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UNESCO gets Nigerian education wrong

UNESCO has published some statistics (in a fact sheet) about how badly Nigeria is doing educationally. But, says James Stanfield:

Unfortunately, these statistics fail to take into account the thousands of unregistered low cost private schools that exist across Nigeria and the millions of children who attend these schools.

But why is this unfortunate? First, the state of the world is better than someone says it is, which is good to know. Second, a bunch of people with the desire to govern, in practice to derange, the entire world is ignorant of what is really going on in it. To me, that also sounds rather good. Accurate statistics are the lifeblood of government.

Stanfield’s answer to why it is unfortunate that UNESCO is wrong about Nigerian education goes like this:

Without an education crisis and UNESCO would quickly become redundant. Second, by widely exaggerating the number of out of school children, this also allows UNESCO to point the finger at Western donors for failing to meet their funding commitments.

If proving UNESCO wrong about education in Nigeria would really lead to UNESCO’s demise, then Stanfield might be right to call UNESCO’s mistaken statistics unfortunate and to set about convincing UNESCO and the world of UNESCO’s wrongness. But they will surely have no such effect. “If only” says Stanfield’s title, UNESCO would admit its errors. But UNESCO being wrong about it hasn’t stopped education improving in Nigeria. UNESCO will go on being wrong about education in Nigeria. Education in Nigeria will continue to improve.

I do not object to the substance of Stanfield’s blog posting, merely its rather unfortunate wording about how unfortunate the UNESCO “fact” sheet really is. The ideal arrangement is for people like James Stanfield to carrying right on telling everyone how well education is now doing in places like Nigeria. This tells rich donors that they can keep their money instead of giving it to UNESCO, and it tells people in rich countries to stop fretting about education in poorer countries, and instead to tackle their own educational problems, by dismantling their own state education systems.

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13 comments to UNESCO gets Nigerian education wrong

  • Lee Moore

    I’ve always had the feeling that libertarians are a bit like Marxists. Gather three of them together, place in a paper bag and wait for the explosion. Even – especially – when they are in complete agreement. Perhaps fractiousness and deeply held political beliefs are necessary bedfellows.

    Anyway. As you accept, Stanfield and you are in complete agreement on the substance, and you are just whining about his use of “unfortunately.”
    Unfortunately, his is a perfectly orthodox use of “unfortunately” and it doesn’t mean “unfortunately for the world” it means “unfortunately for the story teller.”

    As in “By the time he had finished his blog post, Brian had worked himself up into a splendid temper. Unfortunately he had got the wrong end of the stick.” The unfortunateness relates not to how the world is worse off as a result of Brian having got the wrong end of the stick. It relates to how unfortunate Brian is to have shot himself in the foot. Whether this is also unfortunate for the world depends on how the world’s happiness is correlated with the validity of the story Brian was trying to tell. If Brian’s story (cf UNESCO’s) was a load of cock, what is unfortunate for Brian’s story is fortunate for the world.

  • Stonyground

    Surely the point stands that there are a great many “charities” that are funded with vast quantities of government money, that need to constantly exaggerate, and even perpetuate, the problem that they are supposedly there to solve?

  • Paul Marks

    The statists do not fundementally change.

    They say that people are stupid and need to be controlled (hence books such as “Nudge” and “Thinking: Fast and Stupid”) and so they do everything they can to MAKE PEOPLE THAT WAY.

    Otherwise the collectivists would have no excuse for their power and, from their own point of view, no reason to live.

    Fear that large numbers of people would not be able to read and write is not the reason they support state education – on the contrary teaching basic skills is not a high priority (I went to a state school – I know). As long as most people learn the basic lesson (whether they are in state schools or private schools) they are happy.

    And the basic lesson is that the collective (i.e. the “enlightened” elite) is in charge – or should be in charge. That was the basic principle for Plato – and it is the basic principle for Polly T. over at the Guardian (it does not fundementally change).

    At the start of the 20th century virually everyone in Iceland could read and write (often in more than one language) did that stop the creation of a state education system?

    Of course it did not – because creating a state education system was not really about teaching people to read and write. It was about controlling their minds (their assumptions) – and it WORKS.

    Ask the average person in Iceland now “if the state education system ended would the next generation be able to read and write?” and they would answer no – or “of course not” (or just grunt in confusion – not understanding the question).

    The authors of such works as “Nudge” and “Thinking: Fast and Slow” would be overjoyed – as the basic task of state education (and so on) has been achieved, people have been taught to be DEPENDENT.

    Ditto on old age (without the state the old would starve to death in the streets – just as they did NOT in 1920s America) or illness (without the state poor would be left without medical care – just as they did NOT in 1950s America) ditto Food Stamps (which did not even exist till the 1960s) and on and on.

    For the “Progressive” or “Libertarian Paternalist” (yes they actually use that oxymoron term – may they burn in Hell) to succeed the various government services do not have to produce positive results – on the contrary, the more NEGATIVE the results the better. The more stupid, ignorant and DEPENDENT people become the more the “enlightened elite” are secure in their power – the only reason they can see for being alive.

    And the media (especially the entertainment media) continues to be the faithful handmaiden of the collectivists who dominate academia (Plato’s bastard children).

    Did the large numbers of private schools for the poor in India (that James Tooley tried to tell the world about) stop the collectivists there?

    Of couse it has not.

    And it did not Kenya either.

    And it will not in Nigeria.

    Just as such schools did not stop them in Britain and the United States.

    Just as fraternites and “Friendly Societies” did not stop them taking over health care and old age provision.

    It did not stop them because the whole thing is about POWER.

    There is only one thing that will stop the collectivists – that will stop the “enlightented elite” whether they call themselves Marxists, Liberals, Progressives (whatever the word is this week).

