21st Century Skills: Can the U.S. Compete?

The U.S. has the lowest average score for adult problem solving skills in technology-rich environments


by Jennifer Craw

The U.S. has the lowest average score for adult problem solving skills in technology-rich environmentsThe most recent international survey of adult skills from the OECD included a measure of “problem solving in technology-rich environments”. According to the OECD, this includes using digital technology, communication tools, and networks to acquire and evaluate information, communicate with others, and perform practical tasks—key 21st century skills that are vital to maintaining a globally competitive workforce. However, the United States performed well below the international average on this measure, with an average score lower than any other participating country. In fact, not only was the U.S. average score 9 points lower than the international average, but the U.S. had a smaller percentage of adults scoring at the highest levels of proficiency and a larger percentage scoring at the bottom levels than the international average. Read Marc Tucker’s take on how U.S. states can move toward a more globally competitive workforce with a broader range of  21st century skills, including this kind of problem solving, in his blog Decision Memo to State Leaders: How to (or Not to) Compete in the Global Economy.