In avideo he uploaded to Facebookon Tuesday, Donald Trump took a swing at what he believes is America’s failing school system.
“We are rated 28 in the world. The United States, think of it, 28 in the world,” he said. “Third-world countries are ahead of us.”
But is that an accurate statement, or simply hyperbole?
To fact-check that claim we took a look at the international test most widely used as a tool for measuring education systems worldwide, the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA. The PISA exam is a worldwide study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and it measures 15-year-olds in 65 countries in maths, science, and reading.
The US scores notoriously low on the PISA. In 2012, the most recent time the PISA was conducted, the US ranked 35th in maths, 27th in science, and 24th in reading. It ranked below the OECD average in every category.
So, Trump’s claim that 25 countries are better at education than the US seems to be a fairly accurate point to make.
The second part of Trump’s statement, that some third-world countries beat the US, is a bit more nuanced to unpack. For starters, the term “third-world” is a vague descriptor that means different things to different people. The term was birthed during the Cold War to refer to countries that were aligned with neither NATO nor the Communist Bloc.
With the fall of the Soviet Union, the term has morphed to be more of a catchall term for developing or poor countries and is considered offensive by some people. As such, there is no authoritative list of “third-world” countries.
Still, we took a look at the countries with the lowest gross national income (GNI) based on Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) per capita in international dollars, as a proxy for a list of “third-world countries.” For the most part, the countries that beat the US are also economically strong. Those countries include China, Singapore, and Germany.
But one country that beat the US is significantly poorer than those countries: Vietnam. The comparable average income of a citizen of Vietnam is $5,070 yearly, compared with $53,470 for the US. Vietnam beat the US in both maths and science.
So even though it sounds outlandish to make that claim, Trump makes a fair point about the US’ educational system.
Watch below for the full video.
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