Monday, April 26, 2010

The Escape of the Island Adventurer



As a boy I lived on a small island on the North Atlantic Ocean. It was just off of the eastern coast of Canada and was called Prince Edward Island. In my mind it is the most beautiful place on earth, not only because of the stunning physical features but because of the accompanying nostalgic memories that flow with them.

At the age of seven I was inquisitive, energetic, and unruly. I had an incurable appetite for exploration, adventure and the unknown. Unfortunately my parents did not fully support me in this my passion, and my dreams of adventure and exploration were in jeopardy due to their tyrannical rule. To any reasonable person the boundaries they placed on me would be ridiculed. They placed proximity on my journeys, which was no more than one block from our residence. For this cause I had to take matters into my own hands.

One bright summer day I was in the act of exploration with my friends. We were atop our bicycles and were ready for anything that the world could throw at us. From previous reconnaissance we knew of a location of exploit, which in those days was commonly called “The Monkey Tree.” This was a place of mystery and wonder because we did not fully understand its origins. We presumed that a long time ago some big kids, perhaps teenagers, had taken wooden planks to this tree and created a tree fortress in the limbs, and wooden steps leading up the tree, the latter having deteriorated notably. As we circled the block we came to the off-road the led to The Monkey Tree. My friends, who had reasonable parents continued onto this road while I paused on the edge of the street in a dilemma. The choice was before me: my parents, or my friends; the circular block, or the winding path to the escape and adventure. This was my hour, my choice! I pedaled quickly to catch up to my friends.

Less than fifteen minutes later I was in my house, tears in my eyes, a yell in my throat as my father bent over and poured a clear burning liquid over my foot. Hastily thrown on the floor was a single shoe and sock, their partners remaining secured on my unscathed foot. Meanwhile my father continued to busily treat the laceration inflicted by a carelessly discarded nail. As he did so he practiced his rhetoric and scolded me.


“If you hadn’t left the block this never would have happened to you!”


But I knew better, it was a mere coincidence, it could have happened to anyone anywhere. This was but another attempt to douse my ambition and break my spirit. It did not work.
-----
p.s. Since I have looked for monkey tree on Google Maps, street view. It no long is in existence.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Best Education on Earth - Part II: The Education Index

Last month I discussed the PISA test, which surveyed fifteen-year-olds of varying nationalities to determine national educational quality. This study was limited by the narrow age range of participants as well as the specificity of topics tested for. As such, I decided see what other educational metrics could be used to measure national educational quality.

One important metric in education is the Human Development Index (HDI), which is computed annually by the United Nations (UN). The HDI is designed to rank countries according to their human development based on three categories: (1) education, (2) life expectancy, and (3) Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In the large English speaking countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and the United States of America), HDI scores are generally high, with Australia in 2nd place, Canada in 4th, the USA in 13th, New Zealand in 20th and the UK in 21st. Of the three variables accounted for in the index, the one that I am going to discuss here is the education portion.

THE EDUCATION INDEX

The education index is measured by two factors; adult literacy rate, and educational achievement. Literacy rates refers to the ability of adults to read and to write, this factor accounts for 2/3 of the total educational mark. The second factor is educational achievement, which refers to the average attainment of education from kindergarten to post secondary education, this factor accounting for 1/3 of the total mark.

The following are the 50 highest ranked countries in the education index. This index covers 2006 to December 2008 when it was published. The highest possible score is '1', indicating perfect education attainment. Countries considered to be "developed" possess a minimum score of 0.8, although the great majority have a 0.9 or above.

Rank
Country
Education Index
1
Australia
.993
1
Denmark
.993
1
Finland
.993
1
New Zealand
.993
5
Canada
.991
6
Norway
.989
7
South Korea
.988
8
Ireland
.985
8
Netherlands
.985
10
Greece
.980
10
Iceland
.980
12
France
.978
13
Cuba
.976
14
Luxembourg
.975
15
Belgium
.974
15
Sweden
.974
17
Spain
.971
18
Slovenia
.969
19
Lithuania
.968
19
United States
.968
21
Kazakhstan
.966
22
Italy
.965
23
Estonia
.964
24
Austria
.962
25
Latvia
.961
26
Hungary
.960
27
Belarus
.958
28
United Kingdom
.957
29
Ukraine
.956
30
Uruguay
.955
31
Germany
.954
32
Poland
.952
33
Japan
.949
34
Israel
.947
35
Argentina
.946
36
Barbados
.940
37
Guyana
.939
38
Czech Republic
.938
39
Switzerland
.936
40
Russia
.933
41
Bulgaria
.930
42
Slovakia
.928
43
Portugal
.927
44
Tonga
.920
45
Kyrgyzstan
.919
46
Chile
.918
47
Croatia
.915
48
Romania
.914
49
Mongolia
.913
50
Cyprus
.909

