Shock, as US economy grows just 0.2%; A 100-year gap in education between nations; Nepal will rise again

1 Shock, as US economy grows just 0.2% (The Guardian) The disappointing US GDP data has sent markets tumbling. The weakness in the US economy, if sustained, poses problems for global growth. That has hit the dollar, and by extension pushed the euro higher which has undermined European markets.

The export heavy Dax has been hit particularly hard, while the FTSE 100 has closed below 7000 for the first time in nearly two weeks. There were also the usual uncertainties surrounding the continuing attempts to avoid Greece defaulting and the forthcoming UK election.

Pending home sales – contracts to buy previously owned US homes – rose to their highest level since June 2013 in March, the third monthly rise in a row. The National Association of Realtors said its sales index rose 1.1% to 108.6 last month, compared to forecast of a1% gain. The association’s chief economist Lawrence Yun said more buyers than usual had entered the spring market.

Earlier, official figures showed German inflation picked up to 0.3% in April, the second month of price growth after deflation in January and February. And Belgium also exited deflation. Looks like the European Central Bank’s policy is working. It launched a £60bn a month quantitative easing programme in March to fight deflation.

2 A 100-year gap in education between nations (Rebecca Winthrop on BBC) When it comes to education the differences between the developed and developing worlds remain stark. There has been a convergence in the number of pupils enrolling in primary school, with many more young children in developing countries now having access to school.

But when it comes to average levels of attainment – how much children have learnt and how long they have spent in school – there remains a massive gap. When it’s shown as an average number of years in school and levels of achievement, the developing world is about 100 years behind developed countries. These poorer countries still have average levels of education in the 21st Century that were achieved in many western countries by the early decades of the 20th Century.

If we continue with the current approaches to global education, this century-wide gap will continue into the future. There are stark overall differences between the average levels of education between the developing and developed countries – a comparison which uses the UN definition of “developed” as Europe, North America, Japan and Australia.

The idea that all young people, not just those in the elite, should have an opportunity to be educated had spread across Europe and North America by the middle of the 19th Century. It was only a century later, spurred on by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that mass schooling spread across the developing world. It meant that there was a 100-year gap there from the outset.

The education levels of the adult workforce, often measured by average numbers of years of school, is in the developed countries double that of their developing country peers. In developed countries, adults have an average of 12 years of school, compared with 6.5 years of school for those in developing countries.

The 100-year gap is also evident in the learning levels between students in developed and developing countries. At the current rate of progress, it will take well over 100 years for students in developing countries to catch up to the learning levels of today’s developed country students.

The real question is what can be done to close the gap? Can some of the evolutionary steps be skipped to make more rapid progress? Or is there a technological way for education systems to “leapfrog” a few stages forward? Can we envision a world where it does not take developing countries 50 or another 100 years to catch up?

3 Nepal will rise again (Pranaya SJB Rana in Dawn/The Kathmandu Post) Nepal slept uneasy on Saturday night, away from homes and buildings and under open skies. Throughout the night, the fitful sleep of those who survived Saturday’s catastrophic 7.8 earthquake was disturbed constantly by the earth rocking to and fro.

The Sunday morning sun rose on a nation devastated, its centuries-old history turned into rubble and its people scared into huddled masses. Out on the main streets, it was locals who were conspicuously doing what needed to be done. Security agencies initially were caught just as unprepared as locals; only, it looked as if locals recovered faster.

Of course, all this is not to downplay all the great work that the police and the Army have done. They too braved much risk to undertake rescue efforts. What was evident on Saturday and much of Sunday was Nepal’s, and especially Kathmandu’s, lack of preparedness for a disaster that so many had warned about for so long.

But what also became evident was just how resilient and resourceful Nepalis are. Besides the material support that locals provide to each other, there is the emotional and psychological element, especially when there is little reliable information and all that one can hear are doomsayers predicting bigger quakes with every hour that passes. In the face of uncertainty and fear, an ear to talk to and a shoulder to lean on can be as valuable as any material relief.

Some markers of our heritage are now gone forever and whatever reconstruction that will take place in the months and years to come will doubtful equal the grandeur of the old. There are countless lessons here for us all, if only we are willing to learn. A city is only as resilient as its people and no matter what we lose, as long as we have the people, we will rebuild and we will recover.

Many of the thousands of deaths were perhaps preventable, had building codes been enforced and retrofitting conducted on a war footing. It is not as if we didn’t have enough warning; we just lived as if we were invulnerable. But those of us who have survived, must and will soldier on, if only in memory of all that we have lost.


About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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