U.S. Drops in Global Innovation Rankings

The United States may be home to Facebook, Google, Apple, and taco shells made of Doritos, but according to a recent international study, our nation is becoming less innovative, at least compared to last year. After ranking 7th in 2011, the U.S. is ranked 10th in this year’s Global Innovation Index, a massive report published by Insead, an international business school, and the World Intellectual Property Organization, an agency of the United Nations.

The report ranks 141 nations on nearly 100 factors related to innovation, in areas like “Business sophistication,” “Human capital & research,” and “Knowledge & technology outputs.” Switzerland and Sweden are ranked Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, for the second straight year. Rounding out the top five are Singapore, Finland, and the United Kingdom.

The survey is divided into 21 sub-groups which contain related metrics. In only “Creative intangibles” (No. 84), “Ecological sustainability” (No. 73), and “Trade & competition” (No. 69), does the U.S. rank worse than it does in two education sub-groups.

In a category related to K-12 education, the U.S. is ranked 31st, owing to low rankings in education expenditures. Our pupil-to-teacher ratio in secondary education, at 13.8:1, is ranked 61st. In higher education, the U.S. ranks second in enrollment, but 74th in students graduating with science and engineering degrees. Elsewhere, the U.S. ranks No. 1 in the amount of students taking the GMATs, the entry exam for business school, but 53rd on GMAT mean score.

Take these numbers with a grain of salt; the top three ranked countries for K-12 education are Ireland, Uzbekistan, and Lesotho. You can read the full ratings in each category for the U.S. below.

Many of these rankings are things we already know, but it’s interesting to see the statistics put into a bigger picture as it relates to innovation. It’s also strange to have a word as nebulous—and, at times, meaningless, as has been speculated on this blog before—as innovation quantified and treated as a metric.

But it’s also tough to give the rankings a lot of weight. Does teacher-to-pupil ratio truly spark innovation? Some would define virtual learning, with its teacher-to-pupil ratio in the hundreds, as a leading example of innovation in education. Similarly, America’s top rankings in the category of “Market sophistication,” including the amount of stocks traded (No. 1), the value of venture capital deals (No. 5), and the ease of getting credit (No. 2), could be construed as vibrant business development for some and a sign of reckless spending, or even a bubble, to others.

As The Economist points out, some factors are simply more important than others, and some factors—like spawning profitable, globally leading technology companies like those aforementioned—cannot be quantified.

“The crux of the issue is two fold,” says a post on The Economist‘s “Graphic Detail” blog. “First, the index is misnamed. It is meant to measure the ‘enabling environment’ for innovation, rather than the product itself.”

For instance, South Korea and Japan, two of the most internet-connected nations with among the most robust technology economies, are ranked 21st and 25th respectively (for what it’s worth, both of those countries also finished in the top 8 on the most recent PISA survey in 2009).

Some of America’s drop can probably be chalked up to the recession; the report itself suggests a lack of growth compared to other top nations is the likely cause for the fall.

So, if we didn’t know already, in order to create innovators through education we need to increase rigor in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math instruction; teach students business acumen and entrepreneurship; and lower class sizes. Get to it!

Oh, and there’s another factor we should watch out for: We are No. 2 in the world in video uploads to YouTube. According to the Global Innovation Index, this is a good thing, but I can’t see the harm in dropping a few spots before next year.

2012 Global Innovation Index – United States scorecard (Text)

3 thoughts on “U.S. Drops in Global Innovation Rankings

  1. I think that this type of reporting is meaningless, especially with the current reading, writing and math deficiencies America currently has.

    30% of college accepted freshman MUST take remedial courses in order to take a college class!

    40% of 10th. Graders can’t read at grade level!

    30% of ALL high school freshman will drop out before grade 10!

    Let’s fix these stats first, then we can start to compare "brain-pans" with the world!

  2. The U.S. with all it’s wealth, has the highest levels of poverty within subgroups of it’s population when compared with the rest of the industrialized countries of the World.

