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Category Archives: Education

Harsh lessons learned from years spent in school…The story of a top achiever.

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By Ben Mmari

Initially I wanted to call this note “How education ruined my life” But the thing is education never ruined my life, hell I probably wouldn’t be living in Cape Town, the design capital of 2014, working at a top technology/business consulting company – without my brilliant education. But rather it is the education system that has played a huge negative role in my life. And this is something that I am only noticing now at the tender age of 22.

It was great being the smart child, the intelligent one, the one who always knew what to do and when to do it. The loyal student, always in the top 3, consistent, motivated, hard-working. Thus, at the young age of 18 when one is about to leave high-school (and no one else knows what to do with their life) it is a great feeling to know that your life is mapped out because you are a ‘top achiever’, a high school ‘success’, a fine product of the education system…bwaap bwaap bwaaap. If only I knew back then… if only I knew.

I lived in a bubble, utopia, an ideal world – a world of my own, a world that the education and reward system had helped me fabricate inside my mind. I was getting awards every term, getting book prizes at the end of the year, even made it into the national news paper after my Matric results (its Swaziland so I think everybody makes it into the paper at least once in their life…truth be told). But this constant flush of success, awards, recognition and achievement had led me to think that I was king of the world, that I could do no wrong, that I had it all figured out and that my path was set – but in all honesty it was very very far from this.

What this ‘excellent’ childhood did set me up for was a fantastic reality check.  Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Abraham Lincoln’s letter to his son’s teacher

abraham-letter-for-web

 

University rankings a flawed tool

The manipulative game of comparison and quantification turns institutions into players.

By  SEÁN MULLER

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How should we assess the quality and development of higher education ­institutions in South Africa? What is it that these institutions do that is socially valuable enough to justify receiving large sums of public money?

Is it the economic contribution of graduates, the societal importance of the research, other forms of contribution to society – providing a home for “public intellectuals” – or some particular combination of these?

With such considerations in mind, it is interesting to interrogate the increasing popularity of international university rankings as a means of either assessing university progress (“university x has done fantastically well in the past few years, climbing 20 places in the rankings”) or setting a milestone for achievement (“our university mission is to be a top 50-ranked institution”).

Although seductive in their ability to summarise institutional achievement in a single number, the many flaws of this approach suggest that it should, at best, be consigned a peripheral role in our determinations of institutional success.

To illustrate some of the problems, consider the Times Higher Education rankings, perhaps the most prominent of the growing number of published rankings.

This approach constructs a measure of institutional quality based on the two core academic activities of teaching and research. Teaching quality is measured by asking a sample of international academics what their impression is of the teaching quality at a given institution (15% of the overall institution score) and by using institutional information on the number of undergraduates per academic (4.5%), PhD awards per academic (6%) and the ratio of PhD graduates to bachelor degree graduates (2.25%).

Reputation survey
Peer perceptions, from what the Times ranking calls its “reputation survey”, are also used to assess research quality, comprising 18% of the total score of an institution. In addition, a “research influence” measure, counting a whopping 30%, is constructed based on the number of citations the research of academics at the institution has received. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2013 in Africa, Education, Teaching, World

 

College for all

Open online courses are changing higher education. Traditional colleges face dangers—and opportunities.

By André Dua, Director McKinsey&Company, New York

Something big is up in higher education thanks to the advent of “massive open online courses” (MOOCs), which can reach millions around the world. What most people—including university leaders—don’t yet realize is that this new way of teaching and learning, together with employers’ growing frustration with the skills of graduates, is poised to usher in a new credentialing system that may compete with college degrees within a decade. This emerging delivery regime is more than just a distribution mechanism; done right, it promises students faster, more consistent engagement with high-quality content, as well as measurable results. This innovation therefore has the potential to create enormous opportunities for students, employers, and star teachers even as it upends the cost structure and practices of traditional campuses. Capturing the promise of this new world without losing the best of the old will require fresh ways to square radically expanded access to world-class instruction with incentives to create intellectual property and scholarly communities, plus university leaders savvy enough to shape these evolving business models while they still can.

