13-nation poll finds students unprepared

June 20, 1994|By Boston Globe

It has become almost a truism that foreign college students outperform Americans, but an international survey of faculty members to be released today finds that Americans are not the only ones who think students arrive on college campuses poorly prepared.

The study shows widespread disillusionment with college students' preparation even in Japan, where students must pass rigorous exams to gain admission.

In none of the 13 nations surveyed did more than 40 percent of NTC the faculty members believe undergraduates were adequately prepared in mathematics and quantitative reasoning skills.

In the United States, the figure was the lowest, at 15 percent; in Japan, it was only slightly higher, at 22 percent.

On reading and writing skills, only 15 percent of the Israeli faculty members, 20 percent of the U.S. faculty and 30 percent of Japanese faculty members said undergraduates were adequately prepared.

The survey, commissioned by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, is believed to provide the first international perspective on the views of college faculty.

More than 20,000 instructors at public and private four-year institutions were interviewed between 1991 and 1993 in Australia, Brazil, Chile, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Russia, South Korea, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Faculty members showed remarkable similarity in their views on certain subjects, including university administration. A majority of teachers worldwide believe top administrators at their institutions are autocratic and fail to provide competent leadership.

The survey also found that the battle to balance research and teaching occurs worldwide, as many faculty members feel pressured to perform more research and less service than they would like, in order to get ahead.

A significant minority in all the countries and Hong Kong said the government interferes too much in education and, particularly in the United States and South Korea, many suggested that forces of political correctness are restricting what faculty members publish.

But the survey did not turn up only complaints.

Faculty members reported a deep commitment to their careers and to applying their knowledge to society's problems. More than 60 percent of the faculty in all nations and more than 80 percent in the United States felt this obligation.

But many said they have little influence on national policy and that respect for the profession is declining.

With only a few exceptions, most notably Russia, faculty members worldwide said their nations protected academic freedom and left them free to determine the focus of research and course content.

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