Do Estonians sing? 5

This post is motivated by reading Hanushek and Woessmann's (2008) "The Role of Cognitive Skills in Economic Development" in the Journal of Economic Literature. They revisit an old issue - the relationship between economic growth and education. The bottom line of what they are saying is the following: conventional measures of educational attainment, i.e. years of schooling, are not reliable. Especially in cross-country analysis. One year in a German school is not the same as a one year in a Ugandan. And I can personally attest that one year in the University of Latvia is not the same as one year in a U.S. university. What they suggest is to use data on cognitive skills instead, provided by international initiatives such as OECD's PISA (Program for International Student Assessment), which attempts to test students' achievements in a number of areas such as math and sciences. Hanushek and Woessmann show that these measures of cognitive skills do a much better job explaining the relationship between education and economic growth.

Iesaki citiem:

Now this raises some questions. In terms of number of years of education, Latvia probably ranks among the top countries in the world. Everyone here seems to have a master's degree in something. So I dug into the results of PISA 2006 round to see whether what we see is what we get (and I have suspicions about this). Actually, it's not bad at all. In terms of sciences, Latvian students got an average score of 490 points. This is just a bit below OECD average and higher than Russia (490) or some exotic places like Kirgizstan (322). Until you look at Estonia's 531 points. Moreover, in terms of he distribution of science score, it seems Latvian students are some kind of 'gray mass' compared to Estonians. The percentage of 'dumb' Estonian students (level 1 or less) is 7.7%. The percentage of 'dumb' Latvians is 17.4%. Some 11.5% of Estonians are sort of 'super-smart', scoring level 5 or higher. In contrast, only 4.1% of Latvians scored as 'super-smart'.

Is this just a curiosity? Not according to Hanushek and Woessman. In their regressions of growth rates in 1960-2000 on a bunch of factors, including cognitive test scores, a difference of 41 points implies roughly 0.8 percentage point of growth. These small growth rates can be quite deceptive. Suppose two countries start with the same income, but income of country L grows at an average rate of6% per year, and that of country E grows at 6.8% a year. After 20 years the income of country E will be 15% higher than that of country L. In 30 years country E will be richer by 25%.

Which all means that it's quite important to know why Estonians are 41 points better in PISA science tests. Are they genetically superior? Do they spend more on schools? Do they pay more to their teachers?

One also hears weird stories about today's schools in Latvia. A friend of mine once told me that his daughter's school increased the number of lessons in music and decreased the number of physics lessons to just one in two weeks. Reportedly, the school obeyed to a new directive from the ministry of education. Which makes me wonder: Do Estonians sing?

Iesaki citiem:
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Komentāri (5) secība: augoša / dilstoša

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Komentētājs

x 05.05.2009 12:03
comments this time clarify and support the article. only klavs seems too emotional:)

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Komentētājs

Andrus 28.04.2009 23:57
Hell yeah, finally some good news about Estonia! Sadly, yet again in the expense of Latvia.

Making matters worse, I would actually add an additional growth factor related to education in Estonia (or even more accurately deduct it from Latvia in comparison with let’s say Scandinavia). Which one? Well, in Estonia essentially all foreign TV broadcasts are subtitled, while Latvians (as well as Lithuanians) apparently are not so keen readers and use dubbing. This means that pretty much all younger Estonians speak English and children are picking it up effortlessly. In terms of international competitiveness, the effect should be self-evident.

This in turn also means that Estonians have more time for other subjects, perhaps also singing; which may explain part of the difference in the PISA results. Has anybody tried to add this factor to such regressions?

Think about the practical implication – what a simple policy suggestion for Latvia! It might be cost saving, even in short term.

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Komentētājs

Klāvs 28.04.2009 23:11
Thanks for the great commentary, Vjačeslavs! Latvian Masters level studies indeed is a caricature in most cases - they are actually evening courses for working parents. That is also the reason why there are so many who hold the degree - almost everyone can afford sacrificing an evening or two a week - the standard requirement for Latvian 'full time master's program'. Obviously the result is close to zero.

As for Andris's comment: I sincerely hope that you do not get close to education policy-making (although it seems that you actually do get).

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Doris 28.04.2009 13:20
I don't know how it is in Latvia, but in Estonia there are a number of *elite* schools that hand-pick students from a very early age thus creating an equal environment for those who are naturally gifted and/or diligent.

