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Category archive: Economics

Wednesday July 16 2008

Johnathan Pearce wants the child labour laws relaxed:

It seems to me that in part of the discussion about what “should be done” about feral kids armed with knives, there ought to be a recognition that one of the main problems that young people face in and outside school is boredom. And that can be cured, possibly, by working. We have to overcome our strange squeamishness over the employment of minors in actual jobs. I think that the rules and regulatory burdens should be relaxed so that apprenticeships become much easier for an employer to provide. I think some, if not all, of the young tearaways who are so worrying policymakers might actually feel proud of having a job, of earning money, of being able to brag about this to their lazier friends.

Commenter Walter Boswell adds this:

The importance of that simple lesson that hard work equals money and money equals more independence cannot be emphasised enough.


Tuesday July 01 2008

Indeed.  The Bishop takes a bash at eco-brainwashing in a (private) school:

Not if we should recycle, or when we should recycle, but why we should recycle. The person who wrote this is clearly intellectually challenged. Do they really believe that it is always best to recycle? No matter what level of resources is required? Who would want their children taught by someone who believed such nonsense?

If he can teach reading, writing, grammar, comprehension, manners, then maybe yes.  And perhaps yes because they also want recycling to be taught also.  The market will decide.  The Bishop’s most pertinent complaint is that the teacher didn’t capitalise a film title.

A national religion (and I do agree that this is that) is a very hard thing to resist.  Next: home-ed by anti-environmentalists.

More science teaching woe.  That’s a Buckingham University report, which I found because it is linked to from here.  Can’t afford physics teachers.  Can’t keep ‘em.  Often can’t even get ‘em to apply.

Sunday June 29 2008

I’m too busy socialising today to write anything much here today, but I just read this, by the excellent Paul Graham, and I suggest you might like to read it also.  It’s about how you learn to like what you truly like, as opposed to what you merely find impressive.  Education means developing your tastes, as well as just your skills.  It makes your life more fun, as well as more productive.  It doesn’t just make you more expensive, it makes your pleasures cheaper.

Friday June 20 2008

imageSchools Secretary Ed Balls lashes out at Grammar Schools, and Guido Fawkes lashes out at Ed Balls, and his wife, and some people called Winterton.

Professor Michael Reiss writes:

The Ofsted report on science in schools (report, June 17) raises a fundamental question. What happens to young children who start out their school days fascinated by nature, space, dinosaurs and robots? Why are so many of them disillusioned with school science by the time they reach the age of 16?

Teachers are the key to successful education, and specialist knowledge of their subject is the key to inspiring their pupils. However, more students in secondary schools are being taught physics by non-specialist teachers than five years ago and only 2.3 per cent of primary teachers on PGCE courses have studied science, mathematics, technology or engineering to degree level.

Attracting and retaining specialist teachers and ensuring that teachers at all levels can access ongoing professional development in science must be a priority.

Ah yes, a priority.  Presumably what the Professor has in mind is paying more and more money to qualified scientists to persuade them to teach, to keep up with the more and more money that qualified scientists can now get doing other jobs.  But what if the money is duly paid, but the inspired teaching fails to materialise?

To repeat a regular meme here, I suspect that if science teaching ever does revive it will do so as a branch of show business, with vast throngs of people being educated and entertained by a relatively small number of roving millionaire science teacher geniuses, whose DVDs sell by the lorry load to ambitious parents, and even to some children.

I hated school science, and it was the very things that you might think would liven it up, namely “practical” stuff, mucking about with bunsen burners and ancient electrical gadgets, that made it such an ordeal.  I never quite understood what was going on, was never on top of it, and it never seemed at all practical.

Wednesday June 11 2008

Ben Goldacre, writes about this (which I already reported here):

An early factual claim in Reform’s document is simple: “about 40% of mathematics graduates enter financial services”. This - we are invited to agree - is a good thing. The report’s reference for 40% is a simple link to prospects.ac.uk, which isn’t very informative as it’s rather a large website. Chasing through the pages there, you will find “What Do Graduates Do?”, and then the maths page. There were 4070 maths graduates in their sampling frame of 2006. Only 2010 of those, however, are in UK employment (1.5% are working abroad, and the rest are studying for a higher degree, or a teaching qualification, or unemployed, or unavailable for employment, and so on).

