Category Archives: Uncategorized

When Not Reading Books Means Getting Booked

Thugs and bullies have left their mark on this World Cup. First Pepe got ugly against Müller. Then Suarez took a bite of Chiellini. And now Zúñiga has kicked Neymar all the way out of the tournament.

Brazilian fans are mourning the loss of their star player. But critics argue that the team has only itself to blame – Brazil’s rough tactics have invited opponents to fight back. There has been more foul play than jogo bonito.

Dirty tackles are as unwelcome at school as they are on the pitch. Education research shows that orderly classrooms help students learn more. Fortunately, PISA tells us that the disciplinary climate has been improving since 2003. But how disciplined are the World Cup semi-finalists?

Naughty or Nice

As you can see in the graph, the semi finals will be a battle of Naughty vs. Nice. Brazil (96) and the Netherlands (91) have committed many more fouls in this World Cup than their respective opponents, Germany (57) and Argentina (54). According to school principals surveyed by the OECD, almost 1 in 4 students are affected by bullying and intimidation in Brazil and the Netherlands. Continue reading

Penalties and Geometry: Overcoming your deepest fears

My heart was pumping. My knees were shaking. My throat went dry. I couldn’t concentrate. But last Saturday I overcame my fears. I opened my eyes. And watched Brazil and Chile face off in a penalty shootout. All the way to the end.

Yes. Even watching penalties gives me the shakes! So what must it be like for the players? I can’t imagine! Since 1982, 221 players have lined up to take a penalty in 24 World Cup penalty shootouts. 63 have failed to score.

That’s almost 3 in 10 anxious penalty takers! Meanwhile, the OECD tells us that about 3 in 10 boys get nervous doing maths problems. In most countries, high levels of maths anxiety are closely linked with lower test results. Students who suffer from maths anxiety won’t – or can’t – even try to solve maths problems.

Penalties and Geometry

The bubble graph compares the nerves of maths students and penalty takers in the remaining World Cup countries. I’ve chosen to take boys only, since they’re the ones taking penalties at the World Cup. It’s worth noting that in most countries, girls get much more nervous than boys about maths. This is a big problem, since more confident girls in maths means (a) more equitable education systems and (b) more qualified people to take on techy and scientific  jobs.

We can see that: Continue reading

Skipping Classes to Make Passes: Do Truants Play Better Football?

Argentina has an outstanding football team, boasting two World Cup titles and some of the most admired players in history. Argentina also has an outstanding number of truants  (i.e. students who skip classes). Before taking their PISA tests, almost three in five students said that they had skipped a day (or even more) of school during the prior two weeks. Argentina has more truants than any of the other 22 World Cup PISA countries!

Is that why Argentina’s footballers are so good? Does skipping classes help improve football passes?

Skipping classes to make passes

Based on World Cup results so far, I don’t think so! The blue line in the graph shows that, on average:

  • Teams that have already reached the quarter finals have more students attending all classes than the teams they beat in Round 2. For example, Colombia (only 4.4% of students skip school days) beat Uruguay (23.6%)
  • Teams that lost in Round 2, in turn, do better than the teams they eliminated in the group stages. Chile (7.7%), for example, does better than Australia (31.8%).

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Valuing referees and teachers: red cards and report cards

When he’s not officiating, World Cup referee Nawaf Shukralla goes fishing. A nice way to escape from a high-pressure job, I suppose. One mistake in tonight’s game between Ghana and Portugal, and Shukralla could be all over the news, mocked for incompetence and accused of corruption.

As an elite referee, he will be well paid for his efforts. But day-to-day referees need more recognition for their roles. In the United States, referees who asked for better working conditions were recently barred from working in the Major League. One in five Bavarian referees say that higher salaries are needed to attract more talented referees.

Despite being society’s next-most important card dealers, teachers also feel underappreciated. According to the new OECD TALIS survey, only one in three teachers across 34 countries think that their profession is valued by society. In Portugal, only one in ten teachers think so.

Red card report card

 

 

 

 

 

Undervaluing teachers is an own goal. Korea and Belgium (who face off in Group H tonight) show us that countries where teachers feel valued are also countries where students perform better. Teachers there are given better training, good feedback and sufficient rewards for good performance.

Like the best teachers, Nawaf Shukralla is more facilitator than preacher. He is known as a calm referee who allows play to develop as much as possible. Let’s hope that he doesn’t have to deal with any biters tonight (though I wish him lots of them on his next fishing trip).

Ghana versus Germany (a.k.a. Boateng versus Boateng)

Two brothers playing in a World Cup is an amazing achievement. Two brothers facing each other in a World Cup is a migrational miracle. It’s what we’ll see tonight, when Boateng brothers Jerome and Kevin-Prince don their respective German and Ghanaian jerseys.

