Cyprus Mail

Our View: Puzzling stats call for healthy skepticism

A NEW rather novel report – the Good Country Index – has ranked Cyprus 18th globally in terms of the nation’s contribution to humanity and the planet. Breaking down the stats, it was a bit of a surprise to see Cyprus came third in the world for its contribution to science and technology.

The report was published on the same day it was revealed that half of final-year high-school students on the island failed their maths exams this year.

It seems the fact that Cyprus has produced one Nobel prize winner, a few tech innovators and has academics producing copious peer-reviewed articles, is all you need for a top global ranking while kids continue to fail math and science. What will they contribute to a future world?

While the US has put a man on the moon and is known as one of the global leaders in technology, it was only ranked 26 in the category. Israel, also known for its medical and technological innovation – where we send patients for specialist treatment – came below Cyprus at number five, is another cause for puzzlement.

Similarly, the US ranked 41 in terms of its cultural contribution to the planet, 40 places below Belgium’s number one spot. Is there really a corner of the globe left that has not been touched by US pop culture? Or did they mean high-brow Belgian culture counted for more of a worldwide impact? Who knew?

That’s not to say statistics are not useful. The ones based on real figures like road deaths that result from not wearing a seat belt are, although common sense should be enough to strap in. Births, marriages, deaths, child mortality are all important statistics.

Others – the EU has a whole organisation that loves to compile them ad infinitum – can often be iffy, especially when they’re used to make a point on behalf of a particular lobby group, or when they concern behaviours and opinions that some of those polled would not want to admit to so they ‘say the right thing’ instead.

When Eurostat tells you 75 per cent of people in Cyprus care about the planet’s environment but the facts on the rubbish-strewn countryside tell a different story, or when an anti-drug organisation is scaremongering that one in ten teens used cannabis – though nine out of ten didn’t – it’s time for a little healthy skepticism. The recent ‘shock’ report by a non-entity political organisation telling us that Greek Cypriots are a minority, is another case in point.

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics”, according to Mark Twain, and the sad fact is that probably nine out of ten people take them at face value anyway.

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