In Matt Ridley's latest book he makes many challenges to widely accepted ideas.
He challenges the widely held idea that more education is good. For example:
Is there any evidence that it was education that drove countries to prosperity, or vice versa? Alison Wolf examined the data in exhaustive detail in her book Does Education Matter?, and concluded that the answer is a surprising ‘no’.
As Wolf concludes: ‘If high-quality schooling is making any difference to the relative economic performance of countries, it is doing so in a very undramatic fashion, since its effects appear to be swamped or neutralized by other factors.’
More specifically he claims later in the chapter on education:
Without good literacy and numeracy, it would not be possible for most well-paid jobs to exist. That is not the issue. Rather it is whether, beyond a certain level, more education – let alone more education spending – does more good.
His argument is that, beyond a certain basic level, more spending on education doesn't do any good for the economy. IS that what the economic evidence says? Do countries that spend more on education see higher levels of economic growth?
NB Ridley seems to accept that basic literacy is important for modern economies so I suspect it is worth focussing on developed countries that have had universal literacy for some time to avoid confusing the argument with the comparison of fully literate countries and partially literate countries.