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It's worse in both compared to their own histories, and worse in both compared to most other countries.
I think (or, I believe) that America's is slightly more meritocratic. I might be wrong, but the impression I get from SATs is that kids are rewarded purely on intelligence and hard work, whereas in Britain, the reward seems to correlate with the size of your house and the income of your parents. This is just an observation. The same might be true for America to an extent, but how well a child does in education in Britain seems more firmly class-based (and teeth-grindingly predictable) in my opinion.
the cost of further education in the US is several times what it is here.
a very selective interpretation of American education system/ society there and the empirical research tends to go very against what you're saying there.
What is the best measure, because I honestly don't know?
is that it depends on employers. I've recently started a more senior job in an industry I've got no formal qualifications or training in, by basically gritting my teeth and getting paid a pittance picking up freelance work for a while. The other candidates were all more qualified but the boss was from a similar background to myself and decided to choose someone with experience and the drive to have done a similar role for a pittance, as opposed to someone "wet behind the ears".
There's every argument that there's a sort or reverse social mobility at play there, but I'm a firm believer that hard work pays off.
but qualification-wise I think not.
because it makes no sense whatsoever.