Cumberland Times-News

Editorials

October 8, 2013

Disturbing

Even our adults don’t match up in learning skills

Studies repeatedly show that America’s school students don’t compare well with students in other countries when it comes to learning skills, but now we find out that our adults aren’t doing well, either.

The Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies said American grownups scored below average when it comes to mathematics, reading and problem-solving using technology — all three of which are vital skills to have in our modern world.

America is not alone, however. Countries like Italy and Spain that are hard-hit by recession and debt aren’t doing well, either.

By contrast, countries like Japan, Canada, Australia and others in northern Europe — where the economies are good — score higher.

A common complaint among American business owners is the challenge of finding qualified employees. Some of them say many of their applicants have trouble filling out resumes or other job forms and have problems communicating in basic English.

Part of the problem is economic. It’s hard these days to succeed in life when your parents didn’t, but there was a time when that wasn’t always the case. Improving technology has eliminated many of the blue-collar jobs that enabled less-educated Americans to live successful lives. That technology has created many new jobs, but we’re having trouble filling them.

Reacting to the study, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said America needs to find ways to help adults upgrade their skills. Otherwise, they will be “stuck in place, unable to support their families and contribute fully to our country.”

That will be more easily said than done.

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