2000 by the OECD, British parents spend less time with their children compared to other nationalities, 'leaving them more open to influence from their peers and a commercially driven, celebrity-obsessed media'. (Britain's Out-of-Control Kids)
Does spending more taxpayer's money on education, necessarily produce better school results?
The Czech Republic, in the top ten in educational attainment, spent only one third as much per student as the United States did. (Programme for International Student Assessment - Wikipedia.)
On 8 October 2009, the Daily Mail (UK) reported on the findings of a think tank, called the Centre for Public Policy for Regions.
According to the think tank: Scottish pupils are falling behind their English counterparts despite taxpayers spending an extra £1,400 per child.
Among the points made:
1. Higher spending has made little difference to the quality of education in Scotland.
2. Around £680million could be cut from education spending without harming quality.
3. Scotland spends £4,638 per primary pupil and £6,326 per secondary pupil.
This compares with £3,580 per English primary school pupil and £4,620 per secondary pupil.
4. England and other parts of the UK have improved - despite spending less.
The Scottish Government says the findings are out of date and questionable.
The think tank report calls for greater parental choice of schools, and an improvement in the quality of teaching.
Labour's education spokeswoman Rhona Brankin said: 'What this report fails to properly take into account is that some children cost more than others to educate effectively.
'Children from disadvantaged backgrounds may struggle with their education without more help, support and resources.
'The report itself points out that there needs to be a better analysis of factors such as socio-economic background.'
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: 'This report primarily covers the period up to 2007 and it relates to the record of the previous administration.
'It is also a partial report and is qualified by health warnings throughout.'
She said Audit Scotland and HM Inspectorate of Education had recently carried out 'far more substantial and robust analysis of the issues'.
'However, what this report does confirm is that this Government inherited a position of lower investment and lower attainment that we currently enjoy,' she said.
There's more than one way to learn. Most of our learning comes in the first five years, before we go to school.
'Exam results in recent years have shown steady improvement, as reflected by this year's record pass rates at both Higher and Advanced Higher level.'
And an international survey showed 'relatively few' OECD countries outperformed Scotland.
Some children need intensive care.
Most Americans (58.5%) will spend at least one year below the poverty line at some point.
(Hacker, J. S. (2006). The great risk shift: The new insecurity and the decline of the American dream. New York: Oxford University Press (USA).)
Poverty, whether emotional or financial, can presumably affect educational attainment.
In the UK, some kids, when they first arrive at primary school, have not been taught how to dress themselves, or how use a knife and fork, or how to use a toilet properly.