Wednesday, January 06, 2016


{This is a from an earlier attempt at a journal back in 2003 (Voume 1; No:3), and was made available in pdf format on my personal web space now discontinued.. It has been available on scribd since 2011: MorfJV01003origin}

As a first estimate we will consider a simplified Pareto analysis. A Pareto model, suggests that we have two dependent variables, and that the majority of one is the cause of the minority in the other. Thus giving rise to names such as the: 80-20 rule or the 60-40 rule. A simple example of a Pareto model is that 80% of defects can be traced to 20% of all causes. Or that 80% of profits are derived from 20% of the products sold.

To apply this to engineering we make the assertion that:

80% of problems can be solved by applying 20% of our knowledge base.

Given that the typical 4 year Bachelor of engineering degree consists of at least 5 streams, one of which is general art and science subjects. We can conclude that each stream requires 9.6 calendar months, and if we conclude that only 1/4 of the general art and science stream is required for any of the other four streams, then we require an extra 2.4 calendar months for a self-contained study programme. That is a total of  12 calendar months for the entire study programme (eg. ¼ of the 4 year programme). Such a course can therefore be awarded an academic certificate, with the graduates becoming engineering technicians.

Level Years of Education % of Problems can Solve
Engineering Technicians 1 year (Cert)
Engineering Officers 2 year (Assoc. Dip.)
Engineering Technologists 3 year (B.Tech)
Engineers 4 year (B.Eng)
Éngineers 5 year (M.Eng)

In the above table I have made the assumption that each additional year of education permits the individual to solve 80% more of what is remaining. That is the Technician has a deficiency of 20%, the Officer can solve 80% of this 20%, resulting in an additional 16% of problems being capable of being solved. Resulting in the technologist being able to solve 80% of the remaining 4%, and so on.  Given this capability we would expect the work force to have the following distribution.

Level Years of Education % of Work Force
Engineering Technicians 1 year (Cert)
Engineering Officers 2 year (Assoc. Dip.)
Engineering Technologists 3 year (B.Tech)
Engineers 4 year (B.Eng)
Éngineers 5 year (M.Eng)

So the next question to consider is: Can we extend this concept backwards to account for no formal tertiary education, including no formal trade certificates? That is what capability does 2 years of additional schooling after 10 compulsory years of schooling count for? What value is the 10 years of schooling? What value is the first 5 years of schooling? And what value is the first 5 years of education in the hands of parents worth? Is our education system of any value?

Clearly by extending the concept backwards, the capabilities of individuals is going to be demonstrated to be increasingly deficient. So another question to ask is: Is the 80% capability at the 1 year Certificate level valid? Maybe 80% should be set for the 10 years of compulsory education? At this point however, I will stick with the certificate level. {Though I will indicate that I believe that grade 11 and grade 12 should be scrapped, and Trade and Tertiary education should start immediately after grade 10. Hence all the above mentioned levels will be completed with 2 years less education.}

To be able to extend the concept backwards we need a mathematical equation rather than a methodology. Attempting to extrapolate this concept backwards numerically results in the following curve. Which is not very useful, it suggests we all know nothing at the age of 17.

What we therefore want is an equation that has a value of zero for the proportion of knowledge at age zero, and increases from there forward. But which however, has an asymptote at 1, that is we never achieve 100% knowledge, we approach it, but never reach it. Further learning in the early years to be more slowly than in later years, once we have learnt to read, learning should become rapid, up until at point at which further increase in depth of knowledge becomes limited and vastly more difficult to achieve. The resultant formula as the following form:

Proportion of knowledge = 1-A.exp(-t.k)

Where ‘t’ is the time, and ‘A’ and ‘k’ are constants. To achieve results similar to our 80/20 rule the values of the constants are:

A = 1
k = c . tn
n = 4
c = 1.53789E-06

For those familiar with learning curves, maybe you could replace  the above with a more formal learning curve.

