Duke TIP Researchers Find Gap in Time U.S. Teens Report Spending on Academics Versus Their Indian Peers

Date: 
Saturday, April 18, 2015

For Immediate Release

Katy Munger
(919) 668-9153 kmunger@tip.duke.edu

DURHAM, NC—Academically talented students from India spend substantially more time on academics compared to academically talented U.S. students, especially when it comes to STEM subjects, according to a new study led by Duke University Talent Identification Program (Duke TIP) gifted research specialist Matt Makel. These findings are especially relevant given current concerns that, in STEM education, the U.S. may be falling behind in comparison to other (often Asian) countries on international tests. Unlike previous comparisons of international test scores, the new study explored the context in which such scores are achieved.

Along with Duke co-authors Jonathan Wai, Martha Putallaz, and Patrick Malone, Makel asked academically talented seventh graders in the U.S. and India to report how they allocate their time each week in terms of four primary activity categories that may be connected to later developmental outcomes: academics, electronics use, extracurricular activities, and sleep/family time.

U.S. students reported spending about 5.4 more hours than their Indian peers on non-STEM academics during the week but Indian students reported spending roughly 11 more hours on academics than their U.S. peers during the weekend in both STEM and non-STEM topics—leaving an approximate 7 hours a week academic gap between U.S. and Indian students. Additionally, U.S. students reported using electronics over 14 hours per week more than their Indian peers. Surprisingly, Indian students reported having control over a greater proportion of their time during the week than U.S. students did. The study also analyzed time allocation across genders, but found that, in general, there were far more cross-cultural differences than gender differences in how respondents spent their time.

According to Makel, “Academically talented students are the future leaders of industry, shapers of public policy, and creators of new scientific and creative understanding. How they spend their time as youth can help them accomplish these achievements, by developing their talents, or it could allow them to rest on their laurels. Our study could serve as a sort of barometer of what each country is doing to develop the talents of its youth.

“Talent development is an on-going process that does not stop when students leave school for the day or upon graduation. Students can learn leadership through participation in extracurricular activities. And, if they aren’t particularly challenged in the classroom, they may have to venture beyond school to have experiences that require them to work hard.”

Makel stresses that it is important to look at the week as a whole when analyzing results. “If we had only looked at time spent on academics during the week, student experiences in the U.S. in India would look quite similar to each other, with students from the U.S. spending a bit more time on academics,” Makel explains. “However, students in India reported spending over 10 hours on academics during the weekend while students from the U.S. reported spending essentially no time on academics. Talents and skills can be developed through more than spending time in the classroom. How students spend their time as adolescents reflects their interests as well as the opportunities they are taking advantage of. Such experiences can help shape the adults they become.

“Much has been made of the purported ‘10,000 hour rule’—the idea that it takes that many hours to become an expert. The way that students allocate their time both in and out of school over many years has the potential to start them on the path to such expertise.”

“We’re hoping the results of this study will lead to better understanding of how academically talented students develop within educational systems as well as what different cultures support in and out of school,” Makel said.

The full study is available for reading, including an examination of differences in number of school days attended and other variables. A PDF summary of study results is also available.

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About Duke TIP: The Duke University Talent Identification Program (Duke TIP) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving academically talented youth. As a global leader in gifted education, Duke TIP works with students, families, and educators to identify, recognize, challenge, engage, and support gifted youth in reaching their highest potential. More than 2.5 million students have benefited from TIP programs and resources since 1980. Duke TIP’s talent identification, academic, and research programs now serve as worldwide models for the education of gifted students.