This is an interesting article from Reuters that show that many of the highschool dropouts found that they wanted more discipline and structure in school. Instead of being troublemakers many of them just felt that the educational system did not inspire them

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"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Most students who drop out of high school in the United States admit they made a mistake by quitting and some say they might have stayed if classes were more challenging, according to a report released on Thursday.

Researchers said they were surprised to find that a majority of the 467 dropouts they interviewed were not what most people would consider underachieving troublemakers and losers.

One-third said they were failing in school, but more than six out of 10 were maintaining C averages or better when they quit. Almost half said they were bored or that the classwork seemed irrelevant.

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The young people between 16 and 25 who took part in the study called "The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts" were interviewed in 25 locations with high dropout rates. These included cities, suburbs and towns.

The report recommends federal, state and local efforts to offer students school options, engage parents and create early-warning systems for at-risk youths.

It also calls for more accurate tracking of dropouts and consideration of raising the legal dropout age to 18. Most states sets the compulsory school attendance age at 16 or 17.

"In fact, these kids cite too much freedom, which surprised us," Bridgeland said. "They get to high school and all of a sudden under state law they're permitted to drop out, many of the kids know that. They want more order and rules and expectations."

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I myself went to a Jesuit high school which was close to being an enlightened military school as any. I think that without the discipline and esprit of being part of that institution that I would have most likely dropped out in a public educational system which in my city just didn't care.

Asian school kids score higher on primary and middle school tests than American kids because their school years are quite severe with rote learning and intense pressure to study and get good grades. Thats the positive actually. Unfortunately, when they get to university, those same rigid skills become their undoing. This may be a reason why US higher education is far superior than anything (so far) that I've seen here in Asia. Its not that the kids are not as smart or as motivated, its just that they have been trained to think differently. The economist thinks so too.

 

"Asian universities are still decades behind American ones. The Chinese, who are not given to undue modesty these days, admit that it could take half a century to catch up with American universities (which could be an optimistic prediction if China’s government continues to clamp down on free thought); until then they will have to send many of their best minds abroad. Meanwhile, America’s most serious long-standing rival, the Europeans, have managed to construct a system for running universities which condemns them to second-class intellectual citizenship.

The American higher-educational system—if system isn’t too neat a word—is based on three principles. First, the federal government plays a limited but vital part. Limited because there are lots of different sorts of funding—from private philanthropists to corporations and student fees—and because there is no central master-plan. But vital because the government helps to fund basic research and student loans. Second, there is the principle of competition. Universities compete for everything from students to star professors to research money. Third, the power of the teachers (who tend to be locked in their own little worlds) needs to be counter-balanced by the power of the academic administration (which can pursue the overall interests of the institution). At best, this allows universities to seize opportunities and snap up talent; at the very least, it puts a brake on the natural tendency of academics to engage in endless verbose prevarication."

 

The Shanghai Jia Tong Univ ranking is considered the defacto list of elite global universities.

Cool, mine are #1 and #43 :)

-Frank