Kenli Schoolland [2/3]

America is known to be a world leader in many aspects. The United States of America is undoubtedly high-ranking in terms of literacy, but it is definitely not the highest. Finland is continuously ranked at the top of the list, with 100% literacy rate and the highest reading literacy test scores. [1] Finland is doing well economically with a 4.9% GDP growth rate[3], while America has a growth rate of only 2.9%. [3] Even so, it is not traditionally known for its educational standards. All of Scandinavia (Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland) has incredibly high literacy rates, from 99-100% in each. [2] What is it that they are doing better than America?

Another high performing area of the world is Russia, including the former Soviet states. The Republic of Georgia has the highest literacy rate, 100% and the all of the rest have a literacy rate greater of equal to that of America. When one typically thinks of the Soviet Union, the idea of socialism and poverty comes to mind. Living standards might not be at its best in Russia, but things are definitely improving. Its GDP growth rate is 6.7% [3], more than double that of the United States. Georgia has an even more outstanding growth rate of 9.4%.[3]

GDP growth is definitely not the main contributor to high literacy rates. Egypt has a literacy rate of 71% with a GDP growth rate of 6.8%.[3] Ghana has a literacy rate of 57.9% with a GDP growth rate of 6%.[3] These countries both have much higher economic growth than America, but much lower levels of literacy. America has been growing economically for centuries, so it has had a head start. If the economies of these African nations continue to succeed, their living standards are sure to as well.

Educational possibilities accompany economic development. If focus is set on improving the living standards of people around the world, then improved literacy rates will follow. Improved living standards cannot be government imposed; instead it could be gradually attained by adapting to the world market. This way, the economy of the country will match the living standards. The advancement of economies in poorer countries can be achieved by allowing free trade. Free trade would enable these developing countries to trade with richer countries, in effect, vastly benefiting the struggling economies of developing countries. Once their economies improve, more focus can then be turned to advancing the educational opportunities for the people.

Many people in developed nations are concerned with the living situations in the third-world countries. The easiest solution always seems to be to send government aid to these struggling countries. This is not the best method, and there are plenty of negative repercussions from such foreign aid. If one truly cares about these less fortunate people then the best solution is free trade. It would lift a far greater number of people out of poverty (and consequently away from illiteracy as well) than tax dollars could ever do.

1. [1] "How Educated Are We - International Literacy Comparisons"
2. [2] "Literacy - Total(%) 2007"
3. [3] The CIA World Factbook

Just for your information:
The Republic of Georgia, a nation with 100% literacy, uses a completely different alphabet from English.
The writing looks like this:

There are 33 characters in their alphabet compared to english's 26.
Not only this, but many people there still know Russian, because they used to be part of the USSR.
Russian is written in cyrillic, which looks like this: кенли ис радицал
Amazing that even with all of these added difficulties, they still have a 100% literacy rate! How did they do it?


Kenli Schoolland [2/3]

Even though Hawaii’s education is floundering as a state, could the national level be better?

According to School Data Direct, the national proficiency scores are incredibly substandard. Less than 40% of students in each age category are proficient in their math and reading levels.[1] It is horrible to think that less than half of the 50 million students in America are even relatively competent in their intellectual abilities.

The U.S. is now falling behind in educational competitiveness: “American 15 year-olds rank 24th out of 29 developed nations in mathematics, literacy and problem solving”.[2] America was once a leading nation in intellectual capabilities, but now it is starting to drop in comparison to other countries.

All of this is happening when the nation is spending about $9,881 per student.[1] This is even more than the Hawaii expenditure of $8,100 per student.[3] If $8,100 is not enough to educate the students of Hawaii, would almost $2,000 more do the trick? Apparently not, judging from the results. If $9,881 is not enough either, then what is the necessary price to educate America’s children?

The idea of a public school system is to provide poorer children with an opportunity to be educated. This seems like a noble idea, but the methods are not successful. If that $8,100 is not taken from families (in the form of taxes) in the first place, then the family would have that money to spend toward quality education.

One reason for the failure of the national public school system is that there is no incentive for them to improve the educational standards. Public schools do not need to earn their funding, it is promised to them from the government. The people who pay for the public education system (taxpayers) are forced to give their money to the schools whether they are good or bad.

Also, students who live in a certain area and cannot afford the available private schools are forced to attend the government ones in their district regardless of their quality. Private schools need to provide a good education in order to gain consumers (students). If parents have the choice of which schools to send their children to, then the superior schools will be rewarded, and the inferior ones would be forced to improve or go out of business.

