American teens spend far more time on sports than they do on their studies. At least that’s how international students see it, according to a report out Wednesday from the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution. In an effort to “shed light on what is peculiarly American about American high schools,” the report surveyed hundreds of foreign-exchange students for a “fresh perspective” on the U.S. educational system.
And valuing sports over knowledge is distinctly American, according to these foreign students. Nearly two-thirds of foreign-exchange students in the United States view American teenagers as placing a much higher value on athletic success than teens in their home countries do. By comparison, only 5 percent of international students say American teens place a much higher value on success in mathematics than teenagers abroad. Around 65 percent of foreign-exchange students also feel that American teens spend less time on homework than their international peers.
Of course, these impressions don’t necessarily correspond to reality. Around 40 percent of foreign-exchange students in the United States told Brookings that American teens spent just three or more hours on homework each week. But a 2012 report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found that American 15-year-olds spent an average of six hours per week on homework, placing the United States ahead of the global average and on par with countries like China and Australia.