Warning that the Chinese and the Indians were coming hard at the US in an increasingly competitive world, President Barack Obama has called for an improvement of the American education system to help US regain its pre-eminence.
"So even with the good schools, we've got to pick up the pace, because the world has gotten competitive," he said in reply to a question from a teacher at a town hall-style meeting in a high school gymnasium in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Thursday.
"The Chinese, the Indians, they're coming at us and they're coming at us hard, and they're hungry, and they're really buckling down," Obama said.
"And they watch - their kids watch a lot less TV than our kids do, play a lot fewer video games, they're in the classroom a lot longer."
"So here's the bottom line. We've got to improve, we've got to step up our game," the president told the teacher who questioned his lament that the American education system was broken.
While the average public school is actually doing a reasonably good job..." we are falling behind when it comes to math; our kids are falling behind when it comes to science," Obama said.
The US had "kind of settled into mediocrity when we compare ourselves to other advanced countries and wealthy countries," he said. "That's a problem because the reason that America over the last hundred years has consistently been the wealthiest nation is because we've also been the most educated nation."
"It used to be by a pretty sizable factor we had the highest high school graduation rates, we had the highest college graduation rates, we had the highest number of Ph.D.s, the highest number of engineers and scientists," Obama said.
"We used to be head and shoulders above other countries when it came to education. We aren't anymore. We're sort of in the middle of the pack now among wealthy, advanced, industrialised countries," he said.
Obama also reiterated his call for a government-run insurance option as part of his a plan to remake the nation's health care system, saying that a public plan will provide the competition needed to keep private insurance companies "honest and keep prices down."