Archive for the 'Economics' Category
Saturday, April 7th, 2012
Substantial heat is generated in Australia about child care and parental leave. Whilst there are economic issues involved in respect of the parents, the much more important aspects concern the young child and the future economic and social impact, let alone the impact on the individual. For the most part those issues are being ignored in the debate being held over the last few years in Australia. The situation in the US and in Britain in respect of early childhood and parental leave contrasts with that in much of continental Europe including Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands and in some Asian countries including Singapore where childcare is funded by governments or at least heavily subsidised where parents are unable to afford it.
Australia is lagging in this matter as in many others. The consequences are future significant economic impacts in unemployment and social dislocation. Funding untrained persons to mind the young children of parents enjoying more than reasonably satisfactory economic and social conditions, as is advocated by some politicians, completely ignores all the evidence and is a waste of taxpayers money! Failure to invest in early childhood leads to increased costs later on either in educational expenses or in countering antisocial behaviour, it leads in many families to poorer educational outcomes and a diminished life not least because of the economic conditions of the parents relating to excessively demanding working conditions often for both parents or no employment at all. The experiences of young girls growing up in those circumstances is visited on the young children they have in adult life. The experiences of young boys influences their passage into adolescence and adulthood.
Early childhood intervention is not child minding but an investment in the future more important than almost any other intervention in education. It must involve qualified early childhood educators. Think of parental leave and the costs of good support in early life, the experiences of urban settings of high rise apartments and the lives of “minority” families which are portrayed time and again in police dramas brought right into our living rooms on our TV screens. Numerous studies demonstrate just how significant the physical, social and economic environments portrayed in these dramas are in producing the tragedies which perpetuate poverty and violence.
Around 50 per cent of the educational achievement of children at school is contributed by what the child brings to school, as Professor John Hattie’s meta-analyses have shown and a substantial part of their subsequent achievement involves the relationships established in the early years of the child’s life.
Study after study in many countries shows extraordinary gains for investment in early child care as well as the critical importance to the child in later life of the relationships developed in the first few years. Yet firm meaningful policies are not put in place in countries such as the US. This would be considered astonishing until one realises that most of those involved in approving the necessary legislation are not directly affected by such policies. They more often find it useful politically to exhort parents to exercise their parental responsibility!
The investment we make in very young children is the most important investment we make!
Monday, April 2nd, 2012
There seem to be two worlds in which education reform, along with everything else, proceeds. In one a purely statistical and theoretical view of economics prevails. In the other sociology, a view informed by studies of the social interaction of people. To move from the former view to the latter is to enter through a kind of ‘green door’ from a society dominated by individual utility maximisation to one more concerned with social value and which recognises the sometimes irrational behaviour of people. One is based entirely in theory and has a utility related to its alleged predictability derived from sophisticated mathematics, a predictability which in most cases is at best difficult to test. The other is supported by extensive research on what people value and what they do not and how they actually behave in relation to their stated values.
These extracts from the essay on economics critique neoclassical economics and its application to education policy. Neoclassical economics and neoliberalism which is derived from it has gained substantial influence over the last 50 years. In that time economic growth in many countries has been accompanied by a number of important features. These include the application of notions about competition, choice and accountability to policies on schools and universities as well as early childhood. The last several decades have also seen increasing disparities in wealth within populations accompanied by “offshoring’ of many jobs in order to decrease costs. In several countries costs of education, of schools and of universities, have increased also. In the view of a number of economists this has led to a decline in the standards of education.
The focus on economics as if it is the basis of human society has been criticised by a number of scholars and writers and the failure of neoclassical economic theory and practice seen in severe economic turbulence has led leaders of a number of nations to question its appropriateness. In other cases the deregulation advocated by the proponents of neoclassical economics have led to profound fluctuations in national and international economies with “speculative bubbles” being enhanced by use of complicated mathematical algorithms and complex financial instruments as well as artificially low interest rates and excessive lending and borrowing at individual, corporate, government and national levels.
