Is The Ukrainian Children Learning?

According to a recent Vzglyad article by Olga Gritsenko titled Universal Stupefaction, no they are not. Here are the cold raw facts:

  • Libraries stock 4% of books published in Ukraine, compared to 18% in Russia and 40% in the US and Canada.
  • The average Ukrainian spends $2.5 on books in one year, compared to $22 in Russia.
  • In 2010/11, the average Ukrainian spent just under 3 hours reading newspapers and journals per week, down 25% from 2007/08. The equivalent figure in Russia is 7 hours.
  • In fairness, their universities are rated higher than Russia’s (as well as Poland’s and the Czech Republic’s) by an outfit called Universitas 21.

Obvious counter-objections don’t explain these shortcomings. Russia has a higher Internet penetration, but nonetheless Russians read a lot more books and newspapers. Nor can a nearly tenfold difference in per capita book sales be purely or even mostly a reflection of lower book prices in the Ukraine.

That said, in a sense these statistics aren’t surprising. According to international student assessments, the level of human capital in Ukraine appears to be similar to the lowest ranked ethnic Russian provinces in Russia. This does not bode well for Ukraine’s future economic growth, given the tight interrelationship between human capital and development, and might go some way to explaining the already big – and growing – prosperity gap with its Moskali neighbors.

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