Orthodoxy tells us that education standards and general level of attainment impact the effectiveness of the workforce. Research informs us that such education also impacts the rate and success at which innovations diffuse across an industry or region. As such education and the general level of attainment impact our ability to exploit and improve productivity.
We also hear frequently that the US is not among the front runners of nations when it comes to lists of countries orders by educational attainment. We are told the US is ‘behind’ many other nations. I accept the reports I read in this. And I just read another that highlights some interesting findings and proposals in how to close the gap.
See The Importance of School Systems: Evidence from International Differences in Student Achievement, by Ludger Woessmann, Director of the Center for the Economics of Education, ifo Institute for Economic Research, and Professor of Economics, University of Munich. Journal of Economic Perspectives, Summer 2016.
His conclusions as to what explains the international differences between the US and the higher achievers from Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Korea, are interesting. He says, “On a descriptive basis, a simple model of three combined factors of family background, school resources, and institutions is able to account for more than four-fifths of the total cross-country variation in student achievement.” But he explores these in more detail.
The contribution of school resources “is quite limited” whereas the other two items are roughly equal. His research also suggests that spending per pupil and class size have limited impact too. Instruction time (spent) and teacher quality however do have a noticeable impact. His analysis also suggests that competition from other, private schools has a positive impact on achievement.
Education remains a hot priority if we seek to improve our industrial capacity to speed up how innovation diffuses effectively across our economy. It is not all about acquiring the newest widget or, dare I say, silver bullets…
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