Home Science Tech Are College Seniors in the US Outperforming China, India, and Russia?

Are College Seniors in the US Outperforming China, India, and Russia?

Undergraduate computer science programs at universities and colleges in the United States appear to produce more skilled students on average than equivalent programs in China, India, and Russia, according to new Stanford-led research.

An international group of scholars, led by the Graduate School of Education’s Prashant Loyalka, found that undergraduate seniors studying computer science in the United States outperformed final-year students in China, India, and Russia on a standardized exam measuring their skills. The research results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

International comparison of universities usually falls in the domain of popular news rankings and general public perception, which rely on limited information and do not consider the skills students acquire, Loyalka said. That’s why he and his team wanted to collect and analyze data on what students learn in colleges and universities in different countries.

Loyalka, who is also a center research fellow at the Rural Education Action Program in the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, said:

The findings

As part of the study, the researchers selected nationally representative samples of seniors from undergraduate computer science programs in the U.S., China, India, and Russia. Students were given a 2-hour standardized computer science test developed by the nonprofit testing and assessment organization Educational Testing Service. In total, 678 students in China, 364 students in India, and 551 students in Russia were tested. In the United States, the researchers used assessment data on 6,847 seniors.

The test, which aligns with national and international guidelines on what should be taught, probed how well students understand different concepts and knowledge about programming, algorithms, software engineering, and other computer science principles.

Researchers found that the average computer science student in the U.S. ranked higher than about 80 percent of students tested in China, India and Russia, Loyalka said. In contrast, the difference in scores among students in China, India, and Russia was small and not statistically significant.

Researchers found that the average computer science student in the U.S. ranked higher than about 80 percent of students tested in China, India and Russia. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)
Researchers found that the average computer science student in the U.S. ranked higher than about 80 percent of students tested in China, India, and Russia. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Researchers also compared a smaller pool of students from top-ranking institutions in each country. They found that the average student in a top computer science program in the U.S. also ranked higher than about 80 percent of students from top programs in China, India, and Russia. But the top Chinese, Indian and Russian students scored comparably with the U.S. students from regular institutions, according to the research.

The researchers also found that the success of the American students wasn’t due to the sample having a large number of high-scoring international students. The researchers distinguished international students by their language skills. Of all sampled U.S. students, 89.1 percent reported that their best language is only English, which the researchers considered to be domestic U.S. students, Loyalka said:

The researchers also found that male students scored moderately higher than female students in each of the four countries. Loyalka added:

Further research

The new research is a part of a larger effort led by Loyalka to examine the skills of students in science, technology, engineering, and math fields in different countries. In another forthcoming paper, he and his collaborators examine other skills among students in the same four countries. Further research will also look at the relationship between skills developed in college and labor market outcomes, he said.

Another major goal of the research team is to look more deeply at what might be driving the difference in the performance among countries. Loyalka said:

Provided by: Alex Shashkevich, Stanford University [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

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Troy Oakes
Troy was born and raised in Australia and has always wanted to know why and how things work, which led him to his love for science. He is a professional photographer and enjoys taking pictures of Australia's beautiful landscapes. He is also a professional storm chaser where he currently lives in Hervey Bay, Australia.

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