Wednesday, October 09, 2013

The Birthplace of Yeats and Joyce Is Semi-literate

The studies show that the Irish people aren't as advertised. The land that gave rise to a host of literary luminaries is not quite so literate itself.

Take heart, Ireland. You're brighter than the average American. But that's hardly compensation for not ranking higher in terms of world literacy.

The Central Statistics Office carried out a survey among 6000 Irish citizens, a group encompassing all ages between 16 and 65. The test subjects answered a series of questions that measured their competence in both mathematics and reading, and did no better than average as compared to twenty-four other nations. Who wants to be average?
Worse than Japan, better than Italy

Ireland is supposed to be a highly literate nation, filled with highly educated people. It would seem that the people are not getting what they should out of that education, however. When it comes to reading food labels or solving simple problems, the Irish are not getting it done like the Japanese. The results imply that something is wrong with Irish schooling.

Where Ireland did shine was in the number of participants actually responding. Most people see a survey and chuck it in the bin, but over 80% of the Irish invitees took the time to answer the questions and return the form. Such a participation rate only makes the final results more troublesome. Consider if less than half had bothered with the survey. It would be easy enough to dismiss the results, to say that the dumbest half of the population responded so the results are skewed in the wrong direction. Sad to say, but it looks as if the majority of the Irish people are not particularly bright.

Population statistics paint an interesting and different image, however.

In the past twenty years, the percentage of young people has declined, and it is known that they are emigrating in large numbers. Ireland does not have a use for them, with the economy in the doldrums. Those left behind are not as educated, not as clever, and not able to solve problems as easily as the ones who emigrated in search of opportunity. It could be that education is getting it done, and the ones with the most to offer are boarding a plane at Dublin Airport while the rest are taking a test to gauge literacy.

When the technology companies come calling, looking for that motivated and educated work force that Ireland claims, they will turn to the survey and note that the work force isn't so very sharp after all. Little better than Poland, according to the statistics, where labor costs are a bit less and the population equally motivated to bring jobs to their struggling economy.

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