These notes on economics accompany essays on community and inequality. It needs to be kept in mind that the socio-economic and educational levels of parents are the most accurate predictors of children’s educational achievement. This is not because of some link with intelligence but with the profound differences in opportunities which are provided to those at higher economic and social levels. The differences which these opportunities make are evident in the first year to 18 months.
Continue to Education – Introductory Background
Tuesday, December 8th, 2009
Hoots No. 12 – 8 December 2009: Global Climate Change and Museum Advocacy
In some recent commentary on challenges facing museums over the next several decades, the issue of controversy and advocacy has been mentioned. For instance, over at Museum 3.0 in the Forum a post by Lynda Kelly reports item 5 of the nine big themes for 2010 identified by Australian Museum director Frank Howarth as “Increasing our advocacy: taking a stance on things that matter”.
It should not be thought that museums have not been dealing with controversy or been concerned with advocacy though sometimes that advocacy has been rather muted and some controversial issues have been avoided.
Lynda Kelly has posted a very useful brief commentary on this subject and referenced an article “Museum Authority Up for Grabs: The Latest Thing, or Following a Long Trend Line?” by Daniel Spock, Director of the Minnesota History Center Museum program in the Fall 2009 issue of the journal Exhibitionist (p 6-10).
Global climate change is considered by many people to be the major issue confronting human society and the environment though in recent months people in some countries such as the US have put the issue at the bottom of their list of concerns. In this situation museums have the credibility and the responsibility to place in publicly accessible places information which is credible and authoritative.
If museums are concerned about advocacy then this issue – global climate change – is something to communicate about right now.
The Monday 7 December issue of the Sydney Morning Herald contained an article by Deborah Smith referring to a document on climate change put together by Brett Parris who is a Research Fellow at Monash University and Chief Economist for World Vision Australia.
Entitled “University tackles sceptics’ arguments“ it commenced, “As World leaders gather in Copenhagen, efforts to undermine public confidence in the science of climate change have intensified. Sceptics have recently gained traction by exaggerating uncertainties in the research”.
Parris’ full document addresses 21 common objections to the arguments put forward in support of the proposition that global climate change is occurring and that it is due to activity of humans, principally through industrialization and the emissions of CO2. From my reading of documents at realclimate.org and other articles and presentations I would conclude that Parris’ document is as good a summary of the arguments and the evidence and an excellent refutation of the claims of others as I have seen.
One of the major parts of Parris’ document concerns the economic impacts of action to mitigate the effects of climate change. He points out that such action would have an impact of about 0.1 or 0.2 percent decline in income growth compared with “business as usual” (not taking account of an negative impact of climate change which is very important); this translates to a delay of four months or so by 2050 in reaching a certain target level.
At the end of the document, Parris quotes Nobel prize-winner in economics Paul Krugman: “Writing after the vote on the Waxman-Markey climate change bill in the US Congress, Krugman considered the implications of unmitigated climate change for the US economy and for future generations. He concluded that continued denial of the link between anthropogenic greenhouse gases and climate change, with the aim of thwarting action to reduce emissions, was a form of treason:
“So the House passed the Waxman-Markey climate-change bill. In political terms, it was a remarkable achievement. But 212 representatives voted no. A handful of these no votes came from representatives who considered the bill too weak, but most rejected the bill because they rejected the whole notion that we have to do something about greenhouse gases. And as I watched the deniers make their arguments, I couldn’t help thinking that I was watching a form of treason “treason against the planet.”
Museums, especially natural history museums have concern for the natural environment and the future of the planet and life on it as a major focus of their endeavours. Whilst objectivity is often promoted as an important feature of the communications of museums, integrity must never be compromised. That includes a responsibility to communicate the latest understandings based on the best scientific research.
The document prepared by Brett Parris is a comprehensive summary of what is known about global climate change and its consequences. The issue of how the threat is to be mitigated is a different matter. But at least as Parris shows various alternative suggestions that climate change is not occurring or that it is caused by factors other than human activity cannot be supported on the evidence. And neither can the assertion that addressing the threat will cause economic disruption of great magnitude!
