Statistics education and the wider society
AbstractThere is an ever-increasing need for all of us to be statistically literate in order to be well informed and knowledgeable about the many important issues in the “Wider Society”. How can one properly debate issues of discrimination in the workplace, changes and trends in crime, inequalities in society, the impact of passive smoking, and the effect of greater life expectancy on pension plans without good data and statistical arguments? Statistical issues arise in understanding the validity of medical tests for detecting disease, but also on the impact of screening procedures on incidence rates. Issues related to inflation, consumer price indices, stock market trends and investment strategies also demand more sophisticated statistical reasoning and prudence. Knowledge of basic statistics is important in understanding the usefulness of surveys and polls, the influence of advertising and marketing, and making international comparisons in education, economics, employment and health. As educators in Statistics, how can we enhance and contribute more to the growing demand that most people obtain good skills in quantitative reasoning in order to be able to apply them to so many diverse areas? In particular, do we not have more responsibility than ever to emphasize both how statistical thinking can benefit society, and that it plays such a vital role in understanding many of the complex issues in our society?
We are aware that the rapid development of Statistics as a Science has historically been largely driven by challenging problems of a quantitative nature drawn from many facets of life. The more recent and continuing revolution in computing and technology has been also been accompanied by an increasing awareness of the need for statistical thinking in society at large! Database and spreadsheet technology, email and the internet, multimedia and sophisticated graphical methods, simulation tools, and in particular more powerful and often easy to use statistical software packages have also led to more people using, and being required to understand, statistical reasoning and concepts. Surely these advances in technology are leading to different approaches to statistical education and the teaching of Statistics?
In addressing statistics education and the wider society, topic 5 will have a wide perspective and few limitations on subject matter! In particular, contributions relating statistical education to issues in law, commerce, business, economics, government, industry, journalism, the physical and biomedical sciences, medicine, demography, psychology, sociology, sport, engineering and mathematics education are welcome. Let this serve as a forum for asking and answering the challenging questions about how statistical education and teaching should move forward in order to cope with creating a more sophisticated and statistically literate society!