The Dim-Post

September 30, 2012

So bad education stories in the Herald on Sunday are now a thing

Filed under: education — danylmc @ 8:50 am

Their story:

Our degrees don’t repay their cost

New Zealand university degrees are the most worthless in the developed world, an international report reveals.

The value of spending years at university has been severely dented by an OECD report that reveals tertiary study adds little to our earning power – less than $1000 a year for women, not much more for men.

New Zealand is at the bottom of the global league tables.

The actual report is here. And the thing that the OECD make really clear is that they distinguish between two categories of tertiary education. Type A – university degrees – and type B: (mostly polytechnics). Taken together New Zealand is at the bottom of the table. But if you look at degrees and advanced tertiary study then New Zealand isn’t doing that badly – and the countries that are doing extremely well on that metric are mostly countries with low rates of type A tertiary education. Their degrees are highly valuable because of their scarcity. Almost every statistic in the Herald story refers to non-university level education, but the entire story is about the alleged worthlessness of degree qualifications!

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23 Comments »

  1. What’s a Journalism degree worth these days?

    Comment by smog — September 30, 2012 @ 8:56 am

  2. You need to edit the link to the report.

    Comment by Owen — September 30, 2012 @ 9:09 am

  3. That’s right, because the whole POINT of going to university is for an idiot amongst many idiots to pay the money, dutifully do the rote, and in due course emerge as an idiot now distinguished from the other idiots with a newly minted meal ticket in the form of a degree, whose value is directly measurable on the Steven Joyce “what does it do?” index. Of course, some of us may quibble with this. Some of us might think a good university education is also a good liberal education, equipping a citizen to take his or her place in the political and civil society of our time. You know, all our roading engineers must first be philosophy graduates before they can properly build roads (“where are we going?” is, after all, as important “how do we get there?”).

    Now a liberal education isn’t an elitist concept. It has always been concerned first and foremost with the aforementioned idiots. The first use of the term “liberal education” occurred in ancient Greece. The word ‘liberal’ (‘eleutherios’ in Greek) referred to kind of education a free citizen should have to assume his responsibilities in the community, in contrast to the kind of training, say, a slave should have. As the Greeks argued the question of what form that education should take, there were two different verbs that often came into play, politeuein and idioteuein. Politeuein was the good word, and it meant ‘to participate in the affairs of the polis, or ‘city’. ‘Polis’ is, of course, the root of what seems to have become a bad word, ‘politics’. Idioteuein, the opposite verb, was a bad word, and it meant, roughly, to do your own thing. One who had no real regard for the affairs of the community was idiotes (ring a bell, Tim?), which became our word ‘idiot,’ by extending its meaning to cover people of such limited mental ability that they are unable to participate in society at all (Rodney Hide, John Roughan, etc). At any rate, the education that the Greeks envisioned for free citizens was intended to prepare them for politeuein and keep them from being idiotes.

    I’ll leave it to the dear reader to evaluate the evidence presented in the Herald’s latest education story to decide if that newspaper is concerned with furthering the role of universities in supporting the politeuein or if it merely illustrates the Herald thinks our entire edifice of tertiary education is to produce well paid idiotes.

    Comment by Sanctuary — September 30, 2012 @ 9:55 am

  4. Did they separately calculate the earning power/net private benefit for ISCED 5A/5B/6? I thought they were always clustered together as “tertiary education”.

    Comment by Keith g — September 30, 2012 @ 9:59 am

  5. I think I got my name wrong. Guess I’m not very good at factchecking.

    Comment by Keith g — September 30, 2012 @ 9:59 am

  6. >Now a liberal education isn’t an elitist concept.

    Pity you then undermine that statement by describing the education the elites of Ancient Greece got, and talked down the relevance of the work of slaves. That’s very much an elitist view of it. Better would have been to say that in a fair society, everyone should have access to the same education that the elites get. But how the hell we as a society are going to come to grips with simple fact that slave work IS the work that gets things done, and the other kind is simply a birthright, a good in itself, I don’t know. It’s fundamentally at variance with rewarding industrial production as our main economic mechanism. That kind of system will take us back to class ridden society, and liberal educations will once again become things only the very wealthy can afford.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — September 30, 2012 @ 10:24 am

  7. Sanctuary wrote: You know, all our roading engineers must first be philosophy graduates before they can properly build roads

    I wonder how many transport engineers did do philosophy degrees before they did their transport engineering studies. I know Green MP Julie-Anne Genter did.

    Comment by kahikatea — September 30, 2012 @ 11:54 am

  8. Genter is not an engineer, she’s a planner – “I think therefore you must do”

    Comment by insider — September 30, 2012 @ 2:20 pm

  9. “I wonder how many transport engineers did do philosophy degrees before they did their transport engineering studies.”

    I just heard the news that my former philosophy lecturer has resigned from his academic job in frustration, and enrolled as an engineering student. The Joycean masterplan to kill the humanities is beginning to come into effect…

    Comment by Dr Foster — September 30, 2012 @ 4:40 pm

  10. “What’s a Journalism degree worth these days?”

    When I was a lad, journalism was a trade qualification, not a degree. I’ve got a degree in Physics and a vocational qualification in journalism and editing.

