The story, in Britain's socially- and economically left-leaning Guardian, points out that poor Poland produces more students at A-level (matura) than does the UK. The article is condescending in tone, its analysis superficial and ideologically-motivated.
Read this passage.
The UK has a smaller proportion of adults with A-levels or their equivalent than Poland or Bulgaria, an analysis by the European Union's official statistics agency shows.Oh golly-gosh. Those funny people with those funny unpronounceable names are actually cleverer than us? "And why is that?" ask the well-meaning Guardian readers. It is, so the newspaper asserts, "due to the rising cost of learning".
Several former eastern bloc countries now have adult populations that are more highly educated than the UK's, the Eurostat data reveals. They include Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Bulgaria.
Hang on a second! Rising cost of learning? Then cut the cost! Pay teachers less! Don't invest in schools! Do something! Patently a heap of illogical drivel.
Look at the sixth word of the second quoted paragraph, 'now'. And then take a look at the very statistics linked to the article. They stretch back to 1999, and then the gulf between the UK and Poland was actually bigger than it is today. So this is not about now; it's a systemic problem that was actually worse under Tony Blair.
A quick canter over those stats for those who can't be bothered to do so themselves.
Total population (aged 25-64) having completed at least upper-secondary education. In 2010, this was 88.7% of Poles, and 76.1% of Brits. Europe's brain-boxes are the post-communist countries. Lithuania (92%), Czech Republic (91.9%), Slovakia (91%) and Estonia (89.2%) beat Poland. Generally, Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) has the highest proportion of young people in Europe leaving school at what in the UK is sixth-form level.
So who are Europe's thickies? In ascending order: Malta (29%), Portugal (31.9%), Spain (52.6%), Italy (55.2%) and Greece (62%) (Making any connections?)
Is the root cause of poor educational outcomes a lack of funding? No. At heart, I think it is that CEE societies place a far greater store on educating children than do either western Europeans or Mediterranean types. When I was a teenager, almost all my UK-born Polish peers went on from school into higher education, when that figure for the UK population as a whole was just 8%.
Our parents pressured us to do well at school in England just as Polish parents pressure their children to do well at school in Poland today.
But before Poland and the other CEE countries think about relaxing, remember than 100% of South Korean parents want their children to go to university...
Words which I remember my mother quoting to me as a child:
Chcesz być czymś w życiu, to się ucz
Abyś nie zginął w tłumie,
Nauka to potęgi klucz
W tym moc, co więcej umie.
Ignacy Baliński (1862 - 1951)
('If you want to be someone in life, then studyThis time last year:
To avoid dying among the masses,
Education is power's key
In him the power, who knows more.')
Oldschool Photochallenge: Response No. 2
This time two years ago:
Oligocene water from Jeziorki