Education

Britons, Canadians Confident in Education Systems

Americans ambivalent on quality of education in U.S.

The results are in and opinions are mixed on whether the nearly four-year-old No Child Left Behind education reform in the United States has passed its first true test. The scores on the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress, released last week, show U.S. students in the fourth and eighth grades are improving in math, but reading test averages are only slightly higher for fourth-graders, and are actually slipping for eighth-graders.

Americans' opinions on the current quality of education that U.S. students receive are similarly ambivalent -- particularly relative to public opinion in Canada and Great Britain, where clear majorities are satisfied with the quality of education students in their countries get. Recent multinational Gallup polling* indicates that less than half of Americans (46%) are satisfied with the quality of education students in their country are getting, compared with majorities of Canadians (62%) and Britons (61%).

Though most Britons are satisfied with their current education system, the government has launched nationwide education reform initiatives there as well. In a speech delivered in May 2005, Queen Elizabeth said that both the Every Child Matters initiative and the 11-19 agenda in Great Britain "are designed to set schools free -- setting a new framework for leadership, governance and accountability for schools." Rather than holding schools accountable for standardized test results, as NCLB does, Parliament's approach emphasizes parental involvement and learning tailored to individual students, and grants greater independence to successful schools and colleges.

Parents' Views

When it comes to their children's educations, American parents with children attending school are more in sync with British and Canadian parents. At least three in four parents in all three countries say they are satisfied with the education their oldest child is getting -- 84% in Great Britain, 78% in the United States, and 75% in Canada. (In general, survey respondents tend to rate conditions closer to home more highly than those nationwide.)

Nearly 9 in 10 respondents in each country also say they are satisfied with the education they personally received: 87% in the United States, 90% in Canada, and 86% in Great Britain.

Bottom Line

Americans have a more negative impression of their nation's school system than Canadians or Britons have, even though they are as likely as Britons and Canadians to positively rate their children's educations and their own. Why the discrepancy? It may stem largely from negative news about the nation's schools. U.S. students tend to score less favorably in international benchmark comparisons, and it's easy to understand why Americans are more likely than Canadians or Britons to be less satisfied. Americans may also be familiar with the achievement gap among white, black, and Hispanic students in the United States -- a problem far less severe in Canada and Great Britain -- and want it closed.

*Results in the United States are based on telephone interviews with 2,264 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted June 6-25, 2005, and 1,001 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Aug. 8-11, 2005.For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. For results based on parents with children in grades kindergarten through 12, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±6 percentage points. The survey was conducted by Gallup USA.

Results in Canada are based on telephone interviews with 1,005 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Aug. 22-31, 2005. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. For results based on parents with children in grades kindergarten through 12, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±6 percentage points. The survey was conducted by Gallup Canada.

Results in Great Britain are based on telephone interviews with 1,010 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Aug. 26-Sept. 8, 2005. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. For results based on parents with children in grades kindergarten through 11, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±7 percentage points. The survey was conducted by Gallup UK.

Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/19399/Britons-Canadians-Confident-Education-Systems.aspx Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A +1 202.715.3030