Smart youth (8)
Archived Articles 07 Dec 2007 Estonian Central Council in CanadaEWR
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A resource Estonia can bank on in the future

Its agriculture can’t compete with countries blessed with longer growing season. It is not endowed with abundant and varied natural resources. Its manufacturing sector lacks the clout to be a major player in international markets.

But Estonia holds a resource that undoubtedly will contribute to the improvement in Estonia’s economic growth, quality of life, international competitiveness and so on. Its educated and savvy youth are bound to influence the direction of the country’s future development.

A test administered internationally to 15-year-old students in 2000, 2001 and 2003 has now yielded its most recent results: Estonia ranked fifth (with Japan), behind first place Finland, Hong Kong, Canada and Taiwan. (Finland retained its first place position.) In comparison, Sweden finished 22nd, Latvia 28th, Russia 35th.

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is part of the activities of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Fifty-eight countries were tested.

The test, administered last April to 5,000 Estonian public school students, or every 4th 15-year-old, emphasized science – physics, chemistry, biology, and geography. The test also involved mathematics, reading skills and reasoning.

The questions differed from standard school assignments in that the test measured the ability of students to cope with — and to apply principles of science to — everyday problems. This probably also indicates the orientation to practicality of the Estonian public school system.

Claiming that the test has no cultural or ethnic bias, PISA purports not to favour any one of the education programs of its 51 participating countries.

The PISA testing program shows Estonia’s consistency in science and mathematical success. In another international educational rating system (TIMSS) Estonia placed high in science and third in Europe in mathematical skills.

While not a definitive indicator of the quality of the human resources that might be at a country’s disposal, the PISA tests still provide a comparative picture of how Estonia could rank against others in a progressively competitive international environment.

Lacking natural riches and a population size which others have to take into account, Estonia’s critical mass is in its national brainpower, something that can’t be devalued nor pumped dry at oil wells.
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