Beware simplistic comparisons

Liam Julian

The Wall Street Journal ran today an article about Portugal's rickety educational system and how it has affected the nation's economy: Portugal is the least educated country in Europe, and it is also the poorest. ?Without budget cuts,? the Journal reports, ?Portugal is almost certain to need an international bailout. It will run out of money this year without fresh cash . . . .? The plentiful, inexpensive, manual labor that once sustained the country's textile industry has ?vanished to Asia,? and skilled jobs have left for former Eastern bloc countries, where salaries are lower and the people better-educated. One need not be a soothsayer to predict what this article will work: Ominous warnings from the usual suspects about the parlous condition of the American educational system, whose failings will soon deplete the U.S.'s economic output. But consider: According to the Journal, ?just 28% of the Portuguese population between 25 and 64 has completed high school,? while in the U.S. the figure is ?89%.? Furthermore, in Portugal it was mandatory until the mid-1970s to complete only three years of schooling. There are sundry other obvious differences between America, a behemoth, and Portugal, a relative Lilliputian. Beware simplistic comparisons.

?Liam Julian, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow ??

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