Their father Kevin, a child of cocoa farmers, left Ghana in 1981, hoping to study business administration in Germany. It didn’t work out, though. He ended up working odd jobs and fathering two brilliant footballers (to different German mothers).

Kevin’s story made me wonder how things have developed since he tried studying in Germany. How open is Germany to foreign students from developing countries? How do people with immigrant backgrounds fare in German schools? And how do foreign footballers fare in the German Bundesliga?

I’ll look into some of these questions in the coming days. To get started and help you prepare for tonight’s game, here is a little fact sheet.

ImageBy the way, if you’re struggling with your next maths exam, remember that Jerome Boateng did so too. Despite his mother Martina’s efforts, he dropped out of school in tenth grade to pursue his footballing career. Here’s what she has to say about that: “At the time, I didn’t recognize how determined Jerome was. Today I have to say: Kudos!” 

Let the best Boateng win !

More Messis for Global Education

Group B boasts great educators and top footballers. It also gathers three big aid donors: Australia, the Netherlands and Spain. So how committed are they to global education? The answer, as this chart shows, is: not enough !

Aid to Basic Education - in #Messis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goup B’s combined aid to basic education in developing countries didn’t even reach 2 Messis in 2012. For those of you unfamiliar with this scale:
1 Messi = US$ 163.2 million.

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Brazil v. Mexico: Tackling shins and inequality in education

Tonight’s headline match brings together two Latin American big shots. Brazil and Mexico have the region’s largest economies and populations. Both won their opening group games against Croatia and Cameroon with some great tackles. And both urgently need to tackle inequality in education.

ImageBy the time Mexican students turn fifteen, the learning gap between rich and poor equates to about 1.5 years of schooling (62 PISA points in maths in 2012). In Brazil, the gap is almost two years (77 pts). Their World Cup competitors Chile (108 pts) and Uruguay (99 pts) do even worse.

The Inter-American Development Bank finds that, across Latin America, more than half of all students failed to reach the so-called PISA baseline. This means that they can’t, for example, use basic maths formulas (let alone basic football formations). In two of Brazil’s struggling regions, Alagoas and Maranhão, only about one student in seven reached this baseline!

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Juggling balls and books in Brazil

Brazilians can be religious about their football. But guess what: when they respond to the OECD’s Better Life Index, their #1 priority is … education! Meanwhile, protesters in Brazil have hit the streets, angered by the USD 11 billion spent on hosting the World Cup and calling for more spending on public services.

President Dilma Rousseff has called this a “false dilemma”. And, despite much work to be done, Brazil has made impressive progress in education. Between 2003 and 2012, enrolment among 15-year-olds rose from 65 to 78 per cent, according to the OECD. Brazil improved more than any other country in PISA maths, and reading scores went up too. The share of “low performers” in maths fell from 75 to 67 per cent. The government has spent big and directed more funds to disadvantaged schools – Golazo!

As for tonight’s game against Croatia, I have been given exclusive access to Brazil coach Felipe Scolari’s tactics chart. It shows how Neymar and Hulk will confuse the opposition by suddenly changing their lines of attack.

Brazil - books and football

Just kidding! What the chart really shows is that Brazil can make huge strides in education if it accepts a small drop in its FIFA football ranking. Just look at how reading results improved when Brazil’s FIFA ranking dropped from 1st to 5th! Continue reading

If Education for All decided football matches

Brazil will beat Argentina in a stunning World Cup final, says Goldman Sachs. England and Japan, on the other hand, will drop out in the group stages. But what if providing education for all determined World Cup outcomes?

Based on the 2011 Education for All Development Index (EDI) and ruthlessly ignoring issues around UK/English identity, the graph below shows you that England and Japan are the World Cup’s best educators.

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It’d be a closely fought final! Japan has strength in numbers: more children are enrolled in school, and more of them reach grade 5. But the UK boasts higher rates of adult literacy. My money is on a Japanese victory – it scores much higher than the UK on gender parity. Continue reading

Education policy and football: Can you be good at both?

What do policymakers, football managers and parents have in common? Answer: they worry about trade-offs. Should we fund health or education with the public budget? Should we bring on an extra midfielder or bolster our defense? Should we give her an apple … or let her have chocolate?

But surely we don’t need to choose between good education policy and a winning football team!? As a concerned parent, football fan and policy advisor, I took a closer look at the 23 countries that both participate in the OECD’s PISA survey and have qualified for Brazil 2014.

PISA maths v FIFA World Ranking

The results are alarming! On average, countries drop about 7 points in PISA maths for 100 additional points in the FIFA world football rankings. Maths whizz Korea is ranked 57 in FIFA, while tiki-taka-loving Spain lies PISA 70 points behind Korea. According to the PISA team, that gap equates to almost two years of schooling!

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