You may not know it, but Congress has mandated that there be a national survey to "determine the nation's progress in education." It was first done in 1976-77, and another is now being prepared for the 1981-82 school year, according to the May 11 Federal Register (page 26206).

The focus of the survey will be citizenship/social studies, mathematics and science with more than 80,000 students aged 9, 13 and 17 being questioned, each for about three hours. The total cost is estimated at $5.5 million. If more funds are obtained , a special additional survey will be made of 17-year-olds who are out of school, since almost 15 percent of that age group has dropped out.

The findings, according to the Department of Education, will be used to help "policymakers to monitor changes in student performance" and aid "legislators and educators in determing change in education."

The questions may seem odd to the adult uninitiated in such surveys, but I tried them out on my children, aged 11 to 14, and they were fascinated by some of the problems posed. Here is a brief sampling.

"Would it be better if we had only one candidate for each office like president, senator or mayor? Yes, No, I don't know."

"Does the U.S. federal govenment help people to buy homes and start businesses? Yes, No, I don't know."

"Should the U.S. federal government help people buy homes and start businesses? Yes, No, I don't know."

"Suppose you are asked to vote for someone in your school who is running for a class office. You think this person will do a better job than anyone else. However, your best friend decides to run for the same office and asks for your vote. What would you do in this case? I would not vote, I would vote for my friend, I would vote for the other candidate. Please explain your answer."

"In the United States, small political parties have no impact upon national politics and should be ignored. Agree, Disagree, Undecided."

"If an elected government official happens to make a serious error, do you think news reporters should be allowed to question him about his mistake and then publish something about it? Yes, No, Undecided. Please give a reason for any answer you selected."