Of those 2010 - not 4070 - 37.9% are indeed working as “Business and Financial Professionals and Associate Professionals”. So correct me if I’m wrong – I’m always eager for that to happen – but by my maths 2010 x 0.379 = 761.79, and that divided by 4070 = 0.1871, but let’s round up like the angry maths profs did and say that about 20% of maths graduates enter financial services. Not 40%. I call this “arithmetic”. For a bunch of people complaining about the substitution of woolly modern notions like “relevance” and “applied maths” in place of high end mathematical techniques, they don’t make a particularly good advert for their own skill set.

I’ve added the link in that.

After criticising what he believes to be other arithmetical errors, and errors of other kinds, in the report, Goldacre ends by saying:

I’m happy to agree that maths is economically useful, that maths exams are dumbing down, that people avoid difficult school subjects, and that humanities graduates who think maths is uncool are bores. What I would like is someone who can be bothered to sit down and reinforce my prejudices without perpetrating crass errors of overinterpretation and getting the basic arithmetic wrong. I’ve never fully seen the point of them, but I suspect that’s what thinktanks are there for. Again, I may be wrong.

No, I think that’s about right.  Think tanks exist to supply facts to support your preferred prejudices. They translate reasonable opinions, held for other reasons to do with your overall worldview, into pseudo-deductions from only the facts of the particular matter being dealt with.  The more honest ones are also honest about their prejudices, and don’t only do this.  The seriously bullshit ones do nothing else.  (See this, by me.)

Tuesday June 10 2008

Fraser Nelson links to this Telegraph story, about Lord Adonis’s latest pronouncements about rearranging schools, this time to make them bigger, teaching all the way through from 5 to 18.  Making people who don’t want to do that sounds like a really bad idea, and I agree with Nelson.  Let the parents decide.

However, this story strikes me as rather more interesting:

More parents are taking out loans to pay for independent school fees as the credit this crisis starts to bite, according to a report.

As many as 18,000 parents took out personal loans last year as fees increased to a record high, it is revealed.

The average loan was for £9,065, with experts claiming that applications will rise in coming years as parents struggle with rising energy, fuel and food bills.

The conclusions - in a study by Sainsbury’s Finance - come amid growing concerns over year-on-year fee increases.

Last month, Chris Woodhead, the former chief inspector of schools, said that some parents were being ripped off as schools spent money on “five-star facilities” with little education benefit.

But schools insist that increases are due to staffing costs, with class sizes in the independent sector considerably smaller than state schools.

That some of these parents will learn an unwelcome lesson of their own, about the dangers of getting into debt, I have no doubt.  What would be the educational equivalent of negative equity?  A qualification which seems valuable at the time, but which later turns out to be useless, I suppose.  Let’s hope they’ve done the maths.

Education debts
Britain is failing at maths
Why does Oxford now take a higher proportion than it used to of its intake from the private sector?
Going Dutch?
Andrew Neil on public school kids grabbing all the glittering prizes - again
PFI schools won’t last!
There ought not to be any debate
“If you exclude the car mechanics and repairmen …”
The more competitive the job the smaller the size of the classes
Encouraging parenthood by nationalising it
Jason Heath on being a musical guide
What schools provide depends on who is paying and for what
Neil Turok on teaching the best maths students in Africa
Why no transfer fees?
Greg Mankiw on how to choose between Harvard and MIT
The forthcoming decline of Indian education
Bishop Hill on the beneficial impact of charging students to go to university
Fraser Nelson on the Grange Hill model versus the Swedish model
Madsen Pirie on how choice also helps the poor and weak
Joan Bakewell asserts the Fixed Quantity of Education Fallacy
Picking on bad teachers
Faith unrewarded
Should private sector schools be more charitable or lose their charitable status?
Earn as you learn
Thinking again about the cost of going to university
Can you raise a kid to be a future millionaire?
Why the bias to the left in academia?
Asking Alex about internships in the City
Madsen Pirie says education may be a right but it ought not to be a government monopoly
What to do about the supply of and demand for hot college classes
Does IQ count for more than education?
Martin Amis makes a good deal
The jaws of bias
Jackie D connects me to Ewan McIntosh’s edu.blogs.com
Bad sex education?
To avoid being a terrorist …
Mature students
“Their education is completely useless …”
The economists can tell you how heretics are treated because they are heretics
Boris Johnson on maths and personal debt
Clarkson on school discipline
Laptops for the poor children!
Mixing learning with work
Money money money