Category: Education

High on Numbers: Part II (Education Overdosed)

This is the second (and last) part of the previous article, this time exemplifying some of the consequences of the “Chilean number addiction” in Education public policies.

Education and the youth provide a good example. After all, the biggest Chilean riots during democracy before these ones, took place because of students demands in Santiago. Higher Education (and education in general) is also an area where decision-making is extremely “numeralized”. Of this I have some experience, since I had the pleasure to be invited to help with some of the numeric and data series research of a book published by my university and authored by professor PhD Hugo Lavados and Ramon Berrios, titled “Policies for University Development: Principles and Evidences”. I had a great time and I learned a lot working with the data series in this book. Made me look at all of the numbers and figures available about Higher Education in Chile. And I must admit, almost all of them were cosy and nice and made us feel really good. For example, in 1990 less than 13% of the population (18-24 years old) attended higher education. In 2013 it was already over 35% and probably today it’s already over 40%.

We can measure many things. We can measure how many people are studying, how much they are earning, how much are they buying… But could it be possible that there are some things we just cannot measure?

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High on Numbers: Part I (Worship Numbers)

I studied “Commercial Engineer” in Chile, a nice mixture between Economics and Business Administration, a professional degree that taking psychological theory, mathematics, economical theory, operations research, marketing, law principles, among other sciences, studies and disciplines, is designed to turn you into a professional manager in a market based economy. I was trained to constantly check for some figures to note the state of the art in an organisation or in the society as a hole.

Like a pilot certain of the instruments in an airplane, I was trained to follow goals and deal with situations and decisions that could be translated into numbers and figures. After all, mathematics is like a shower in pure, warm, perfumed waters: a revitalising bath, a lullaby of pureness when it comes to ideas. Saying something in the beautiful, mythical, pure language of mathematicians brings immediately the illusion of pureness and undoubted truth.

Like that, since I was 18 years old, I was introduced into the concept of, for example, Economic Equilibrium under the interpretation of classical economists like Smith and Ricardo, but going even further with the application of this kind of concepts to every imaginable economic problem, either in a macro or micro level. Notions of equilibrium levels, surplus, prices, income or production were quickly set into the true lighthouses to follow in my head along my undergraduate studies. But I was not the only one.

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