Causes for concern in school education …

According to a report entitled "Economic Impact Of The Achievement Gap In America's Schools" by the consulting firm of McKinsey & Co., attainment levels are declining in the United States while at the same time improving in other countries.

For example:

  • In 1995, the United States was tied for first in college and university graduation rates – but by 2006, the country had dropped to 14th
  • Forty years ago, the United States had one of the best levels of high school attainment – but in 2006, it ranked 18th out of 24 industrialized nations in high school graduation
  • In 1970, the United States had 30% of the world's college graduates – but today, it has less than 15%

According to McKinsey & Co., Finland and Korea ranked numbers 1 and 2 in PISA mathematics tests, and numbers 2 and 1 in PISA science tests in 2006, whereas the United States ranked numbers 25 and 24. The United States ranked number 18 in PISA reading tests, and number 29 in PISA problem solving tests in 2003.

PISA is the Program For International Student Assessment organized by the Organization For Economic Co-operation and Development for 15 year olds around the world.

According to the United Nations Education Index, which is measured by the adult literacy rate and the gross enrollment ratio, the United States ranked number 20 in 2007, with Australia, Denmark, Finland, and New Zealand jointly ranked number 1.

According to a report entitled "Measuring Innovation: A New Perspective" by the Organization For Economic Co-operation and Development, the United States:

  • Ranked number 3 in the percentage of patents filed by firms under five years old – with Norway ranked number 1 and Denmark ranked number 2
  • Ranked number 11 in venture capital investment as a percentage of GDP in 2008 – with Finland ranked number 1 and Sweden ranked number 2
  • Interestingly enough, the results are not dissimilar to Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index. The countries with the least perceived corruption include:
  • Denmark (ranked 1)
  • New Zealand (ranked 2)
  • Finland (ranked 4)
  • Sweden (ranked 4)
  • Australia (ranked 8)
  • Norway (ranked 10)
  • United States (ranked 22)

Is the relationship between education and corruption related to what values ​​are taught in schools or because money for education is diverted elsewhere, or both?

Causes for concern in the relationship between education, entrepreneurship, the economy and employment …

Education, innovation, and entrepreneurship are key drivers of the economy, which in turn creates employment opportunities. Closing the achievement gap between the United States and top performing countries (Finland and Korea) could add between $ 1.3 and $ 2.3 trillion to the United States' gross domestic product according to McKinsey. In 2010, the United States' budget deficit is $ 1.3 trillion.

Some educators are concerned that the United States' education system:

  • Destroys creativity and divergent thinking
  • Fails to teach children "how to learn how to learn"
  • Relies too heavily on multiple choice testing versus other methods of assessment
  • Fails to promote teamwork – a key ingredient for success in arts, sports, and employment
  • Addresses the needs of the industrial age as it was eighty years ago or so, not the information age as it is and will be in the future
  • Is more concerned about developing university professors than contributors to the future economy in the information age

The structure of the economy is changing fast through disintermediation caused by improving information, telecommunications, and transportation technologies, which in turn contribute to globalization:

  • Middle management white collar jobs are being eliminated because information technology improves communication flows and performance reporting from shop floors and front lines to executive management
  • Engineering white collar and shop floor blue collar jobs are being eliminated because computer aided design and manufacturing and process control technologies require less human intervention
  • Clerical white collar jobs are being eliminated because information technology is automating administrative and operational processes
  • Blue collar jobs are being eliminated because manufacturing can easily be shipped offshore to lower cost producers that accept designs electronically, and then send products via sophisticated container shipping ports and vessels

Improved supply and demand chains on a global basis between suppliers and end-customers have reduced the need for vertically integrated enterprises, eliminating jobs that will never be replaced. As globalization continues, enterprises will continue to consolidate to obtain benefits from economy of scale, thus causing further job elimination.

Job creation is a result of entrepreneurship in emerging and growth enterprises, and intrapreneurship in growth and mature enterprises. Without entrepreneurship, jobs in new areas of the economy will not be created; Without intrapreneurship, enterprises will cut costs and expenses in order to remain profitable, which means loss of employment – not job creation in existing areas.

The consequence is that the workforce has to be reeducated to become knowledge workers in a global information-based economy, and that all individuals have to be more adept at promoting themselves in an environment of job uncertainty. However, teamwork will be important as technology permits collaboration across functional units within enterprises, and between them across the world.

Young people entering the work place today have to be prepared for lifelong learning because technology will erode both current and future jobs, especially as robotics technologies become mainstream. They have to be prepared to be self-sufficient in the future economy because job and social security as their parents and grandparents knew it are less likely to exist.

Innovation has to be fostered to drive entrepreneurship to create future jobs. Fostering innovation means encouraging creativity first in school systems.

Mobile technology that can deliver multimedia content ubiquitously is fast being introduced into the marketplace, and is being assimilated by young people.

Online education and learning systems are being introduced into both public and private schools, primarily delivered through desktop and laptop computers, both in school and at home. Mobile devices are becoming a vehicle for accessing online curricula, and already some schools are permitting their use in the classroom.

