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CEP Discussion Paper
Measure for Measure: A Critical note on the National Targets for Education and Training and International Comparisons of Educational Attainment
Peter Robinson July 1997
Paper No' CEPDP0355:

The National Education and Training Targets appear to dominate the public policy debate, though outside of policy making and influencing circles they are in fact little known. This paper argues that the definition of and measurement of progress towards those Targets are based on equivalence between qualifications which are subjective and in some cases arbitrary. Moreover, the UK Government's own Skills Audit treats some qualifications in a manner which is completely contradictory to the way the National Advisory Council for Education and Training treats them. The paper argues for using the earnings associated with the holding of different qualifications as an objective way of ranking qualifications. Qualifications should be held to be equivalent if they deliver similar earnings in the labour market. It is shown how this approach would be different levels of attainment. If this method was used to look international comparisons of educational attainment it might also alter the relative ranking of countries. It is pointed out that the earnings of those holding Scottish Highers are significantly lower than the earnings of those holding 2 or more A levels, and yet it is asserted that these qualifications are equivalent in public policy discussions. If we cannot get right comparisons between England and Scotland, what makes us think that we have got right any of the international comparisons?