Of all the subjects on which statistical material exists, probably none shows less uniformity, both over time and between countries, than education. There is no universal definition of what constitutes a primary school, or a general secondary school, and even that of a university has shown considerable flexibility in the recent past. Moreover, there have been several major reorganisations of school systems in practically every country, and minor changes have been very frequent. Furthermore, the statistics of pupils have not always been collected in a consistent manner, even within the same schools system, and data for teachers has been so sparse and inconsistent for Africa and Asia that it has not seemed worth including. In addition, the date in the school-year to which the statistics relate has been altered on various occasions in most countries; the exact meaning of the data has changed, sometimes referring to all pupils on school registers, sometimes to those in regular attendance, sometimes to those present on a particular day, and sometimes to those present when an inspector visited. Sometimes, indeed, they may just be teachers’ estimates. Moreover, private schools have not always been included in the data collection process, and these have been of considerable significance in some countries, and it is not always clear whether or not adult pupils are counted in the numbers at school. And whilst the problem of changing definitions of a university have been largely evaded in this edition by covering all forms of higher education in table 12, ambiguities remain about certain sorts of vocational training, and even about whether teacher-training is counted as secondary or higher education. Nevertheless, for all the impossibility of making precise comparisons over long periods of time, and, even more, between most countries, when used with care these statistics do provide useful comparative material, even if only of a very rough nature.
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B. R. Mitchell
- Palgrave Macmillan UK
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