Click to Enlarge






This study views nations holistically, as such, some results may be surprising. For example, I recently talked to a individuals who explained to me how the United States President, Barack Obama, said that the United States was in close competition with India in education, particularly in the sciences. Wondering about this I looked for India on the comprehensive Education Index. India is not included in the above list because I only posted the top 50 whereas India ranked 147th in the Education Index and did not participate in the PISA test. In India, there has been an extensive class and caste system in place, a ridged social system that is only beginning to break down in the large cities. This system holds that education should be provided only for those who need that education for their social class roles. In the view of India’s education you can see how it has effected the average education. In India 46% of the women are illiterate whereas only 25% of men are, furthermore only 15% of India’s population graduate from secondary school. So as an average these numbers bring the countries average down pretty effectively, but an interesting fact is that 12.4% of the population graduate from a post secondary school. In Canada, the number one post secondary graduating country, only 55% of high school graduates graduate from post secondary, whereas in India 83% of secondary graduates graduate from post secondary school. So those that choose a life of education usually do excel in it, but their educational standing in the Index shows very low numbers because it is rating the average basic education and those standards.

Issues like these make the Education index inefficient to measure the quality of education or the educational resources of a country but it does provide a good measure of the quality of life, the countries educational availability, and the provision and quality of necessary educational abilities.

SECONDARY SCHOOL ENROLLMENT 

In conjunction with the Education Index it is interesting to see the Educational Attainment, the following is a table showing the secondary school enrollment in each country.

These statistics come from United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization(UNESCO) The definition for the survey is “Net enrollment ratio, secondary level, is the ratio of the number of children of official secondary school age enrolled in school to the number of children of official secondary school age in the population.”

Rank
Country
Secondary School Enrolment (%)
1
Japan
101.2
2
Canada
97.9
3
Sweden
96.1
4
Norway
95
5
Finland
94.6
6
Spain
93.7
6
United Kingdom
93.7
8
France
92.4
9
Bahrain
92.1
10
New Zealand
91.6
11
Poland
90.9
12
Italy
90.5
13
Netherlands
89.9
14
Austrlia
89.7
15
Denmark
89.5
15
Lithuania
88.6
17
Slovenia
88.6
18
Austria
88.5
19
Israel
88.4
20
Cyprus
88.3
21
United States
88.1
22
Belgium
88
23
Switzerland
87.9
24
Germany
87.7
25
Bulgaria
87.6
26
Greece
87.4
27
Hungary
87.2
28
Czech Republic
87.1
29
Ireland
86.5
30
Portugal
85.2

In many countries secondary school is mandatory, or at least for a set duration wherein after the applicants can choose to continue or not.

I call your attention to Japan who has over 100% attendance. The formula for this table as seen above is (# of kids of the age group enrolled/# kids in age group) the dividend includes foreigners whereas the divisor does not include non-residents. At the end of 2008 there were 2,217,426 registered foreigners in Japan, representing 1.74% of the population which if it were subtracted would account for just under 100% (assuming children ratios and native ratios are about equal). So in this calculation it is possible to have a score above 100%.

POST SECONDARY GRADUATION RATES

This table reflects the percent of people (ages 25-65) who currently have graduated from a post secondary establishment. These statistics are retrieved from multiple sources, but unless otherwise indicated the statistics are as of 2000.
Rank
Country
Post Secondary Graduation (%)*
1
Canada
53.4 (2001)
2
Ireland
36
3
Japan
34
4
Finland
33 (2003)
5
Sweden
32
6
Australia
29
7
New Zealand
29
8
Norway
28
9
Belgium
27
10
Denmark
27
11
United States
27 (2003)
12
United Kingdom
26
13
Switzerland
25
14
Germany
23
15
France
23
16
Netherlands
22
17
Austria
14
18
Italy
10

This section in my mind is more of a reflection on the people of countries, and the educational requirements for employ then for the governments focus or plans, although the government does heavily affect it through price, funding, and policy.

Something to note in this table is that there is no further definition of “post secondary school” then that. This table does not measure the quality of the institute, in this table a degree mill is held on the same ground and Harvard, Cambridge, Yale, or UCL.

CONCLUSION

These numbers and statistics reflect and idolize a more communal education system, where the Ideal is that everyone is educated and that the society lifts itself up together. This idea although shared by many, is not shared by all. As we have seen in India, this is not the ideal there, nor is it the mentality that is stressed. Even looking at the United States of America we see a more independent view, a “every man for themselves” mentality, as is illustrated in some views in today’s political war for Universal health care. In a democracy Education is necessary, for it is not the few elite intellectuals that are making the choices that will determine the outcome and direction of a nation, but the masses, the popular views, and the will of the people. Universal education is needed to support a successful democratic society.

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