Such technology can eliminate the need for textbooks, enable the student to proceed at their own pace, monitor progress at each step in learning the curriculum content, and enable the teacher to tutor each student individually. It can also employ interactive problem solving techniques to stimulate critical thinking.

One example of an online learning system is the Virtual Classroom Suite from Education 2020, which is a web-based, teacher-led instructional approach.

According to a "meta-analysis" released by the US Department of Education in 2009, online learning has definite advantages over face-to-face instruction. The study found that students who took part or all of their instruction online performed better, on average, than those taking the same course through face-to-face instruction only. Furthermore, those who took "blended" courses – those that combine elements of both online learning and face-to-face instruction appeared to do the best of all.

Whereas this technology can deliver educational content for middle and high school, college, and university curricula, according to one 24 year old tutor, "The kids get it. It's the parents and teachers that are afraid of it!"

Is addressing the achievement gap enough?

Innovation is about developing new ideas; creativity is about bringing them into being – both activities stem from vivid imagination. Without innovation, it is not possible to find new activities or better ways of performing existing ones; Without creativity, it is difficult to adapt to new situations.

Entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial activities are functions of mindset and action: the mindset to turn innovative ideas into value; the action initiated from a willingness to take risk to realize the value.

Sometimes it is necessary to be wrong in order to be right – success comes from lessons learned from failure. Thomas Edison once declared that he had not failed when attempting to develop the light bulb – he had just found 10,000 ways that would not work.

Will passing examinations be sufficient preparation for the uncertainty of life in the future? Some educators believe that to stimulate creativity and innovation, it is necessary for children to develop problem solving and critical thinking skills early in life.

According to DN Perkins, at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the basic goals of education strive for retention, understanding, and active use of knowledge and skills, but in reality are hard to achieve.

According to John M. Carroll in his book "The Nürnberg Funnel," the conventional method of education is teaching or "instructionalism," where a teacher located in a conventional classroom informs students about a particular domain (subject area). He suggests that learning is the act of constructing knowledge from information in the world around the student based upon a learning paradigm by Seymour Papert. Papert calls this paradigm "constructionism" in his project entitled "Constructionism: A New Opportunity For Elementary Science Education" and his book entitled "Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas." Constructionists believe that the knowledge is derived from mental activity, whereas instructionalists view that the mind processes and mirrors the world. Papert's work is influenced by ideas from Jean Piaget, the father of constructivism , who argued that humans generate knowledge and meaning from an interaction between their experiences and their ideas.

According to Edith Ackermann, constructivism offers a window as to what children are interested in and are able to achieve, whereas constructionism focuses on learning to learn, and making things in learning.

Making things is about models of the real world, which is what mathematical physics is all about.

Seymour Papert, Nicholas Negroponte, and Alan Kay launched the One Laptop Per Child initiative to put constructionist learning into practice in the developing world.

The Sugar "desktop environment," which is delivered with the Fedora operating system for XO computers used in the One Laptop Per Child initiative, and available for use on other platforms including Mac OS / X and Windows, has been designed with the goal of being used by children for learning. This environment enables applications (known as activities) to be run that encourage constructionist learning. Sugar encourages problem-solving, collaborative learning, and critical thinking in children aged 6 through 12. One of the consequences is that children are learning to program as early as 8 years old.

Edubuntu is a free education-oriented operating system available to children aged 6 through 18. It is designed to enable educators with limited technical knowledge to set up an online leading environment with ease.

The Intel Computer Clubhouse Network is an international community of 100 clubhouses located in 20 countries provides an out-of-school learning environment for skills development. Yasmin Kafai, Kylie Peppler, and Robbin Chapman explain the concept in their book "The Computer Clubhouse: Constructionism and Creativity in Youth Communities." This initiative is aimed at providing young people with "practical 21st century skills."

Both instructionalism and constructionism approaches are necessary to teach the curriculum prescribed nationally and develop problem solving and critical thinking skills necessary for encouraging creativity.

However, according to Theodore Levitt, creativity is thinking up new things, innovation is doing new things.

Creativity is about ideas, but innovation is about ideas and productivity – the entrepreneur has to turn mindset (innovative ideas) into action to achieve value (innovation). The demands on the school system are high in terms of trying to close the achievement gap and prepare students with the knowledge and skills required for the entrepreneurial, innovative, and technological world of the information age.

Key questions:

  • What changes should be made to the curriculum? For example, should disciplines such as computer programming, business management, and personal finance be part of the baseline or discretionary?
  • What can be done to improve problem solving and critical thinking methods?
  • What changes should be made in teaching methods? To what extent should online education methods augment, coexist, or replace traditional classroom methods, and if so – how?
  • Should the role of district leadership, administrators, teachers, parents, and students change, and if so how?
  • Should partnerships be established between schools and businesses, so that students have a better appreciation of the characteristics of the emerging workplace?
  • What can be done to ensure that equal opportunity is provided to all students such that they can make decisions in their future careers and personal lives that are sustainable environmentally, economically, and socially?

Whatever the education system provides, it is important that every individual take charge of their own careers, and understand their competencies.

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