    Of course, this is a whole different subject – sorry to sidetrack you.

    Comment by billbennettnz — September 30, 2012 @ 6:07 pm

  11. My Arts degree was in Philosophy and Computer Science. A prize goes to whoever guesses which one of those got me my first and second jobs.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — September 30, 2012 @ 6:08 pm

  12. “I just heard the news that my former philosophy lecturer has resigned from his academic job in frustration, and enrolled as an engineering student.”

    Heh. Visualising a frustrated philosopher trying to actually engineer something. you know, something real, that exists, like engineers do.

    Comment by gn35 — September 30, 2012 @ 7:09 pm

  13. >Heh. Visualising a frustrated philosopher trying to actually engineer something. you know, something real, that exists, like engineers do.

    Picture Isaac Newton, writing The Principles of Natural Philosophy. Benjamin Franklin, inventing bifocals. Rene Descartes, making Cartesian geometry, Albert Einstein, working on the bomb, Alan Turing, cracking Enigma, Leibniz developing Calculus, etc. The great minds of the western world is a long and tedious list, littered with philosophers that changed the entire way that humanity thinks. Could be finished. Or, on the long view, it could barely have begun.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — September 30, 2012 @ 9:17 pm

  14. Danyl, it looks to me as as if you got it wrong (not as wrong as the HoS though). The OECD has reported tertiary education data, which, as Keith pointed out, clusters ISCED 5A, 5B, and 5A/6. Those categories cover, respectively and in broad terms: L5-6 diplomas; bachelor’s degrees and L7 diplomas, and postgrad degrees. I went back to the source data and worked out what table the HoS is using (they converted US$ to NZ$, making it a bit harder) and the table they used was about tertiary education graduates, compared to NCEA/L1-4 certificate graduates. Looking at the participation data from recent years, the L5-6 diploma area probably won’t be more than 10% of the ISCED 5A, 5B, and 5A/6 enrolments. So it won’t skew the figures in the way you suggested. Over half of ITP enrolments would have been at L1-4, and another 25% at degree level.

    The HoS is mainly wrong because they seemed to have confused a positive and substantial net real return with qualifications being “worthless”, But they have also lumped in bachelor’s degrees, postgrad and diplomas, omitted social costs/benefits, etc, etc.

    I’m writing this up separately too and in some more detail.

    Comment by Dave Guerin — September 30, 2012 @ 9:33 pm

  15. “Could be finished. Or, on the long view, it could barely have begun.”

    or both…

    Comment by nommopilot — September 30, 2012 @ 9:45 pm

  16. Albert Einstein worked on a bomb?

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — October 1, 2012 @ 12:23 am

  17. I’ve never taken a designated philosophy course but I always assumed computer science (which I have completed) and certain areas of philosophy are very related. A lot of software development and computer stuff is all about understanding when things are true and when they aren’t and formulating logic.

    These days some of it is just about dragging colourful pictures around a screen.

    Comment by MikeM — October 1, 2012 @ 3:20 am

  18. Albert Einstein worked on a bomb?

    Bong. Typo.

    Comment by Gregor W — October 1, 2012 @ 10:42 am

  19. The great minds of the western world is a long and tedious list, littered with philosophers that changed the entire way that humanity thinks.

    Yes, but the great minds on your list aren’t philosophers, per-se. I doubt any of them received an academic training in “philosophy” above and beyond what was normal for an education of the time. Whatever philosophical truth might emerge from their work is only as a by-product of their scientific or mathematic advancements.

    Comment by Phil — October 1, 2012 @ 11:51 am

  20. “Alan Turing, cracking Enigma”

    I didn’t realise Alan Turing was Polish…

    http://www.polishgreatness.com/enigma.html

    Cheers,
    FM

    Comment by Fooman — October 1, 2012 @ 12:23 pm

  21. Everyone knows it was Matthew McConaughey Fooman. Didn’t you see U571?

    Comment by insider — October 1, 2012 @ 1:58 pm

  22. When I was on my OE, back in the mid 90s, I worked as a temp in the Audit R&D department for KPMG. Having studied auditing at varsity, I was naturally interested in the commerce degrees the auditors had. None of them had anything like a BComm. Instead, they all had classics degrees, and a degree in philopsohy was very popular.

    KPMG had figured out that you can *train* people on the job !

    Comment by mikaerecurtis — October 1, 2012 @ 3:58 pm

  23. >Yes, but the great minds on your list aren’t philosophers, per-se.

    From Wiki:

    René Descartes (French: [ʁəne dekaʁt]; Latinized form: Renatus Cartesius; adjectival form: “Cartesian”;[3] 31 March 1596 – 11 February 1650) was a French philosopher, mathematician, and writer who spent most of his adult life in the Dutch Republic. He has been dubbed the ‘Father of Modern Philosophy’, and much subsequent Western philosophy is a response to his writings,[4][5] which are studied closely to this day. In particular, his Meditations on First Philosophy continues to be a standard text at most university philosophy departments.

    Yes, he studied law. And Socrates was in the army, but he was still a frikken philosopher.

    >Whatever philosophical truth might emerge from their work is only as a by-product of their scientific or mathematic advancements.

    That’s a contentious statement, to say the least.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — October 1, 2012 @ 4:21 pm


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