Secular Right | Reality & Reason



The Wrong Lesson

Here’s a curious little sequence of video clips from BBC News.

They show us how education goes in Finland.

Then we get a clip of schooling in South Korea.

And then the BBC’s Matt Frei interviews Arne Duncan, our federal Secretary of Education, to discuss lessons for the U.S.A. from the South Korean and Finnish experiences.

Going by those experiences, it looks to me as though the main lesson is: If you seek educational excellence, be a small mono-ethnic country with near-zero levels of immigration.

(The reporter actually mentions the i-word near the very end of the Finland clip, but then drops it like a hot sauna rock.)

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  • anon · April 11, 2010 at 11:52 am

    I thought it is an interesting point, but I could not find anything related to “small mono-ethnic country with near-zero levels of immigration” in the videos. Is it just from the names of the nations?
    In addition, population of south korea is not very small and there is a growing number of immigration during the past then years.

  • Ross · April 11, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    The importance of immigration in this context doesn’t seem that strong to me. Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands rank highly in the OECD rankings too, whereas the likes of Italy, Greece and Norway do poorly.

  • kurt9 · April 11, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    The hype of education itself as a solution to all social problems is a part of the problem.

    STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education is the only education that is worthwhile. All other education is little more than political indoctrination and fraud. The East Asians understand this. The West does not.

  • John · April 11, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    kurt9, the way things are taught in schools today, I pretty much agree with you. It’s a shame, since the social sciences have a lot to teach us if it is taught by the right people. If there was a school where the commentators of Secular Right taught history, psychology, economics, and comparative religions, I’d sign the kiddies up in a second. Unfortunately, in most public schools, these subjects are either ignored, or kids are given the leftist spin on the issues.

  • Paavo Ojala · April 12, 2010 at 3:46 am

    As a result of finnish education system I’m puzzled by the Pisa results.

    I guess we have good teachers, because teaching is relatively respected and hard to get into.

    But there just has to be something wrong with the testing, something favouring Finland too much. Finland is doing too good relative to it’s national IQ and it’s education system.

    But of course immigration might be one explanation. We are just getting our first school districts with white flight.

  • Morgan · April 12, 2010 at 6:28 am

    Yeah, and you know while we’re at it while don’t we also make our country a monarchy, that way stupid law like this: can be passed much easier?

  • TAS · April 12, 2010 at 11:29 am

    “If you seek educational excellence, be a small mono-ethnic country with near-zero levels of immigration.”

    Having a population with a high average IQ (i.e. whites or East Asians) also helps. Multiethnic Belgium and Switzerland have better education systems than monoethnic Lesotho and Somalia.

  • NQM · April 12, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    Does anyone have any data on how the US ranks, once you control for differences in test administration and demographics?

    There are many factors that influence children’s test scores beyond the schools themselves: single/double parent homes, educational level of parents, purchasing power of the family, etc, etc, etc.

    Once we start comparing similar students to similar students, how do world countries compare?

    For a domestic example of what I mean, although students at private schools outperform public school students in math, once you control for family income, the advantage reverses (that is, private school students are skewed towards rich families, which are skewed towards intelligent, well educated parents, which makes for better students: the schools actually do no better).

  • Le Mur · April 14, 2010 at 5:22 am

    Interesting FYI:

    These overheads show eighth-grade mathematics data from the 1992 Second International Assessment of Educational Progress (IAEP-2) and National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).1

    The data look like this:
    Top Scorers
    287 — Asian students, U.S. schools
    285 — Taiwan
    284 — Iowa
    284 — Top third of U.S. schools
    283 — Korea
    283 — Advantaged urban students, U.S.
    277 — Hungary
    277 — White students, U.S. schools

    …examine NSF 96–52 ( which may be online), full title is “Indicators of Science & Mathematics Education 1995? and is a National Science Foundation publication. Figure 2–19 on page 28 is most interesting.

    Want to really know the top 20 countries for math proficiency for 13 year olds? OK, hold your hat, here they are.
    1. Tawain
    2. Iowa
    3. Korea
    4. North Dakota
    5. Minnesota
    6. Soviet Union
    7. Switzerland
    8. Maine
    9. New hampshire
    10. Hungary
    11. Nebraska
    12. Wisconsin
    13. Idaho
    14. Utah
    15. Wyoming
    16. Connecticut
    17. France
    18. Colorado
    19. Israel
    20. Italy

  • Roger Hallman · April 17, 2010 at 7:16 am

    Hmmm…I wasn’t aware that Wyoming was still a country.



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