The Problematic Education Index

The United Nations’ annually published Education Index is one of the main components of the widely used Human Development Index. An accurate portrayal of educational differences among the various countries of the world would be very beneficial. I have my suspicions, however, about the Education Index, which “is measured by the adult literacy rate (with two-thirds weighting) and the combined primary, secondary, and tertiary gross enrollment ratio (with one-third weighting).” But does Kazakhstan really belong in a higher educational category than Switzerland, Singapore, and Japan? Does Costa Rica really belong in the same category as Bolivia and Paraguay? Such findings rest on the premise that all countries are able, and willing, to gather and publish accurate data on such issues, which is not necessarily the case. The index fails to capture, moreover, educational intensity. I think that it is safe to assume that Japanese students in secondary school on average work more intensively than those in Greece, Uruguay, and the United States.

The Wikipedia map of the index is also problematic. The key, for example, uses the wrong color for the highest category, which I highlight by placing a square of that color on the United States. The highest and lowest color categories, moreover, are difficult to differentiate; the former is dark green and the latter dark red, but both look more “dark” than either red or green.

But despite such problems, the map does effectively portray some interesting patterns. Note the low-education zone in the Sahel belt of Africa. Note as well that Pakistan, but not Afghanistan, also falls into the lowest color category. The high standing of Latin America relative to Africa and South Asia is also significant.


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