Monday, May 19, 2014

Education and Quality: Foundation for Sustainable Development & Growth

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world" - Nelson Mandela

When we examine the world history, one can notice the civilizations that survived for a longer time had a great education system, which served as a foundation for sustainable development and growth.

Based on my personal experience as an Adjunct Professor connected with over 30 educational institutes globally for over two decades, I would like to share my observations regarding education and importance of quality in education (curriculum excellence) and quality of education (systems view).
  1. Quality of education has a direct impact on workforce suitability for employment.
  2. Must celebrate excellence and success in the classrooms, as opposed to mere attempts.
  3. Quality in education plays a very important role in nation building - workforce success based on acquired knowledge through education and skills building. 
In the 20th Century, the focus was on Reading, Writing, and Mathematics. Going forward in the 21st Century, we need to focus on Teamwork, Problem Solving, and Interpersonal Relationships. The entire education system should gear up to adequately prepare the workforce for the 21st Century.
Perfect examples are Japan and South Korea. Other nations can take a cue from their success of integrating quality in education and building institutional quality at the systems level to achieve economic prosperity and sustainable growth.

We can apply a Balanced Scorecard approach to measure success of a global strategy of establishing outstanding schools and universities (temples of learning) as follows:

                                                              
 USA PUBLIC EDUCATION

K-12 EDUCATION:

Challenges (2012 data):
  • The US Public Schools serve 49.4 million students, while Private Schools serve an additional 6 million.
  • There are some real challenges, particularly as they relate to career and college preparedness:
    • Too many start school behind their peers.
    • Too many 4th graders are not proficient in reading and math.
    • Too many 8th graders start high school unprepared for higher-level work.
    • And of those students who graduate (given a 30% dropout rate), too many need to take remedial classes in college - assuming they attend at all.
  • The problems are persistently acute for minority, rural, and socioeconomically disadvantaged students.
  • While female students do better than males as a group, they continue to be underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and Career and Technical Education (CTE) areas.
·         To create a strong population of adults prepared to earn a living and contribute to society, it is a challenge we must address.

Opportunities:

White House on K-12 Education (http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/education/k-12):
·         In today’s global economy, a high-quality education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity—it is a prerequisite to success. Because economic progress and educational achievement are inextricably linked, educating every American student to graduate from high school prepared for college and for a career is a national imperative.
·         The President has articulated a goal for America to once again lead the world in college completion by the year 2020, and all of President Obama’s education efforts aim toward this overarching objective.
·         To create an economy built to last, we need to provide every child with a complete and competitive education that will enable them to succeed in a global economy based on knowledge and innovation.

·         To provide a high-quality education to all American children, President Obama has advanced reforms around four key objectives: 
o    Higher standards and better assessment that will prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace
o    Higher ambitious efforts to recruit, prepare, develop, and advance effective teachers and principals, especially in the classrooms where they are most needed
o    Smarter data systems to measure student growth and success, and help educators improve instruction
o    New attention and a national effort to turn around our lowest-achieving schools.

Since taking office, the Obama Administration has designed and implemented several initiatives to strengthen public education for students in every community nationwide:

.          Race to the Top - This initiative offers bold incentives to states willing to spur systemic reform to improve teaching and learning in America’s schools.

 Redesigning and Reforming No Child Left Behind - Reform of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to address issues arising from the No Chide Left behind.

 Redesigning America's High Schools - High School redesign initiative will encourage America's school districts and their partners to use existing federal, state and local resources to transform the high school experience for America's youth through a whole school redesign effort. This effort will challenge high schools and their partners to rethink teaching and learning and put in place learning models that are rigorous, relevant, and better focused on real-world experiences. 

 Keeping Teachers in the Classroom - America cannot build a world-class education system without teachers in our classrooms.

 UNDERGRADUATE EDUCATION:

Challenges (http://chronicle.com/article/A-Perfect-Storm-in/126451/):
  • Lack of Student Preparations - students come unprepared but have strong convictions about their abilities
  • Grade inflation - difficult to give students honest feedback due to fear of reprisals
  •  Student retention - college-age population decline necessitates recruiting unprepared students who must be retained shifting academic success from student on to the teacher
  • Student evaluations of  Teachers - using Internet students can retaliate against professors
  • Enrollment Minimums - students gravitate to lenient professors and easy courses
  • Lack of Uniform Expectations - difficult to maintain high expectations due to lack of uniformity of standards among faculty of comparable courses
  • Contingent Teaching - instead of full-tenured faculty most of the undergraduate teaching is done by graduate students and part-time faculties
  • Time Constraints  - more focus on research for tenured faculty, teaching becomes a distraction from highly rewarded activity.
  • Curricular Chaos - lack of adequate sequencing of course due to transient teachers and multi-tasking administrators, difficult to develop a logical sequencing of courses
  • Demoralized Faculty Members - college teachers are suffering from lack of confidence due to unemployment fears 
Opportunities (http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/Fy%202015%20STEM%20ed.pdf)

President Obama strongly believes that the US must equip many more students to excel in STEM. That’s why the President’s 2015 Budget invests $2.9 billion, an increase of 3.7 percent over the 2014 enacted level, in programs across the Federal Government on STEM education. The 2015 Budget includes critical investments in a number of areas that will benefit aspiring students:

·         Recruiting, preparing, and supporting excellent STEM teachers, with $40 million to support the President’s goal of preparing 100,000 excellent STEM teachers over the next decade and $20 million to launch a pilot STEM Master Teacher Corps.

·         Supporting more STEM-focused school districts, with an investment of $110 million to create new STEM Innovation Networks to better connect school districts with local, regional, and national resources to transform K-12 STEM teaching and learning. The Budget provides $150 million for a new program to redesign high schools to focus on providing students with challenging, relevant learning experiences that will help them gain the knowledge and skills they will need to succeed in today’s economy, including in
STEM fields.

·         Improving undergraduate STEM education, with the National Science Foundation (NSF) investing $118 million to improve retention of undergraduate STEM majors and improve undergraduate teaching and learning in STEM subjects to meet the President’s goal of  preparing 1 million more STEM graduates over the next decade.

·         Investing in breakthrough research on STEM teaching and learning, with approximately $50 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Education (ARPA-ED), through which the Department of Education (ED) would support high-risk, high-return research on next-generation learning innovations and technologies, including for STEM education.

In addition, the Budget proposes a fresh reorganization of Federal STEM education programs to enable more strategic investments in STEM education and more critical evaluation of outcomes.

There are different set of challenges and opportunities for higher education in India. Please visit my earlier blog post "State of Higher Ed in India: Time to Act is Now" from February 21, 2014 at:
http://voraonquality.blogspot.com/2014/02/state-of-higher-ed-in-india-time-to-act.html

Additional viewpoint on "Current Scenario of Engineering in India" at:
http://jobsiit.com/blog/2014/05/current-scenario/

I look forward to your views on quality and education. 

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