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Does Education Matter?: Myths About Education and Economic Growth (Penguin Business) Paperback – November 25, 2003

4.2 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Alison Wolf is Chair of Education at the Institute of Education in London and Programme Director at the Centre for the Economics of Education. She lives in Dulwich, London.

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Business
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Global (November 25, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140286608
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140286601
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #974,803 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The conventional wisdom about higher education goes like this. It is imperative for government to get more and more students into and through college because we are now in a "knowledge economy" and unless we have enough highly skilled workers, we will fall behind. Almost no one in politics or the education establishment ever questions those beliefs. It is widely accepted that increasing the amount of formal education is the means by which states or nations that are relatively poor can lift themselves up economically.

Professor Alison Wolf of King's College in London challenges the conventional wisdom in this extraordinarily insightful book. Actually, it's more than a challenge -- it's a thorough refutation. She demonstrates that the "knowledge economy" does not significantly change the broad contours of the labor force, that a high public "investment" in formal higher education is neither necessary nor sufficient for strong economic growth; and that the best educational policy to follow would be to ensure that young students learn well the academic basics (which many now don't, even if they graduate from college).

Does Education Matter? is absolutely essential reading for anyone with an interest in educational policy.
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Wolf makes a convincing case that if the goal is economic growth the United Kingdom (UK) in the 1990's, and arguably the US currently, is spending too much as a society on higher education. An underlying misconception is that because better educated people make more money, society will necessarily get richer if it has more educated people. The fallacy is that education is increasingly used to screen hires, so that people are more educated than necessary for the jobs they are doing. While occupational structure changed in the UK in favor of "managerial/professional/technical", going from 29% to 37% in the UK from 1984 to 1998, craft and related dropped 5.5% (p.49). It could still be argued that the occupational trends will continue and accelerate, and that education impacts these trends in the face of international competition, but there is no evidence that happened in the UK. Moreover, looking at the successful countries provides no support: Switzerland had relatively lower proportions of higher education; World Bank analyses referenced in this book found that the countries which had done the most to increase education levels on average grew less fast than those which devoted less resources (p. 39). Again, like studies in other areas such as nutrition, it is hard to separate out factors and come to definitive conclusions. Certainly, specific examples can be found in the US where there are skill gaps, and joint programs between community colleges and industry have worked very well, but that does not invalidate Wolf's general thesis.

Another theme of the book is that centrally directed educational policies, especially if aimed at promoting equality, failed in the UK and are likely to fail elsewhere.
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The author, Alison Wolf, concentrates her analysis on post-secondary (referred to as "high school" in the U.S.) education and specifically on the popular and all too widely held view that among politicians, businessmen and the public at large, that an expansion in post-secondary school education (both university and technical) contributes directly to economic growth. The book specifically examines this issue in the United Kingdom but the analysis itself carries over well into the U.S. and other developed nations. The author herself, a PhD with research specialization in the education field and one of the United Kingdom's leading authorities on education, is eminently qualified on the topic.

The author starts out by providing a history of post-secondary school education. In that history she is careful to emphasize that the connection between higher education and economic grouch has only come about since the late 1800s and even then has not been a paramount factor in the expansion of post-secondary education until the second half (and particularly towards the end) of the 20th century. Before that education, at that level, was intended to benefit society and the state primarily through the production of civil servants and the intelligentsia, a fact that is difficult to comprehend today.

In the remainder of the book, Wolf specifically debunks the myth that an expansion in higher education will necessarily and logically lead to higher economic growth. She does this (at the University level) by showing that that educational expansion has led to expanded educational requirements for positions over time (i.e.
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I rate the book like this because is concentrated in one region only (UK) with some references to others but stil I believe is a good book because the arguments Ms. Alison Wolf use are very good and I think she's an authority on this matter... I would like to see something like this but related to other countries like Latin America, Mexico is a very good example of corruption on education matters...
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