Saturday, 31 March 2018

Smartest Countries in the world

Here are the Top Ten Smartest Countries in the World.

By TopTenz Net.
Imagine the world is a high school. You’ve got the big, jock countries like Australia, South Africa, and the USA. You’ve got the self-consciously old-fashioned intellectuals like Britain and France, and then you’ve got the cool kids everyone wants to hang out with (yeah, Italy, we’re looking at you). But what about the brainboxes? Who in our analogy are the nerds spending their spare time in the science labs while the other countries are learning to smooch and bum smokes?
Well, thanks to some slightly dubious science, we possibly have the answer! Between 2002 and 2006, a joint British-Finnish study carried out IQ tests in countries all over the world, then ranked each nation by their average national score. While IQ tests may not be perfect – they miss intelligence defects even clever people suffer from, like dysrationalia, which is a fancy way of saying “choosing the simplest answer to avoid having to think too hard” – and this particular study was controversial for its methodology, it still makes for a fun comparison. Want to discover which countries are getting beaten up for their lunch money every morning?
10. Austria (average IQ: 100)  Population rank: 95th
9. Switzerland (average IQ: 101) Population rank: 98th (8.2m)
8. Mongolia (average IQ: 101)  Population rank: 135th
7. Iceland (average IQ: 101) Population rank: 178th
6. Italy (average IQ: 102)  Population rank:  23rd
5. Taiwan (average IQ: 104) Population rank: 55th
4. China (average IQ: 105)  Population rank: 1st (1.38b)
3. Japan (average IQ: 105)  Population rank: 10th
2. South Korea (average IQ: 106)  Population rank: 27th (51m)
1. Singapore (average IQ:108) Population rank: 113th
In the video, Simon (the host/presenter) took some pains firstly to explain why Taiwan is on the list, but HK isn't. (He did mention that HK would score has high as Singapore, i.e. #1 if it were considered.)

This was the narrative for Singapore:
1. Singapore (average IQ:108)

When Singapore declared independence from Malaysia in 1965, it was one of the poorest states in the world. Literacy was at third world levels. Not a desirable start for a country that wanted to be a world leader in education, attainment, and wealth. Yet, somehow, Singapore managed to pull it off. From being a tiny island with no natural resources, its exceptionally long-serving leader Lee Kuan Yew managed to turn his home into a global powerhouse. In doing so, he raised the education level of Singaporeans so high that they cruised to an easy first place in these very rankings.

According to the OECD, Singapore has the single greatest education system in the world. The only other territory that hits the same level on the IQ rankings is Hong Kong, but since that ain’t a country, it doesn’t get a spot on this list! The city state – one of only three left in existence – is also home to fantastic infrastructure and cleanliness that is so strictly enforced you can get publicly caned just for chewing gum. Whether that’s worth it just to live surrounded by a country of brainboxes is another matter entirely.
Two corrections to the narrative.

One, we did not start out wanting "to be a world leader in education, attainment, and wealth." The early years of Singapore was a simple struggle to survive, persist, and resist.  To ensure that everyone could make a living, and there were jobs and an economy. Being a world leader in anything, came later.

Two, caning was never a punishment for chewing gum offences.

Other than that not much to quibble about the text on Singapore being number 1.

But there are inherent issues with using IQ, and average IQ.

The larger the population, the closer to the average the IQ would be. Hence it is statistically highly improbable that a country with 1.4 BILLION people would have an average IQ of 105 (China).

The most innocent explanation is that the figure is not a random sample, but the average of all people who have taken IQ tests in China, and this is mainly people in cities. And people who take IQ tests tends to be younger people, usually students, and if you are smart or have shown briliiance or promise of brilliance, your Chinese parents will move mountains to get you to a school in the city. Whereas, if you are not so bright, and you live in a rural province, your parents might encourage you to farm instead.

So by deliberate (or non-random) selection, the brighter ones will move to cities and are more likely to be tested and score higher. Whereas those of average or below average scores would not be tested.

Are Singaporeans really the smartest population in the world?

As a Singaporean, I would REALLY like to think so, but Asian (false) modesty prevents me from basking in this glory uninhibitedly and unabashedly.

That and my natural skepticism, and understanding of unnatural selection, statistics, and IQ tests.

First, Singapore's population is small. Our citizens number about 4.5 million. With a small population, it is easier to get skewed results. Which is why I included the population ranking in the list (it's not included in the original list). Also, what's the sample size? If Iceland's population is almost 100% tested for this, but China only tests only 10% of its population, and there is selection bias, is China's results really comparable, or valid? How many Singaporeans were tested? I don't recall taking an IQ test between 2002 and 2006.

Second, we are 100% urbanised. Is that relevant? I think so, but I could be mistaken. One of the critique of IQ tests is that they are often culturally biased. And as IQ tests are usually created by academics in a urban setting, it is possible, and even probable that the tests may be skewed towards measuring urban culture IQ. Maybe.

Third, we have a good education system, and that means we attract students to study in Singapore. And like the Chinese cities scenario, parents will make sacrifices to send their bright children (high IQ) to study here.

Fourth, there are quizzes and study methods to prepare one for IQ tests. Kiasu SG parents would ensure that their children practise on them. In other words, you can "study" for IQ tests.

Fifth, selection bias. I would argue that SG children/students today are "smarter" than their parents. Education and learning methods make a difference. Related to the fourth point, teaching or learning methods can prime one to be better at solving problems. This does not actually RAISE your IQ, but it raises the IQ that is tested or testable. As most IQ tests tend to be taken by younger people (i.e. students), who are in school, and at higher levels have been "selected" for their mental acuity (or at least the slower ones have been "deselected"), this presents a non-random selection bias. In other words, I would pit our best students at tertiary level against the average citizens of any country, anytime.

So are Singaporeans smartest in the world?


But if we are smart, we'll try to play that down.

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