Over at New Matilda an item entitled “The Global Copenhagen Editorial” published December 7 reports that “On Monday more than 50 newspapers across the world published a common editorial calling for global action on climate change” but you won’t read it in Australia
“The following editorial was published on Monday by 56 newspapers around the world in 20 languages including Chinese, Arabic and Russian. Most of the newspapers featured it on their front page. But you won’t read it in Australia. According to a report in the Guardian, “The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, pulled out [of the joint initiative] at a late stage after the election of climate change sceptic Tony Abbott as leader of the opposition Liberal party recast the country’s debate on green issues.”
The editorial begins, “Today 56 newspapers in 45 countries take the unprecedented step of speaking with one voice through a common editorial. We do so because humanity faces a profound emergency.
“Unless we combine to take decisive action, climate change will ravage our planet, and with it our prosperity and security. The dangers have been becoming apparent for a generation. Now the facts have started to speak: 11 of the past 14 years have been the warmest on record, the Arctic ice-cap is melting and last year’s inflamed oil and food prices provide a foretaste of future havoc. In scientific journals the question is no longer whether humans are to blame, but how little time we have got left to limit the damage. Yet so far the world’s response has been feeble and half-hearted.”
So what will your museum do?
Monday, May 25th, 2009
OWL’S HOOTS NO. 7 – May 25th, 2009
Early childhood education, the importance of teacher quality and training to students’ gains from schooling. Museums and schools and the impact of the digital revolution: those organisations which have failed to take advantage of the revolution have “withered where they stood! And do directors of Art Museums know what they are talking about?
More on education, learning and schooling: (I have been reading extensively about this topic. The literature is extensive, the research of the highest quality and the notice taken by many politicians and the media of the findings has been less than impressive.)
Here are excerpts from some of the papers.
Early childhood: Early experiences have uniquely powerful influence on the development of cognitive and social skills and on brain architecture and neurochemistry; both skill development and brain maturation are hierarchical processes in which higher level functions depend on, and build on, lower level functions and the capacity for change in the foundations of human skill development and neural circuitry is highest earlier in life and decreases over time. These findings lead to the conclusion that the most efficient strategy for strengthening the future workforce, both economically and neurobiologically, and improving its quality of life is to invest in the environments of disadvantaged children during the early childhood years.
“Economic, neurobiological, and behavioral perspectives on building America’s future workforce”, Eric I. Knudsen, James J. Heckman et al, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences vol. 103 no. 27, p10155″“10162 (July 5, 2006)
This is an incredibly important paper bringing together neurobiological, behavioural and economic perspectives from studies of humans and other animals which make it absolutely clear that failure to invest significantly in early childhood development makes cognitive development in later life more difficult and more expensive. It also makes clear that health of the mother during pregnancy and involvement of the mother in early years of the child’s life is critical!
wealth of research makes clear that these issues are particularly significant for families at the lower socio-economic levels of society. Early childhood intervention is not child minding but must involve qualified early childhood educators. Think of parental leave and the costs of good support in early life, the experiences of urban settings of high rise apartments and the lives of “minority” families which are portrayed time and again in TV police dramas.
What matters is the quality of the teacher: Whereas students’ literacy skills, general academic achievements, attitudes, behaviours and experiences of schooling are influenced by their background and intake characteristics ““ the magnitude of these effects pale into insignificance compared with class/teacher effects. That is, the quality of teaching and learning provision are by far the most salient influences on students’ cognitive, affective, and behavioural outcomes of schooling ““ regardless of their gender or backgrounds. Indeed, findings from the related local and international evidence-based research indicate that “˜what matters most’ is quality teachers and teaching, supported by strategic teacher professional development!
“The Importance of Teacher Quality as Key Determinant of Students’ Experiences and Outcomes of Schooling”, Kenneth J. Rowe (Australian Council for Educational Research), discussion paper prepared on behalf of the Interim Committee for NSW Institute of Teachers (available on the NSW Institute of Teachers web site).
