Kapil Sibal needs to read Rupert Murdoch’s speech on education, considering that there is so much one can learn from it and apply in an Indian context.
Consider the highlights:
“At the top end, our public schools are producing fewer and fewer graduates who have the skills necessary for the world’s best jobs.
At the bottom end, each year more than a million Americans — that’s 7,000 every school day — drop out of high school. This is a human tragedy for these individuals, in terms of how it all but guarantees them a life of poverty. And it is a national tragedy for America, in terms of the huge social costs this is imposing on our future.
And in the middle, too many American children float from grade to grade in schools that never challenge them. These are kids who could soar but are instead held to the ground because of a mediocre education.”
India is not dissimilar at the top end. “Voicing his displeasure over the quality of engineers that pass out of the IITs, Infosys chairman emeritus NR Narayana Murthy has said there is a need to overhaul the selection criteria for students seeking admission to the prestigious technology institutions,” The Times of India had reported.
Take the issue of drop outs. “According to ministry data, 25.5 percent of primary (classes I-V) school students drop out every year. Between class I and class X, this widens to 56.8 percent—more than half the students who start school don’t finish class X,” Mint had reported.
Sibal should pay particular interest to Murdoch’s views on iPads replacing textbooks. “Georgia state legislators now spend $40 million a year on textbooks. They are considering iPads to save money and boost performance. Unlike a textbook — which is outdated the moment it is printed — digital texts can be updated. Today 600 school districts around the country are experimenting with iPads, and we’ll know a lot more when the results are in,” says Murdoch in his speech.
Murdoch closes with a reminder of the role that youth plays in the development of a country. “In this new century, good is not good enough. Our children are our destiny. We have wasted enough time. At stake now is the defining promise of the American Dream: the promise of upward mobility for each new generation.”
Replace the word ‘American’ with ‘Indian’ and every word holds true.
Read the entire speech:
Rupert Murdoch — Keynote Address
Foundation for Excellence in Education Summit
Thank you, Jeb.
Good morning. I’m glad to see so many people up so early.
I want to start by thanking my good friends from the Foundation for Excellence in Education.
You begin with the conviction that every child can learn. You set high standards. And your good work is bringing us closer to the day we all want — when every schoolhouse door is a gateway to the American Dream.
I’m speaking today as a businessman. So let me come right to the point. We need to tear down an education system designed for the 19th century — and replace it with one suited for the 21st. And we need to approach the education industry the way my friend Steve Jobs approached every industry.
Most of you know that Steve introduced the Mac with an ad that has since become a legend. Those of you who were watching the 1984 Super Bowl will remember it.
It ran only once.
It ran for only one minute.
It shows a female athlete who is being chased by the police of some totalitarian regime.
At the climax, the woman rushes up to a large screen where Big Brother is giving a speech. Just as he announces, “we shall prevail” she hurls her hammer through the screen.
With that, Big Brother’s whole world comes crashing down.
If you ask me what we need to do in education, I would point you to that ad.
Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education, says we have to stop dummying down standards and stop lying to our children and their families. That’s putting it politely.
• At the top end, our public schools are producing fewer and fewer graduates who have the skills necessary for the world’s best jobs.
• At the bottom end, each year more than a million Americans — that’s 7,000 every school day — drop out of high school. This is a human tragedy for these individuals, in terms of how it all but guarantees them a life of poverty. And it is a national tragedy for America, in terms of the huge social costs this is imposing on our future.
• And in the middle, too many American children float from grade to grade in schools that never challenge them. These are kids who could soar but are instead held to the ground because of a mediocre education.
We are all here today because we recognize all this is unjust … unsustainable … and un-American.
It is a crime against our children.
And it is especially galling because we have the technology to change it.
Now the front pages of the New York Times complain that technology’s promise has not yet been realized in terms of student performance.
My answer to them is this: Of course not.
Think of it this way. If we attached computers to leeches, medicine wouldn’t be any better than it was in the 19th century, when doctors used them to bleed patients.
The same goes for education. You don’t get change by plugging in computers to schools designed for the industrial age. You get it by deploying technology that re-writes the rules of the game by centering learning around the learner.
So this morning I’d like to talk about three broad issues. My first two parts have to do with challenges — the crisis of imagination, and the crisis of rising costs. In my last part, I offer the good news: With common standards and a competitive market, we can deliver a first-class education to any child, from any background, in any classroom in America. This is not a dream. It’s a fact.
Let me start with imagination.
Earlier I mentioned Steve Jobs. I came to know Steve over the last two years, when we worked together to create the first totally digital newspaper — The Daily — which we launched on the iPad earlier this year.
Our children are growing up in Steve Jobs‘ world. They are eager to learn, and quick to embrace new technology. Outside the classroom they take all this for granted — in what they read, in how they listen to music, in how they shop. Outside the classroom, they take it for granted that people will compete to meet their individual needs and expectations.
The minute they step back into their classrooms, it’s a different story. It’s like going back in time.
In the essentials, most American classrooms haven’t changed much since the days of Grover Cleveland. You have a teacher, a piece of chalk, a blackboard — and a roomful of kids. If they are lucky, today you might see a whiteboard off to the side — or some computers in the library.
Ask teachers how that’s working out. Ask them about dealing with 30 different kids with different needs and different ways of learning.
For kids, this top-down, one-size-fits-all approach frustrates the ones who could do more advanced work. And it leaves further and further behind those who need extra help to keep up.
Teachers are likewise stunted. Some excel at lecturing. Some are better at giving personal attention. With the right structure, they would work together like a football team. With the present structure, they are all treated like interchangeable cogs.
Steve Jobs wouldn’t have accepted this. And he didn’t.
Shortly after he died, the mom of a three year old posted a note about how his iPad had allowed her autistic son — who does not talk — to find his voice. In a similar way, a North Carolina school district had only 26 percent of its students go on to college — until they adopted programs for the Mac. Now a majority go on to college.
The point I’m making isn’t about Apple. It’s about our complacency and our colossal failure of imagination.
The education industry bears a good part of the blame for this sad state of affairs. It continues to sell its tired wares into a failing status quo. It settles for mediocre charter schools. And its answer is simply throwing more money at the problem.
I have a different view. I believe we need to take what is working so well outside the classroom and use it to shake up the classroom — to make mathematics sticky … to micro-target the 8th grade girls who might want to be physicists … and to personalize reading for each child.
Put it this way. If you were designing an American classroom to give our children the skills they need for the best jobs of the 21st century, what would it look like? A typical public school? Or one of Steve Jobs’ Apple stores?
That leads to the second challenge: the unsustainable cost of doing nothing.
On its own, the performance of our public school system is disgraceful. Worse, we’re paying more and more for it — and getting less and less in return.
In April 1983, the Department of Education released a report called “A Nation at Risk.” Here’s how it described the problem back then:
“If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves …
In the three decades since those words were written, we have doubled our per pupil spending in real terms. Doubled!
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