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Does Education Matter?: Myths About…

Does Education Matter?: Myths About Education and Economic Growth (Penguin…

by Alison Wolf

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Alison Wolf’s Does Education Matter? lands a haymaker on the chin of education policy. It's a provocative and convincing study of the economics of government spending on post-secondary education.

Her fundamental question – which is a bit more elaborate than the book’s title – is still simple: since governments around the world typically spend as much as they can encouraging their citizens to pursue higher education, does this spending pay off in economic growth?

Wolf argues – and it’s hard to disagree – that most education policy experts and politicians simply assume a positive linear relationship between the number of people in the country who complete higher ed and that country’s economic prospects. More education = better competitiveness economically = more prosperity.

But Wolf believes this assumption is false. There is a degree of correlation between a typical country’s number of higher ed students and its prosperity, but if anything, Wolf suggests that prosperity breeds more students, not the other way around.

Wolf backs up this rather shocking argument with detailed studies of the UK’s higher ed sector, including training/apprenticeships, further education and universities. She demonstrates conclusively that there simply is no provable cause/effect relationship between increases in government spending on education/more students completing higher ed, and periods of economic expansion.

Wolf also touches on Charles Murray territory in her analysis of how much higher ed is wasted on people who pursue it only because they fear being left out of the market for decent jobs. This credentialism is astonishingly costly, in terms of outright spending, plus opportunity cost for those who should be working instead of frittering away years in ‘study’.

When the higher ed bubble bursts – and that day is coming – people are going to look back at books like this one (and Murray’s Real Education) and wonder how they managed to gain so little attention and traction.

Highly recommended. ( )
  mrtall | Sep 18, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140286608, Paperback)

"Education, education, education" has become an obsession for politicians and the public alike. It is seen as an economic panacea: an engine for growth and prosperity. But is there a link between increased spending on higher education and economic growth? Professor Alison Wolf takes a critical look at successive governments' education policy and challenges many of the tenets of received wisdom: there are no economic reasons for spending more on higher education in order to stimulate growth. The conclusion of this devastating book is that a large proportion of the billions poured into vocational training and university provision might be better spent on teaching the basics at primary school.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:46 -0400)

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