High-quality schooling is a necessary component of economic growth (News and Research 309)

High-quality schooling is a necessary component of economic growth, according to 60 years of international test data

Published by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute on 9.22.2022 (https://fordhaminstitute.org/)

International student assessments are commonplace today, though none existed before 1965, and few countries participated at the outset. Seven countries have participated in international assessments for almost sixty years—Australia, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, and the United States—and one of the lessons we learn from them is that education is correlated with economic growth. As schooling levels and academic achievement rose, so did national income. We see in Figure 1, for example, that this in the case of Finland, Japan, and the United States.

Figure 1. Years of schooling and real income per capita for Finland, Japan, and the U.S., 1980 and 2010

Source: Barro, R. and J.-W. Lee. 2013. “A New Data Set of Educational Attainment in the World, 1950-2010.” Journal of Development Economics 104: 184-198.

One of the likely reasons for this correlation is that economic growth and development considerations mattered deeply for many of these countries. Finland was a middle-income country at the outset. Germany and Japan were in a post-war boom; and then Germany had to reintegrate its Eastern part. These economies needed a skilled workforce to grow.

Therefore, policies to expand skills were undertaken. This caused, among other things, schooling levels to double between 1950 and 2010, according to the same research on which Figure 1 is based. On average, they rose from six to twelve years. Over this period, schooling levels almost doubled in Finland and France. Average years of schooling for all seven countries increased, and at the same time, the differences among them narrowed. Finland expanded the fastest with a focus on access and equity, starting with comprehensive schooling reforms in the 1960s and 1970s that included a gradual transition to a common, unified, compulsory curriculum, with track selection postponed to age fifteen or sixteen. This coincided with the expansion of secondary schooling in the late 1980s. Moreover, the disparity between countries in terms of schooling decreased. Schooling levels have become much more equal across them… [keep reading]

Learning outcomes for Australia, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, and the U.S., harmonized average of reading, math and science scores, 1960–2010

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