Consider the first of the two converging trends. As is well known, frustration with the performance of traditional institutions is mounting. Only six in ten students at four-year institutions are graduating within six years today. Most employers say graduates lack the skills they need. Tuition has risen far faster than inflation or household earnings for two decades. Continue reading…

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2013 in Education, Learning, Technology

 

Eight Brilliant Minds on the Future of Online Education

By Eric Hellweg 

The advent of massively open online classes (MOOCs) is the single most important technological development of the millennium so far. I say this for two main reasons. First, for the enormously transformative impact MOOCs can have on literally billions of people in the world. Second, for the equally disruptive effect MOOCs will inevitably have on the global education industry.

While at Davos, I was fortunate to attend an amazing panel — my favorite of the conference — with a murderer’s row of speakers. Moderated by Thomas Friedman of The New York Times, the list of speakers: Larry Summers, former president of Harvard; Bill Gates; Peter Theil, a partner at Founder’s Fund; Rafael Reif, president of MIT; Sebastian Thrun, CEO of Udacity; Daphne Koller, CEO of Coursera, and a 12-year-old Pakistani girl who has taken a number of Stanford physics classes through Udacity. Below is a collection of some of the highlighted comments from this remarkable panel as well as a couple from audience members who were given an opportunity to comment.

Why this disruption is happening:

Peter Thiel, partner, Founders Fund
“In the United States, students don’t get their money’s worth. There’s a bubble in education as out of control as the housing bubble and the tech bubble in the 1990s. Education costs have gone up 400% since 1980. That’s the highest escalation of costs–higher than health care. There’s now a trillion dollars in student debt. And thanks to the way bankruptcy laws were restructured under George W Bush, you can’t get out of the college loan even if you become bankrupt. This is deeply broken.

“You have to ask yourself, ‘What is the nature of education as a good?’ Ideally you want it to be learning. But it also functions as insurance. Parents will pay a lot of money for insurance against cracks in our society. Education as insurance has something to be said because it connects to the economy. You know computer science, you can get a job. But education also functions as a tournament. You do well if you go to a top school but for everyone else the diploma is a dunce hat in disguise. People need to understand what they’re trying to do? Is it insurance? A tournament? Learning?”

Where we are in the evolution of this change:

Larry Summers, former President of Harvard
“It’s important to remember this really wise quote when thinking about the transition to online education: Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2013 in Education, Learning, Teaching, Technology

 

One Man, One Computer, 10 Million Students: How Khan Academy is Reinventing Education

Salman Khan the founder of Khan Academy as seen on the cover of Forbes Magazine

By  Michael Noer of Forbes

The headquarters of what has rapidly become the largest school in the world, at 10 million students strong, is stuffed into a few large communal rooms in a decaying 1960s office building hard by the commuter rail tracks in Mountain View, Calif. Despite the cramped, dowdy circumstances, youthful optimism at the Khan Academy abounds. At the weekly organization-wide meeting, discussion about translating their offerings into dozens of languages is sandwiched between a video of staffers doing weird dances with their hands and plans for upcoming camping and ski trips.

Pivoting, Salman Khan, the 36-year-old founder, cracks a sports joke appropriate for someone who holds multiple degrees from MIT and Harvard.

It involves LeBron James (a Khan Academy fan), three-point shots and sophisticated algorithms called Monte Carlo simulations. The company’s 37 employees, mostly software developers with stints at places like Google and Facebook, are the types who know when to laugh. And they do.

It’s a prototypical Silicon Valley ethos, with one exception: The Khan Academy, which features 3,400 short instructional videos along with interactive quizzes and tools for teachers to chart student progress, is a nonprofit, boasting a mission of “a free world-class education for anyone anywhere.” There is no employee equity; there will be no IPO; funding comes from philanthropists, not venture capitalists.

