Broadcast: May 6, 2004
This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Education Report.
Another school year is nearing an end in the United States. Students are preparing for their final examinations in the coming weeks. Those in their last year of high school are planning for their graduation ceremonies and parties.
But not all young people graduate from high school. The results of their decision to leave school early may follow them throughout their lives. Students who leave are not likely to be as successful in life as those who finish at least high school.
Since the nineteen-forties, students who do not complete high school have had another choice. This is a certificate called the G.E.D. G.E.D. is short for General Educational Development. People who have earned a G.E.D. can get admitted to college and continue their education.
To earn a G.E.D., students must pass five examinations. These are in writing, social studies, science, reading and mathematics. Testing officials say a person who passes the test is at the same level as sixty percent of graduating high school students. This is in the level of ability to read, write, work with numbers and understand information.
Each year, more than five-hundred-thousand people take the G.E.D. examinations. About seventy percent pass. But research has shown that only about eleven percent of G.E.D. holders complete a year or more of higher education.
Some critics say earning a G.E.D. is not as good as completing high school. They say the test does not force people to study the way they have to in order to graduate. Critics say this is one reason G.E.D. holders generally do not stay in college.
They also say the possibility of taking the G.E.D. test makes it easier for students to leave high school early. Critics argue that the easier it is to take the test, the higher the rate of students leaving school.
Testing officials have made changes in recent years designed to make the exams more difficult. And both critics and supporters of the G.E.D. agree that it performs a valuable service for those who can go on to complete college. Successful G.E.D. holders include the actor Bill Cosby, Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell and Delaware Governor Ruth Ann Minner.
This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Nancy Steinbach. This is Steve Ember.