There is, of course, a national minimum curriculum which every school has to offer and fulfill. Most schools though, because they compete with other schools for the students (less students -> less money from the state), have a certain angle. For some it's as simple as "humanities" or "sciences" but there's also schools that have classes for "biology studies" or "media studies" or even "literature and drama studies" This is mostly the case only for High Schools/Gymnasiums though, and ALL of these have entry exams.

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Andris 28.04.2009 11:25
OECD PISA materiāli par 2006.gadu ir šeit - http://www.pisa.oecd.org/document/2/0,3343,en_32252351_32236... . Latvijā šo PISA mērījumu darbu koordinē A.Kangro (LU Pedagoģijas un Psiholoģijas fakultāte). Tajā tiek noteiktas 15-gadīgu skolēnu prasmes matemātikā, dabaszinātnēs un lasītprasmē (ar "lasītprasmi" saprotot nevis spēju izburtot noteiktu skaitu vārdu minūtē, bet spēju saprast izlasīto tekstu un atbildēt uz jautājumiem par to).

Dažas piebildes Vjačeslava teiktajam...
(1) Ikviena metrika (skolēnu zināšanu izteikšana kvantitatīvi, ar testiem un konkrētiem skaitļiem) izglītības jomā ir objektīvs tikai tikmēr, kamēr mēs necenšamies "piedzīt" izglītības procesu, lai metriku uzlabotu. Iespējams, ISEC varētu Latvijas pamatskolas izglītības standartus optimizēt tā, lai visu izglītības procesu pakārtotu PISA testiem - skolēni neko citu nedarītu, kā vien gatavotos attiecīgajam pārbaudījumam (vēl atjautīgāk - katru trešo gadu gatavotos, jo PISA mērījumi nenotiek katru gadu). Tad atšķirību no Igaunijas varētu samazināt.

(2) Diez vai tā ir apzināta izglītības politika - nomainīt fiziku pret dziedāšanu. Diemžēl fizikas skolotāju pietrūkst, savukārt mūzikas skolotāju varētu pat drusku palikt pāri. Tādēļ izglītības iestādes dara to, kas ir dabiski no viņu viedokļa - nodrošina darbu un tarifikācijas likmes darbiniekiem, kuri viņiem ir. Izglītības satura attīstīšana vienā konkrētā virzienā nebūtu nekas traģisks - 19.gadsimtā vidusskolu audzēkņiem lika mācīties lielā apjomā grieķu un latīņu autorus oriģinālvalodā. Tagad tāda uzsvara uz filoloģiju vidusskolās vairs nav. Arī 20.gs. sākumā populārās trigonometrijas un tēlotājģeometrijas/rasēšanas vietā ir nākušas citas, vieglāk apgūstamas (un daži apgalvotu - "praktiski noderīgākas") zinības.

Sliktāk ir tad, ja skolotājiem ir vienalga, ko un kā mācīt un kāds būs rezultāts. Vislielāko postu Latvijas izglītības sistēmai nodarījušas mūsdienu darbaspēka tirgus tendences - iespējas sievietēm veidot karjeru privātajā sektorā. Daudzas meitenes, kurām būtu visas dotības strādāt skolā un kļūt par izcilām skolotājām vai mācību pārzinēm, tai vietā strādā uzņēmumu personāldaļās, auditorfirmās un bankās. Arī tas ir darbs ar cilvēkiem, turklāt parasti vieglāks, labāk atalgots, pievilcīgs un respektabls. Bet tas vienlaikus nozīmē arī to, ka mums (pat salīdzinot ar 20-30 gadu senu pagātni) kļūst mazāk labu skolotāju. Par skolotājiem-vīriešiem nemaz nerunājot - tie daudzkur ir izzūdoša suga. Lai gūtu labus panākumus izglītībā, skolotājiem būtu jābūt kultūras, izglītības līmeņa un dzīves gudrības ziņā virs sabiedrības caurmēra līmeņa. Bet domāju, ka tas diez vai vairs ir iespējams - skolotāju profesijai nav nedz kārtīga finansējuma, nedz reputācijas, nedz pat profesionālās brīvības.

Latvijas izglītības sistēma joprojām var nodrošināt labu rezultātu - bet tad tā ir skolas veiktā skolēnu atlase (Rīgas 1.ģimnāzija) vai arī vecāku darba rezultāts. No šejienes arī tie 4.1% "super-gudrie" skolēni Latvijā.

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