Thursday, January 17, 2008

Human Capital Pushes, History and Lack of Planning Pushes Back

by Ken Houghton

NYT article #1 (United States, early in the process):
Those efforts, and others across the country, reflect a growing sense of urgency among educators that the primary goal of many large high schools serving low-income and urban populations — to move students toward graduation — is no longer enough. Now, educators say, even as they struggle to lift dismal high school graduation rates, they must also prepare the students for college, or some form of post-secondary school training, with the skills to succeed....

By contrast, many urban and low-income districts, which also serve many immigrants, are experimenting with ways to teach more than the basic skills so that their students can not only get to college, but earn college degrees. Some states have begun to strengthen their graduation requirements.

“This is transformational change,” said Dan Challener, the president of the Public Education Foundation, a Chattanooga group that is working with the area public schools. “It’s about the purpose of high school. It’s about reinventing what high schools do.”

NYT Article #2 (India, further in the process):
Sixty years after independence, with 40 percent of its population under 18, India is now confronting the perils of its failure to educate its citizens, notably the poor. More Indian children are in school than ever before, but the quality of public schools like this one has sunk to spectacularly low levels, as government schools have become reserves of children at the very bottom of India’s social ladder.

The children in this school come from the poorest of families — those who cannot afford to send away their young to private schools elsewhere, as do most Indian families with any means.

India has long had a legacy of weak schooling for its young, even as it has promoted high-quality government-financed universities. But if in the past a largely poor and agrarian nation could afford to leave millions of its people illiterate, that is no longer the case. Not only has the roaring economy run into a shortage of skilled labor, but also the nation’s many new roads, phones and television sets have fueled new ambitions for economic advancement among its people — and new expectations for schools to help them achieve it.

That they remain ill equipped to do so is clearly illustrated by an annual survey, conducted by Pratham.... The latest survey, conducted across 16,000 villages in 2007 and released Wednesday, found that while many more children were sitting in class, vast numbers of them could not read, write or perform basic arithmetic, to say nothing of those who were not in school at all.

Among children in fifth grade, 4 out of 10 could not read text at the second grade level, and 7 out of 10 could not subtract. The results reflected a slight improvement in reading from 2006 and a slight decline in arithmetic; together they underscored one of the most worrying gaps in India’s prospects for continued growth. [emphases mine]

The boost in high school graduation rates was the revolution that sparked the 20th century U.S. economy.* If you want a bigger piece of the pie, you don't stand still. Otherwise, you end up with the Indian economy—skills short, training deprived, and unprepared to take the next step.

*It is certainly true that the destruction much of the established non-US infrastructure from 1939 to 1945 helped set the table for the post-WW II boom—but it is even truer that it is only because the U.S. was prepared to take advantage of the opportunity (unlike, say, in 1918) that it worked as well as it did.

Labels: , ,

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?