    This demographic of children needing stability and dynamic learning opportunities in their lives the most instead, receive an impoverished education devoid of multi sensory learning opportunities critical to the development of the whole child and instrumental in facilitating creativity and divergent thinking capacity.

    Newsweek reported on this issue back in 2010: http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2010/07/10/the-creativity-crisis.html

    It is not surprising this is happening with Wall Street corporate reformers and privateers stranglehold on education reform and their emphasis and love affair with high stakes testing and standardized educational experience.

    In the rush to generate compliant worker bees, it is not surprising American schools dominated by authoritarian approaches to mass produced standardized educational experience are now producing a surplus of children who can’t think for themselves or generate original ideas.

  3. Why is anyone surprised?

    The Republican’ts continue their efforts to dismantle the public schools and turn them over to rich for-profit education charter school Republican’ts who care only about the money and not the students.

    And more amazingly, the Republican’ts actually oppose teaching students critical-thinking skills. No wonder we fare so poorly in global innovatin.

    Don’t believe me? Well read what the Texas Republican’ts actually wrote in their party platform:


    The Texas Republican’ts’ Evil Plot to Dumb Down Your Children

    Knowledge-Based Education:
    “We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.” – Texas Republican’t Party; 2012 Republican’t Party of Texas, Report of Platform Committee and Rules Committee

    “What luck for rulers that men do not think.” – Adolph Hitler, 1945

    Yes, that is correct – the Republican’t Party of Texas is advocating that children should not be taught to think. Now, in an apparent moment of lucidity, they tried to walk back their attack on “critical thinking,” citing that it was included in error and should have been deleted from the final platform. However, their delegates approved it despite the supposed “error.” The delegates of the Texas Republican’t Party thought this was a good idea, didn’t question it, and agreed to it. If not a single delegate stood up to say, “hey, there appears to be a typo in that plank,” it’s clear that this opposition to thinking is not a foreign concept to Texas Republican’ts, despite any late attempts at damage control. Since this was approved by the state delegation, despite the “error,” it will remain the party’s stand until 2014.

    Once you get past the initial shock of this plank, it is important to consider their assertion from an educational perspective. This belief spits in the face of anything that mirrors a concept in education. From Socrates to Robert Marazzano, questioning beyond knowledge is the essence of instruction and education. Teaching a child to question their knowledge is fundamental, and robbing a human of that ability is abusive and inhumane. By simply asking the question “Why?” or “How?” the teacher elevates the knowledge to a critical arena for the student which is the kind of thinking that is necessary for anyone seeking success in business, politics, accounting, or….life.

    The Texas Republican’ts specifically identify Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) as an issue they opposed. HOTS is also known as critical thinking and is closely related to Bloom’s Taxonomy of Thinking Skills. This moves away from general drill-and-kill knowledge, rote recitation, etc. that the Texas Republican’ts seem to prefer and turns to true thinking skills such as synthesizing, analyzing, reasoning, comprehending, application, and evaluation.

    Higher order thinking or critical thinking skills are essential in fields such as medicine, biology, technology, and law. Research indicates that students who are involved in advanced placement courses, which not only promote but also require higher order thinking skills, are often far more prepared for college and attain higher paying positions that students who take regular classes. Promoting the teaching of critical thinking instruction influences a child to practice truth-seeking, open-mindedness, self-confidence, and maturity, while increasing their ability to handle real-world issues and open-ended classroom discussion.

    What the Texas Republicans don’t seem to understand is, unlike 30 years ago, information is literally at a student’s finger tips. In an age of instant information, is it more important that a student memorize the periodic table of elements or is it better that they understand how the elements interact? Employers don’t care if a job candidate can recite their state capitals – they want an employee that can find information, use it, analyze it, and understand at it from all angles. This is not what the Texas Republican’ts will deliver, and our economy will suffer for it.

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