Smart enough?

38.7% of adults are college grads

As of 2011, 38.7 percent of working-age Americans had earned a two- or four-year college degree and another 5 percent of adults held a “postsecondary certificate with significant economic value,” reports the Lumina Foundation.

India plans to establish 10,000 community colleges by 2030 to train 500 million young people in job skills. Now young people are turning to private job training centers.

China and India rising

The Competition that Really Matters comes from China and India, argues the Center for American Progress.

While “the state of America’s children has improved dramatically in the last century,”  the U.S. advantage is eroding, the report warns.  “Educational attainment and achievement gaps that track income and race groups have become more entrenched— and more worrisome.”

Meanwhile, China and India are investing in the next-gen workforce.

U.S. vs. the world in sports and school

Why is the U.S. so good at athletics — look at the Olympic medal count — and so mediocre in education? Not so fast, answers Mike Petrilli on Flypaper. Sure, the U.S. and China win the most gold (and silver and bronze) medals. We’re also very big countries.  Looking at the per capita medal count (as of Aug. 10) tells a different story.

The U.S. ranks 40th in Olympic medals per capita on the chart, but “an impressive eighth in the world in reading” on PISA, Petrilli writes.

In raw numbers of high-scoring students, the U.S. is number one for math and reading, according to PISA. (Remember that China and India don’t participate.)

It’s good to be big, Petrilli writes.

The reason that the world’s best universities continue to be populated by so many Americans is that (1) most of those universities are here, and (2) we produce more top K-12 students than anybody else. As long as that’s the case, we will continue to lead the world economically and culturally.

But watch out for the Chinese.

The skills mismatch

“While jobs requiring STEM knowledge and skills are growing at nearly twice the rate of other occupations in the United States, just 13 percent of college students choose a STEM major, according to Investigating the Skills Mismatch on the Top of the Class blog. More than 40 percent of Chinese college graduates and nearly 50 percent in Singapore have STEM degrees, according to an Accenture report. Brazil will pass the U.S. in new engineering PhDs by 2016.

Source: Accenture. (2011).

Only 10 percent of Chinese engineers and 25 percent of Indian engineers are educated to a global standard, compared to 80 percent of U.S. engineers, a 2005 McKinsey report found. However, there are a lot of people in China and India. “Accenture calculates that even if just 20 percent of Chinese STEM graduates are qualified to a world standard, this would represent more than 700,000 graduates by 2015, as compared to just 460,000 in the United States.”

Students hit hard by textbook costs

While community colleges have kept tuition under control, students have been hit hard by rising textbook costs. Increasingly, students say they’re trying to get by without buying all the assigned books.

Virginia’s community college system will help India develop job training centers.

Class time isn’t shorter in U.S.

U.S. schoolchildren spend as much time in school as kids in high-scoring countries, concludes a report by the National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan wants a longer school day and year, notes the Washington Times.

“Right now, children in India … they’re going to school 30, 35 days more than our students,” he said at an education forum in September, explaining one reason he thinks the American education system is falling behind those of global competitors.

“Anybody who thinks we need less time, not more, is part of the problem,” Mr. Duncan said.

Students in India spend more days in school, but fewer hours in class, totaling 800 “instructional hours” at the elementary level. Forty-two states require more class hours, the report found. Texas requres 1,260 hours a year for elementary students.

High-scoring South Korea requires 703 hours for elementary students, though many parents pay for after-school lessons. Hungarian students score at nearly the U.S. level despite requiring only 601 hours.

U.S. high school students average 1,000 hours in class each year.

In Poland, high school students need 595 hours in the classroom, the lowest of all the countries in the study, yet they top U.S. students on the math and science portions of the PISA exams, the most widely used measuring sticks for international comparisons.

Finland, Norway, Australia and other nations also show higher levels of student achievement while requiring less instruction.

Of course, it’s not just the time spent at school, but how it’s used.

 

‘Unwanted’ girls get new names

Indian girls named “Nakusa” or “Nakushi” — which means “unwanted” in Hindi — have received new names, reports AP.

The 285 girls — wearing their best outfits with barrettes, braids and bows in their hair — lined up to receive certificates with their new names along with small flower bouquets from Satara district officials in Maharashtra state.

Some girls chose popular Bollywood names. A 15-year-old girl named “Nakusa” by her disappointed grandfather chose “Ashmita,” which means “very tough” or “rock hard” in Hindi.

There are only 881 girls for every 1,000 boys in Satara. Neglect of girl babies and sex-selection abortions are common. Periodically, federal or state governments announce free meals and education for girls or cash bonuses for families with girls who graduate from high school.

Via ShortWoman.

Insanely great

Steve Jobs has died.  We all knew he was dying, yet it’s a shock to know he’s gone. Mike Malone, who knew Jobs as a neighbor and classmate and reported on his rise, writes about the visionary, risk-taking entrepreneur.

He made a huge impact on education technology, notes Ed Week.

In the less than two years since Jobs stood on stage in his characteristic black mock turtleneck and blue jeans and introduced the iPad, Apple’s tablet computer has exploded on the educational scene. In the third quarter of fiscal year 2011, the iPad surpassed all of Apple’s educational Mac desktop and laptop computer sales combined. Its popularity with classroom teachers, educators have said, is due a combination of its portability, long battery life, and intuitiveness of use, especially for young students and students with disabilities such as autism.

The iPhone, meanwhile, has helped give rise to an education app culture that has convinced a growing number of educators to advocate allowing students to bring their own mobile computing devices to class as educational tools.

Ubiquitous, cheap access to information is here. This week, India announced rural students and teachers will be able to buy a $35 tablet computer.

The Aakash has a color screen and provides word processing, Web browsing and video conferencing. The Android 2.2-based device has two USB ports and 256 megabytes of RAM.

Datawind CEO Suneet Singh Tuli called for competition to improve the product and drive prices down further.

“The intent is to start a price war. Let it start,” Tuli said, inviting others to do the job better and break technological ground – while still making a commercially viable product.

India’s goal is a $10 computer.

 

 

What to do with a longer school day

It’s n0t enough to add time to the school day, advises a new National Center on Time & Learning report. Effective extended-learning schools use eight “powerful practices” concludes “Time Well Spent,” which profiles successful schools serving low-income students.

  1. Making every minute count or maximizing added time;
  2. Prioritizing increased hours that are tailored to the school and their students;
  3. Individualizing the added time for each student based on diverse needs;
  4. Building a positive school culture of high expectations and mutual accountability;
  5. Providing new experiences for students that make their education more well-rounded;
  6. Preparing students for the future by encouraging college readiness and career goals;
  7. Strengthening instruction by providing increased time for teacher professional development; and
  8. Evaluating how well goals are met by assessing and analyzing data.

Massachusetts  is the only state to fund longer school days: 19 schools now get the extra funding. However, NCTL estimates there are 1,000 expanded-learning-time schools nationwide. Not all have seen significant achievement gains.

Schools applying for No Child Left Behind waivers should use extended learning time as a reform strategy, NCTL urges. At a Center for American Progress forum on the report, Education Secretary Arne Duncan endorsed a longer school day and year.

“Right now, children in India, children in China and other places, they’re going to school, 30, 35 days more than our students. If you’re on a sports team and you’re practicing three days a week and the other team is practicing five days a week, who is going to win more? Anybody who thinks we need less time, not more, is part of the problem,” he said.

Top-performing students don’t need more time in school, forum participants said. For disadvantaged students, schools can be both places to learn and safe havens from dangerous neighborhoods.