Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Int'l Test Rankings and Economy: Correlation or Conjecture?

A recent study from Christopher Tienken at Rutgers University investigates the relationships between countries’ rankings on international tests of mathematics and science and future economic competitiveness as measured by the 2006 World Economic Forum’s Growth Competitiveness Index (GCI). This from the International Journal of Education Policy and Leadership:


The study investigated the existence of relationships between international test rankings from three different time periods during the last 50 years of U.S. education policy development (i.e., 1957–1982, 1983–2000, and 2001–2006) and 2006 GCI ranks. The study found that the relationship between ranks on international tests of mathematics and science and future economic strength is stronger among nations with lower-performing economies. Nations with strong economies, such as the United States, demonstrate a weaker, nonsignificant relationship.

The relationship between ranks on international tests of education achievement and future economic strength is stronger in nations that have economies grouped in the bottom 50% of the GCI rankings.

In countries with economies grouped in bottom 50% of the GCI ranks it takes less of an increase in the population’s average level of education completed (e.g., the average level of education increase from 9 years of formal schooling to 11 years) to improve the economy (Krueger, 1999)...

Nations with strong economies (e.g., the top 22 nations on the GCI) demonstrate a weak, nonsignificant relationship between ranks on international tests of mathematics and science achievement and economic strength as measured by GCI ranks...

In high-performing nations, the education system needs the economy more than the economy needs the education system (Bils & Klenow, 1998). Competitive and expanding labor markets in countries with strong economies drive the citizenry to seek higher levels of education (Krueger & Solow 2001). Harbison and Myers (1956) noted, “Education is both the seed and flower of economic development” (p. xi). Nations functioning at high economic and education levels require larger changes in the education attainment of a majority of the citizenry to have a significant influence on the economy...

Given the growing knowledge dynamic on this subject (e.g., Bils & Klenow, 1998; Bracey, 2005; Harbison & Myers, 1956; Krueger, 1999; Krueger & Lindhal, 2001; Ramirez et al., 2006) policymakers and education leaders in the United States may wish to evaluate the 50- year practice of developing national education policy based on the assumption that high ranks on international achievement tests lead to a strong economy....

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