Human Capital News and Research 101


Education and wage inequality before and during the fiscal crisis The Greek labour market has undergone dramatic changes during the last 10 years. Wage inequality, especially at the bottom end of the earnings distribution, increased sharply. At the same time, the past trend towards educational upgrading of the labour force has further been boosted. In this paper, we analyze the relationship between education and the dispersion of male earnings, using Labour Force Survey data for years 2006 and 2016…Our best estimates suggest that education exerts a negative effect on earnings inequality in the pre-crisis period. However, during the recession, the returns to education appear to be significantly higher at the upper end of the wage spectrum, thereby contributing to increased inequality. We also find evidence that the impact of education on the dispersion of earnings is stronger in the private sector. Finally, we also account for the incidence of over-education. Interestingly, the penalty that overqualified workers suffer, declines across the conditional earnings distribution and disappears completely at the highest quantile in 2016…

The modern education system was designed to train future factory workers to be “docile” The education system as we know it is only about 200 years old. Before that, formal education was mostly reserved for the elite. But as industrialization changed the way we work, it created the need for universal schooling…

Some Western universities see merit in China’s flawed exam “Drawing on your political knowledge, explain why the Communist Party should exercise leadership over the country’s economy, armed forces, schools and all aspects of society.” So read an essay question in this year’s gaokao, China’s university-entrance exam which was held in early June (anxious parents are pictured outside a test centre in the city of Shenyang; results have been announced in the past few days). The test is notoriously tough, but political flattery can help. Examinees in Beijing were asked to discuss an environmental slogan used by President Xi Jinping. The paper noted that more marks would be given for being “positive”. Despite the Chinese political flavour of some of the questions, growing numbers of Western universities are using gaokao results to select students from China instead of requiring them to sit internationally recognised exams such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). This month the University of New Hampshire became the first public state-level university in America to accept gaokao scores. It joins a handful of privately funded American colleges such as New York University and the University of San Francisco. In Canada around 30 universities allow gaokao results to be used instead of the SAT or similar tests. They include the University of Toronto and McGill University. In Australia the University of Sydney took the lead in 2012. Now more than half of Australian colleges welcome the gaokao, including seven members of the prestigious “Group of Eight”. So does Cambridge University in Britain. Other European universities, including in France, Spain and Italy, are following suit…

A sound investment: The benefits of large-scale learning assessments  It’s time to make a much stronger case for investment in the data we need to reach Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) on education. The clock is ticking towards the 2030 deadline for quality education for every child and adolescent but, as recent data show, there are still too many out of school and too many who are not learning what they need to know…

The world’s most important exam is flawed  In the past few days nearly 10m young Chinese have received their results from the world’s largest and most important academic exam, commonly known as the gaokao. In some places the news has been sent to them by text message—an innovation that has done nothing to compensate for the horrors of what they have endured: years of cramming at the expense of any other activity in the hope of a gaokao score that will qualify them for admission to a leading university. In China even more than elsewhere, achievement in education is judged not by how well you perform at university, but by which one you attend. Everything, therefore, depends on the gaokao. The exam is both cherished and despised. It is praised by many as being a relatively corruption-free method of ensuring advancement for those who study hard. The nation rejoiced when the gaokao was restored in 1977 after the death of Mao, who had scrapped it and filled colleges with ill-educated devotees of his cult. But many people resent the huge stress it imposes on adolescents. In recent years, along with the rapid growth of China’s middle class, the numbers seeking education abroad, mainly in the West, have soared. Last year more than 600,000 did so, four times as many as a decade earlier. Escaping the gaokao ordeal is often cited as a reason…


Tortured by meetings Most workers view the prospect of a two-hour meeting with the same enthusiasm as Prometheus awaited the daily arrival of the eagle, sent by the gods to peck at his liver. Meetings have been a form of torture for office staff for as long as they have pushed pencils and bashed keyboards. One eternal problem has been their inefficiency. In 1957, C. Northcote Parkinson, an academic and legendary writer on management, came up with the law of triviality, that “the time spent on any item of the agenda will be in inverse proportion to the sum [of money] involved.” In that same spirit, this columnist would like to propose an even broader principle, applying to gatherings of ten people or more, and immodestly called Bartleby’s Law: “80% of the time of 80% of the people in meetings is wasted…

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