(FinalCall.com) – The United States has one of the least effective educational systems among industrialized nations, according to the United Nations.

In the most recent data assembled by the world body, the world’s superpower ranked 18th out of 24 nations surveyed by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). In fact, the United States finished low in each test and in adult literacy, the study showed.

In statistics released late last year by UNICEF’s Innocenti Research Center in Florence, Italy, South Korea and Japan have the most effective education system.


The UN agency said the survey was not based “on the conventional yardstick of how many students reach what level of education.” Instead, it based testing on what pupils actually know and what they are able to do.

The study was based on five different tests of 14- and 15-year-olds that measured their reading, math and science skills. The study averaged the results to give “the most comprehensive picture to date of how well each nation’s education system is functioning as a whole,” UNICEF said.

Part of a series of “report cards,” the 36-page report hinted that the deterioration of the home structure is partly to blame for the poor showing.

“It is clear that educational disadvantage is born not at school but in the home,” said the report. “Learning begins at birth” and is fostered by “a loving, secure, stimulating environment.”

UNICEF officials pointed out that they did not try to determine why certain nations did poorly, but that the biggest factor is children’s socioeconomic background and the level of their parents’ education.

UNICEF combined results of tests conducted by the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), conducted in 2000 and the Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMSS), given in 1995 and 1999, to come up with its findings.

The U.S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation support TIMSS, which also receives global backing from the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement.

Additionally, results of the International Adult Literacy Survey of 1994 and 1998 were factors in the result.

According to UNICEF, “a more reliable overview” was drawn from these combinations, which also deterred criticisms that certain tests were not culturally neutral.