Tom Friedman – Pass the Books. Hold the Oil!

Dear Commons Community,

Tom Friedman has an interesting column today entitled, Pass the Books.  Hold the Oil.   He refers to “a study mapping the correlation between performance on the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, exam — which every two years tests math, science and reading comprehension skills of 15-year-olds in 65 countries — and the total earnings on natural resources as a percentage of G.D.P. for each participating country. In short, how well do your high school kids do on math compared with how much oil you pump…?”

The results indicate:

“that there was a “a significant negative relationship between the money countries extract from national resources and the knowledge and skills of their high school population,” said Andreas Schleicher, who oversees the PISA exams for the O.E.C.D. “This is a global pattern that holds across 65 countries that took part in the latest PISA assessment.” Oil and PISA don’t mix. (See the data map at:”

So hold the oil, and pass the books, students in Singapore, Finland, South Korea, Hong Kong and Japan stand out as having high PISA scores and few natural resources, while Qatar and Kazakhstan stand out as having the highest oil rents and the lowest PISA scores.    Schleicher concluded:

“knowledge and skills have become the global currency of 21st-century economies, but there is no central bank that prints this currency. Everyone has to decide on their own how much they will print.” Sure, it’s great to have oil, gas and diamonds; they can buy jobs. But they’ll weaken your society in the long run unless they’re used to build schools and a culture of lifelong learning. “The thing that will keep you moving forward,” says Schleicher, is always “what you bring to the table yourself.”

A lot to think about!




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