A BBC commentary discusses a recently-released study on the subject, and concludes that students need to learn more about their own country... to the degree that a great many students are hard pressed to name any prime ministers of the country, while learning of lists of equivalent information is done by rote on the other side of the Atlantic.
It's an old debate. But what I was just thinking was how well rote learning ties into the only somewhat derogatory idea that higher education in the liberal arts results in being good at dinner time conversation. Absolutely! (And history of science and technology is all about trivia. I know so much more conversationally useful trivia now than I ever did before taking up this subject.) Does learning methodology help with dinnertime conversations? I don't think it does as much, but it helps in becoming a specialist in the field in question.
Extraordinarily superficial conclusion: Americans are better networkers because high school provides them with more handy trivia to incorporate into conversations. The English come out of secondary school better equipped to pursue an academic career... but only if they've been decisive and focused on which methodology set to pursue.