Teacher training and teacher effectiveness: Measures of teacher preparation and certification are by far the strongest correlates of student achievement in reading and mathematics, both before and after controlling for student poverty and language status.
“Teacher Quality and Student Achievement: Review of State Policy Evidence”, Lind Darling-Hammond, Education Policy Analysis Archives vol 8 no. 1, 2000
Teachers’ effectiveness appears strongly related to the preparation they have received for teaching.
“Does Teacher Preparation Matter? Evidence about Teacher Certification, Teach for America, and Teacher Effectiveness”, Lind Darling-Hammond et al, available here.
(This paper refutes the proposition that teachers don’t really need training in how to teach, what they need is strong background knowledge of content. Young people with degrees in various subjects were recruited as part of the “Teach for America” program in the US and given few weeks of training and then sent to schools where the majority of students were from “minority” backgrounds.)
Museums and Schools: the digital revolution and its consequences. This was one of the papers delivered at the Museums and the Web conference in Indianapolis earlier this year. link to the site for that conference takes you to the video of talk by Maxwell Anderson, now director of the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
The past fifteen years of the digital revolution have seen transformation of cultural content and experiences through the use of new information and communication technologies (ICTs) such as the Web. These technologies have radically changed the types of content that are created and how it is distributed and used. The chains of connection from originating source to end user have been remade so as to be completely different from those of less than generation ago.
The effects of these “˜disruptive technologies’ has arguably been most profoundly felt in the cultural and informational industries: news, entertainment and education. In the publishing, broadcasting and recorded music industries, the landscape has been completely reworked by the new digital supply chains and the business models that they enable. Those content producers and providers that have not embraced new models for distribution on-line have been usurped or have withered where they stood.
“Building Digital Distribution Systems For School-Based Users Of Museum Content: New initiatives in Australia and Canada”, Darren Peacock, University of South Australia, Australia; Stuart Tait, The Learning Federation, Australia; Corey Timpson, Canadian Heritage Information Network, Canada, In J. Trant and D. Bearman (eds). Museums and the Web 2009: Proceedings. Toronto: Archives & Museum Informatics. Published March 31, 2009.
Museums and Audiences: challenge: Thomas Campbell, the new director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, says that engaging visitors who don’t feel comfortable is one of his primary challenges. “There is an enormous potential audience that simply isn’t coming here,” he says. “They come for school trips, but it wouldn’t occur to them to come again. Without sacrificing standards, we need to remind people that coming to the museum is not big deal. You’re not taking test. You don’t have to prove you know about the artists. It’s just fun.” Extract from “Reshaping the Art Museum” by Robin Cembalest in Art News June 2009
Friday, May 15th, 2009
Owl’s Hoots No. 6, 15 May 2009: Education and schooling, teaching and assessment: what is the unique value of museums in education? And European Space Agency launches not one but two giant telescopes into space. Another astounding recording from Gustavo Dudamel and the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela! And museums in Chicago: new buildings and miserliness.
Education and learning, early childhood intervention and performance assessment: I was fortunate in April to attend the recent conference of the American Education Research Association in San Diego, California – 18,000 or so delegates, up to 90 concurrent sessions over five days from 7:30am to 6:00pm! Leading researchers dealt extensively with standards of education, assessment of students and teachers, the development of brain function and cognition and many other important issues.
In asserting that the high stakes testing regime, so common in the USA and some other countries in the last decades, has narrowed the mind, Professor David Berliner of the University of Arizona quoted a letter from John Adams (1735-1826; second President of the United States) to Abigail Adams in 1780, “I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.” Â Berliner asserted that students were learning what Adams’ sons and not what his grandsons were to learn.
Intervention in early childhood education is amongst the most important issues but is not receiving the attention it ought to. Orla Doyle of University College Dublin and others including Nobel prizewinner in economics James J Heckman of the University of Chicago (“Investing in early human development: Timing and economic efficiency”, Economics and Human Biology 7 (2009), 1-6) point out that research has shown that “intervening in the zero-to-three period, when children are at their most receptive stage of development, has the potential to permanently alter their development trajectories and protect them against risk factors present in their early environment.