This results in the following table:

Age Level Years of Education % of Problems can Solve
15 School Leaver Compulsory Only
16 Engineering Technicians 1 year (Cert)
17 Engineering Officers 2 year (Assoc. Dip.)
18 Engineering Technologists 3 year (B.Tech)
19 Engineers 4 year (B.Eng)
20 Éngineers 5 year (M.Eng)

Thus revisiting our distribution of the workforce we now have:

Level Years of Education % of Work Force
School Leaver Compulsory Only
Engineering Technicians 1 year (Cert)
Engineering Officers 2 year (Assoc. Dip.)
Engineering Technologists 3 year (B.Tech)
Engineers 4 year (B.Eng)
Éngineers 5 year (M.Eng)

It should be noted that by my definitions, doctors, lawyers, politicians, architects, accountants, managers, are also technicians with increasing abilities. Everybody fits into the classifications. After all a surgeon is little different that a car mechanic, they just possess knowledge of a different system and have different tool kits. And more importantly neither is very good at diagnosing and fixing problems, leaving us with the adage that prevention is better than cure.

It should be noted that our new model now requires a greater proportion of the higher grades, compared with our original model. Hence whilst my original objective was to illustrate that the higher levels of education were a significant waste of global and community resources from an employment viewpoint, if you were to check national and state statistics, I have probably done the opposite. {Education as a matter of personal interest and curiosity is not being considered here. What we are considering here is the education required to sustain our technological systems, including society itself.}

To illustrate I will use some rather old statistics for South Australia extracted from the 1992 pocket yearbook for South Australia, and based on the 1986 census. I will leave it to readers to compare against up to date statistics.

Qualification % of Population (?) Grouping (%)
Not Stated

No Qualification

Other Certificate
Trade certificate

Bachelor Degree
Graduate Diploma
Higher Degree

Given that statistics at the time also indicate that 38.5% of population not in labour force, and that 5.7% of population were unemployed. Then it should be clear that if we adopt the model we have developed here, some incentive is required to push everybody higher up the educational hierarchy to remove unemployment.

However, it should be noted that the state statistics are not actually looking at education, they are looking at formal certification and recognition of learning. All attempts to improve our education system are actually focused on employment of teachers, they have little if anything to do with learning, education or qualification.

The disincentive towards higher levels of education are not actually disincentives to learning, rather most people have little desire to waste their time being told what they already know, and also in many circumstances, understand far better than the persons teaching. It is not education that is required but proper assessment and recognition of skills and knowledge held by individuals. That is we really need a national even international, independent examination board. Further more we need vastly improved quality assurance systems throughout all technological systems that form society. We need improved regulations and control systems.

The industrial revolution was built on the back of people learning to read and write, and then reaping the benefits of such abilities. The plans for one steam engine are published, and before you know it, steam engines are being built and experimented with throughout the country. Unfortunately whilst patents place inventions on public record they also stifle supply. Well, the extortionate demands of the owners of the patents stifle supply. In any case technology was not progressing as a consequence of special technical schools, it was developing as a consequence of individual interests, either for financial gain or just intellectual curiosity.

Engineering is stifled by universities and examinations. Engineering is about applying scientific knowledge to the development of new technologies. It is not about memorising facts and re-iterating them in examinations. It is of little value to society that one engineer can analyse a structure from first principles and do all the calculations in their head without need of computer, calculator, slide rule or log tables. Such intellectual capability is of no significance. In fact having the intellectual capacity to merely look at a building concept and know that it is not going to work, or even that it will work, is also of no value. For the community requires proof that the concept will work, before committing resources to its construction. Such proof is dependent upon communication and the level of the common intellect. The higher the common intellect, the simpler the proof’s need to be: that is you can leap ten steps in one bound and then go one step at a time. If the common intellect is low, then proof has to be presented one step at a time.

So we now have more books published than ever before, we also have the internet filled with electronic publications. Further more we also have access to computers and software that can perform all kinds of complex calculations, more importantly we can program these computers ourselves.

Thus whilst one person is wasting their time studying in a university and attempting to pass exams, another scholar can be reading a text book and programming a computer. The former graduates with a worthless scrap of paper (B.Eng) and proceeds to look for employment, the other graduates with a fully operational computer program that is sold to an increasing market place.

To close this issue: Engineering is about the application of science to develop technology. Either you have an interest in creating new technologies or you don’t. If you don’t have such interest then all an higher education will do is make you an higher level technician, it won’t make you an engineer. My model above is based on real engineers, not an educated elite. If the upper levels are merely an educated elite with no imagination, no ingenuity then educating them to that level of knowledge is of no value. It is the non-conformists, that we need to encourage to the higher levels. Truth is not reached by agreeing with examiners: that the earth is flat and at the centre of universe. It is reached by a failure to understand and comprehend the models presented, and a desire and interest in seeking a better understanding of reality: not a better understanding of the models.

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