    Breakdown.

    Economic and social collapse – the end of this mess.

    And it can not come soon enough for me – even though it will mean my own death.

  • Anyway. As you accept, Stanfield and you are in complete agreement on the substance, and you are just whining about his use of “unfortunately.”

    ‘Unfortunately’ it is you who have the wrong end of the stick. The point Brian is making is not the same point James Stanfield is making. Indeed he is writing about the appropriate attitudes towards UNESCO and the implications of their ‘error’.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    I think this would be a very good post for everyone to abandon.

  • “Accurate statistics are the lifeblood of government” Good point, but this reminds me of the 1980s fight over what percentage of the USSR’s GDP they were spending on their military.

    The CIA defended their estimate of 14% based on published Soviet numbers about their overall economy. The Langley leftists said that “Socialism wouldn’t work if they published fake numbers”

    I leave it to you all to sit in judgement.

  • RRS

    Accurate statistics are the lifeblood of government.

    Come now Brian,

    Managed statistics perhaps, but “accurate?”

    But, managed or accurate, it is the derivation of understanding of relationships (and correlations) of statistically assembled facts (if they are facts) and the degree to which the derivations are perverted or not by subjective objectives that may affect their vital nature to governance.

  • Laird

    Frankly, I don’t understand Brian’s problem, either. It was a fine article, well written, and makes an important point very well. The soi disant statistics UNESCO cites are “unfortunate” because they lie to the reader; what could be more “unfortunate” than that (from the reader’s perspective)?

    It’s fine for Stanfield to keep “carrying right on telling everyone how well education is now doing in places like Nigeria”, but that doesn’t mean he can’t take an occasional foray into reporting on what lying sack of crap UNESCO is (and has always been). The ultimate objective is the same.

  • George Orwell

    I think Paul Marks is correct in his analysis of both the reason for the flood of wrong information provided by government, quasi-government bodies (UN especially), NGO’s, and academics, and its effects of the mass of ‘low information’ voters.
    This ‘dis-information’ campaign by the statists covers everything from medical care to climate (and all points in between the personal to the universal). Gun crime (and other crime) statistics, environmental threats, causes of poverty, etc., etc. are all distorted to support the power grabs of the ruling elite. In fact, I would go so far as to assert that the Western mass media is already little different than the old Soviet media and it continues to get worse.
    However, I would disagree with Mr. Marks in that I hope the whole sorry mess limps along for a number of years more until I have shuffled off this mortal coil, or at least am old enough that death will be a release rather than a personal catastrophe. This is purely for selfish reasons.
    In addition, while many people seem to earnestly desire the coming collapse so that the building of a better world can commence, I think that as bad as our current situation is, that it will be replaced by something worse when the current house of cards collapses.
    One can hope that a better society will arise out of the ashes but I fear that the failure of Western civilization, which is principally based on individual liberty, to avoid the eventual senility and collapse that seems to be part of the life cycle of all civilizations does not bode well for the future of mankind.
    I expect that, at least initially, the desirability of individual liberty will be rejected (aided by the distortion of the true causes of our collapse by our rulers and their handmaidens–academics, artists, and journalists–by whatever follows. Our failure (as Franklin warned us) to ‘keep’ the Republic will be used to discredit the very idea of individual freedom and it may never again be tried.
    Social progress (unlike scientific progress) is, IMHO, not guaranteed. In fact, it is such an anomaly in the human experience that I think it may be a one-off that will never be repeated.

  • Paul Marks

    Hayek (the arch moderate – and he was a very moderate person by nature) pointed out one of these disinformation campaigns many decades ago.

    In the official documents supporting Social Security in the United States it was assumed that all wives were financially dependent upon their husbands, then this was presented (in the official P.R.) as people “dependent on others in their old age”. So the collectivists were able to give the impression that vast numbers of old people were dependent upon charity.

    In the law this is called “sociological jurisprudence”.

    Instead of arguing about the text of the Constitution or the intentions of those who write it, the “Progressive” judge will introduce hundreds of pages of academic studies into the process.

    These reports have nothing to do with the Constittion of the United States, and are normally (being academic studies) a pack of lies anyway, but the method looks very impressive – and has been used for more than a century.

    Still back to the “dependent old”….

    The old Rousseau (really Plato) trick of calling voluntary interaction (civil society) “dependence” (or even “slavery”) – whilst real dependence (being dependent on government benefits) is described as liberating people (“freedom from want”).

    This is because each person is part of the collective – so “I am you”.

    And a nice bit of Rousseau style anti family thinking also (those who think the left only became anti family in the 1960s are very much mistaken).

    And every collective must have a head – every “we” must have an “I”.

    And the collectivist intellectuals dream of being that.

    Remember….

    “When someone says “under socialism we will…..” they really mean everyone else under socialism, and themselves on top of it”.

  • RRS

    For a better understanding of the jurisprudence referenced by P M, Google:

    Brandeis Brief.

    (I checked it)

    That has been followed with jurisprudence by Mrydal, et al., et al., et al.

  • Loth though I am to believe anything a UN body has come up with, I am fairly convinced that insofar as education is concerned – as with almost every other measure I can think of – Nigeria is well and truly fucked. The only books I have seen any Nigerian read are the bible, cheezy self-help books with titles such as “Suceeding at Interviews”, or combinations of the two with titles such as “God, Faith, and Your Business”.

  • Definitely “Samizdata” is a website of irrational bunch of misguided individual on Nigeria Educational situation today. When analyzing a situation on human you deal with majority NOT INSINIICANT figure. Research, shows if you are to report finding of ten issues nine of those issues give a clearer view than an issue- thus your finding or whoever must have misguided you should be call to book to review the finding because UNESCO finding is more liberal and factual on Nigeria Educational position.