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American millenials are highly educated, but least skilled, report says

Americans born after 1980 trail behind their international associates in terms of skill, despite acquiring the most education out of the previous generations, a new Education Testing Service report said.

The report shared data from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, a comparative international assessment, which tested the aptitudes of people ages 16 to 65 in 22 countries. The authors chose the millennials as the focal point for the research for several key reasons.

“First, these young adults include the most recent products of our educational systems. Second, according to recent reports, they have attained the most years of schooling of any cohort in American history. And, finally, millennials will shape the economic and social landscape of our country for many years to come,” said Irwin S. Kirsch, director of the Center for Global Assessment Educational Testing Service.

“Millennials may be on track to be our most educated generation ever, but they consistently score below many of their international peers in literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments,” the report said.

How bad were the results?

In literacy, U.S millennials scored lower than 15 out of the 22 countries. In numeracy, they ranked close to last with only Italy and Spain beneath. Millennials also ranked third to last in PS-TRE, which was especially surprising given that the millennials hold a superior tech savvy reputation, the report stressed. Even the best performing and most educated millennials with a master’s or research degree fell short in the standings.

“While it is true that, on average, the more years of schooling one completes, the more skills one acquires, this report suggests that far too many are graduating high school and completing postsecondary educational programs without receiving adequate skills,” Kirsch said.

The ETS report was not the only educational survey that concluded similar results. The National Assessment of Educational Progress, which tests high school seniors, yielded similar results and the College Board reported in 2013 that 57 percent of SAT takers did not qualify as “college ready.”

The report challenged the education system to recognize the issue and strive for change.

“If we expect to have a better educated population and a more competitive workforce, policy makers and other stakeholders will need to shift the conversation from one of educational attainment to one that acknowledges the growing importance of skills and examines these more critically,” said Kirsch.

“As a nation, we can decide to accept the current levels of mediocrity and inequality or we can decide to address the skills challenge head on. The choices we make will provide a vivid reflection of what our nation values.”

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