“I could have started a for-profit, venture-backed business that has a good spirit, and I think there are many of them–Google for instance,” says Khan, his eyes dancing below his self-described unibrow. “Maybe I could reach a billion people. That is high impact, but what happens in 50 years?”.

It’s a fair question, with an increasingly sure answer: The next half-century of education innovation is being shaped right now. After decades of yammering about “reform,” with more and more money spent on declining results, technology is finally poised to disrupt how people learn. And that creates immense opportunities for both for-profit entrepreneurs and nonprofit agitators like Khan.

How immense? According to a report from the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, global spending on education is $3.9 trillion, or 5.6% of planetary GDP. America spends the most–about $1.3 trillion a year–yet the U.S. ranks 25th out of the 34 OECD countries in mathematics, 17th in science and 14th in reading. And, as in so many other areas of American life, those averages obscure a deeper divide: The U.S. is the only developed country to have high proportions of both top and bottom performers. About a fifth of American 15-year-olds do not have basic competence in science; 23% can’t use math in daily life.

It’s those latter statistics that motivate Khan. The site covers a staggering array of topics–from basic arithmetic and algebra to the electoral college and the French Revolution. The videos are quirky affairs where you never see the instructor (usually SalmanKhan himself, who personally has created nearly 3,000 of them). Instead, students are confronted with a blank digital blackboard, which, over the course of a ten-minute lesson narrated in Khan’s soothing baritone, is gradually filled up with neon-colored scrawls illustrating key concepts. The intended effect is working through homework at the kitchen table with your favorite uncle looking over your shoulder.

Or make that the planet’s favorite uncle. Over the past two years Khan Academy videos have been viewed more than 200 million times. The site is used by 6 million unique students each month (about 45 million total over the last 12 months), who have collectively solved more than 750 million problems (about 2 million a day), and the material, which is provided at no cost, is (formally or informally) part of the curriculum in 20,000 classrooms around the world. Volunteers have translated Khan’s videos into 24 different languages, including Urdu, Swahili and Chinese.

“Sal is the world’s first superstar teacher,” says Yuri Milner, the Russian physicist turned venture capitalist who was an early investor in Facebook, Twitter and Groupon.

Beyond admirers like Milner, Khan’s meteoric success has attracted the financial support of a bevy of high-profile, socially minded backers, including Ann Doerr, the wife of billionaire venture capitalist John Doerr; Bill Gates; Netflix CEO Reed Hastings; NewSchools Venture Fund, whose CEO is the former president of the California State Board of Education; and Google, whose chairman, Eric Schmidt, serves on the academy’s board. In total Khan has raised $16.5 million, with assurances of more to come.

“The numbers get really crazy when you look at the impact per dollar,” says Khan. “We have a $7 million operating budget, and we are reaching, over the course of a year, about 10 million students in a meaningful way. If you put any reasonable value on it, say $10 a year–and keep in mind we serve most students better than tutoring–and you are looking at, what, a 1,000% return?”

Even in Internet terms that’s impressive for an organization that 24 months ago consisted of one man working alone in a walk-in closet and 12 months prior to that was the oddball hobby of an intellectually hyper-active hedge fund analyst. But Salman Khan’s ambitions go much further. “Now that there are these tools, where students can learn at their own pace and master the concepts before moving on, can we rethink this educational model that has been standard practice for hundreds of years?”

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Internet-based technology long ago figured out how to revolutionize and democratize everything from retail to auctions to maps. So what took so long to disrupt perhaps the largest, most dysfunctional field of all? …Continue reading

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2012 in Economy, Education, Learning, Teaching, Technology

 

Quote of the day

In today’s digital world, there is no longer any reason to use class time to transfer notes of the instructor to the notes of the student (without passing through the brain of either).

By Harry Lewis, Harvard University

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2012 in Education, Quote, Teaching, Technology

 
 
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