Monday, November 28, 2005

Selective schools

Once again, the SMH has an article about the enormous success of Asian immigrants in NSW's schools. This time, it's a much better researched article, which goes to the trouble of looking at the actual background of students, rather than counting the ones with Asian names (I blogged about this on November 12th). But it still suffers from the same statistical flaw. A quote:
"More than 5000 of the 16,000 selective school students say they have a Chinese-speaking heritage and all but 100 of those students live in Sydney, where 4.9 per cent of the population speaks a Chinese language."
The flaw is that 10% of the population aged 15-24 speaks Cantonese at home, and 7% speaks Mandarin. There are a whole lot of other chinese languages spoken at home - Hokkien being a common one, as it is spoken a lot from ethnic chinese from Malaysia. So of the children who might go to a selective high school, let's say 20% (a conservative estimate) have a chinese speaking heritage, and 30% actually got in (i.e. 50% more than you expect). That's a completely different story from 6 times as many as you expect, which is what the article implies.

The real story is buried in the middle of another related article (clearly the Herald is doing a series):
"This year 52 per cent of applicants were from a non-English-speaking background and of the students who got into a selective school, 53 per cent had a home language other than English."
So non-english speaking background children are just as successful as english-speaking background children in getting into selective schools. What a non story.

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