Friday, April 15, 2011

StatPlanet - Education Data Comparison

In preparation for my forthcoming Weekly Tech Tip on Data Visualization & Infographic tools I have spent a bit of time this morning exploring StatPlanet. StatPlanet is a website that pulls tons of data from groups and organizations like UNESCO and PISA about the health and welfare of different countries around the world. One area they happen to have a lot of data about is Education. I am not quite sure how many of these infographics will make it into my final Tech Tip video but the tool does seem like it might be worth a at least some exploration.

This form of data ranking countries on topics such as student test scores in math, reading , and science tends to reinforce the idea that we are in competition with these other nations, a notion explicitly expressed in films like Waiting for Superman and repeatedly reinforced whenever a politician says something along the lines of "Winning the Future." But, since that is such a broadly held viewpoint, especially in the U.S. perhaps these infographics are still worth considering.

Percentage of GDP spent on Education:

According to this data, the US spends 5.3% of GDP on education which is clearly a lower percentage investment than other many other nations. Contrasted with Finland, which is currently regarded as having perhaps the best education system in the world who spends 6.3%. Per capita, the US GDP is $45,550.3 and Finland's is $34,582.4. So when you calculate per capita spending on education this actually means that the US invests $2,414.17 and Finland invests $2,178.69. Clearly the US spend more. How does this break down for some of the other countries we are supposedly competing against:

Clearly the US outspends all these nations in per capita education spending. You would think we would rank hire in test scores:

Math Scores:

How do we rank among the six countries included in the table above?
2 Hong Kong
3 Finland
6 Japan
7 Canada
10 New Zealand
28 United States
How about for reading?

And the rankings:
1 Finland
2 Hong Kong
4 Canada
5 New Zealand
6 Japan
15 United States

And for Science:

1 Finland
2 Hong Kong
4 Japan
5 New Zealand
6 Canada
20 United States
Looking at these infographics would lead one to believe that money is not the determining factor in a good education. Except, among these other five countries Finland clearly spends more money on education than the others and the test scores seem to show a payoff. Somehow the U.S. is an outlier in these statistics. Could it be how these education dollars are spent that really matters? Could it be that somehow the U.S. has been wasting much of their investment in practices that don't produce learning results? I suspect yes. So, what is the U.S. wasting their time and resources on?

More to come.

1 comment:

Sarah Hall said...

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