“Children from poorer households also have lower verbal and cognitive ability and more emotional and behavioural problems on average. Parental education, particularly that of the mother plays a major role in the child’s development as educated parents are, in general, better equipped to provide stimulating home environments. ..Early investment in preventive programmes aimed at disadvantaged children is often more cost effective than later remediation.”
Linda Darling-Hammond (who was on President Barack Obama’s transition team) and Elle Rustique-Forrester of Stanford University in reviewing the consequences of student testing for teaching and teacher quality (in chapter 12 of the Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education vol 104/2, p 289-319, June 2005) note that the centerpiece of state educational reforms over the last decade has been the development of educational standards to guide school practices and investments. “The central assumption is that by holding students, teachers, schools, and districts responsible for results on standardized achievement tests, expectations for students will rise, teaching will improve, and learning will increase. [However] while tests might be levers for greater equity, they have long been used to keep students separate and to exclude students from educational curricula, programs, and opportunities.”
The important conclusions are that “… assessment systems in which teachers look at student work with other teachers and discuss standards in explicit ways appear to help schools develop shared definitions of quality. Evaluating work collaboratively rather than grading students in isolation helps teachers make their standards explicit, gain multiple perspectives on learning, and think about how they can teach to produce the kinds of student work they want to see.”
Our understanding of learning and what advances it, has changed radically in the last several decades but the appropriate strategies for education authorities is far from agreed. Similarly, many museums are approaching their education function as if the responsibility is only to schoolchildren in class excursions (or field trips)and giving them lectures and handing out worksheets for completion by each child individually. In doing so they are ignoring their unique ability to provide free choice learning opportunities.
Huge telescopes launched into space: On May 14 the European Space Agency (ESA) launched two powerful new flagship telescope observatories, Herschel (containing the largest mirror ever carried into space) and Planck. An Ariane 5 rocket carrying the two observatories blasted off from the ESA’s launch centre in French Guiana in South America. On the BBC Jonathon Amos reports (in several items with videos) that the observatories will study space and time in more detail than in the past and give scientists a better and clearer window on the universe. The rocket will take the observatories out to a position some 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, an ideal station from which to view the universe. The launch comes during the International Year of Astronomy. The event is covered by other media including Deutsches-Welle World on line.
Another magnificant Simon Bolivar Orchestra performance: I have previously written, talking about “quality”, of Venezuela’s youth orchestra movement and the conductor Gustavo Dudamel. Their recording of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 and Francesca da Rimini has just been released. The Times of London’s review of the live performance of the symphony at the 2008 Salzburg Festival read, “In Tchaikovsky’s allegros you imagine steam rising from the fiddlers’ flying fingers. The gorgeously played horn solo in the slow movement was as melancholic as anything in Dostoevsky..”
In the liner notes interviewer David Nice asks Dudamel if his [horn] soloist (in the symphony’s second movement) is the same horn player heard “executing the obligato in the scherzo of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony so brilliantly”. Dudamel replies, “No it’s the other principal horn player. Of course we have quite a choice, because there are 16 horns in the orchestra”. Remember that when Dudamel was auditioned for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the orchestra’s president reported the remarkable reaction of the players, “We had combustion”. The performances on this album are truly outstanding! It is more than youthful enthusiasm.
Miserly Museums in Chicago: In the Chicago Tribune for May 14 (“City culture scourges“), Mara Tapp, organiser for “Cool Classics!”, a book-based art-and-culture after-school program,Â writes, “When the Chicago Public School year ends June 12, elementary students will not be able to visit for free the Field Museum, the Adler Planetarium, the Museum of Science and Industry — because none offer free days until September. Let’s call them the Truly Miserly Museum Corps.”
The New Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago designed by Renzo Piano is written up in the Art Newspaper and the New York Times May 13 (with pictures).
Next week: More on education and schooling, learning and cognition and another quote from John Adams. Perhaps some comments on advances in museums in Australia after the Museums Australia conference in Newcastle this coming week.