John Stossel: Stupid in America

[1] School Data Direct: National Overview of United States Public Schools & Districts
[2] Ad Council: "What Makes People Care About Education?" -- Peggy Conlon
[3] The Heritage Foundation


Kenli Schoolland [2/3]

How bad is the education in Hawaii?

Isn't it rather pathetic that a majority [56%] of 8th grade Hawaii students have "below basic" knowledge of Science.
Mathematics and Reading are only slightly better with more than 40% of Hawaii students in the "below basic" knowledge category in those subjects.

These are abysmal results, and one wonders who is at fault. Hawaii consistently ranks in the lowest 5 states in the nation for the quality of education. How can this be when the government [in 2002-2003] was spending $1,489,092,000 on education?[1] Where does this money come from? Why from the taxpayers of course! The National Education Association, or NEA, conducted a study of the individual states and found that with a 2% increase in government spending on education, the results of the increased consumption [or sales] tax would decrease the number of jobs in Hawaii by at least 500.

The NEA concluded that:
“The results of increasing consumption taxes on each
state’s level of employment appear in Table 3. At this stage
of the analysis, tax revenues are simply being taken out of
the economy and not being respent. As would be expected,
an increase in taxes affects jobs negatively in all states and
in all years. This negative effect on jobs increases over time,
as businesses and individuals continue to make location
decisions favoring areas offering greater opportunities.”

The people being affected by such a poor education system and decreased number of jobs are primarily those of poorer incomes. Also, those who can afford to send their children to private schools still have to help pay for the miserable public school system as well, even when they aren't using it. Is that fair? I don't think so.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, at least 15% of the students in Hawaii attend private schools,
which is one of the highest proportions in the nation. This is no wonder considering how poor the government school system is on the islands.[2]

The government spent an average of $8,100 per student in 2002-2003 [most likely that amount has grown in recent years]. That is sufficient for tuition in quite a few private schools in Hawaii. According to a recent article on private school tuition costs in the Star Bulletin, $8,100 could cover the tuition for Sacred Hearts and Damien for example.[4] Undoubtably the quality of education in those schools are much higher than in government institutions.

Wouldn't it be best for people to keep that money that the government spends for them and choose their own schools? If the government still wanted to make sure that education was compulsory for all minors then they could return the money to the rightful owners in the form of vouchers. These vouchers would go towards tuition for private schools, and then the government would no longer need to waste money on its failing school system.

The voucher system would help the education of Hawaii's students tremendously. One article in the Hawaii Reporter talks about the possibility of the voucher system:

"School Choice and Competition Offer Solution

Fifty years ago, Economist Milton Friedman proposed education vouchers and the idea that parents should choose the appropriate education for their children, not government bureaucrats. The Milton and Rose D. Foundation now reports the following progress:

• 7 states offer tax-funded voucher plans with 48,165 students enrolled in these voucher plans;
• 3 states offer tax deductions or credits for private education expenses with 542,910 families benefiting;
• 3 states offer tax-funded private scholarship programs, benefiting 57,391 families;

Eight studies on the benefits of these choice initiatives find significant academic benefits for students using the programs to attend private schools. No studies found adverse consequences for public-school performance.

No studies have found that public schools do a better job of promoting tolerance, civic participation or racial integration. Charter schools in Hawaii are saving taxpayers about $34 million per year in per pupil costs, because the state funds charter students at only half of traditional public school students. Miraculously, charter school students still outperform traditional public school students, despite operating on a shoestring budget.
Hawaii’s charter school success only hints at the heights to which student achievement could soar if a wide range of choices were available to parents -- including public, private and home schooling -- through tax-credits, vouchers and scholarships.

Milton Friedman was a highly revered economist and a nobel prize winner for economics. I think that he was definitely wise in his advice about moving away from government schools to private schools. A voucher system is one way to acheive that, but definitely not the only way. If the government really wants to help the children of Hawaii, then that is the best first step.

*Note: For more thoughts on this subject by me click here.

[1] The Heritage Foundation
[2] United States Government Census 2003
[3] The National Education Association's Statistics on School Funding
[4] "Isle Private School Costs to Continue Steep Rise" by Dan Martin
[5] "School Choice - A Better Solution for Hawaii" by Laura Brown