Tuesday, March 4, 2008

competition in the classroom

I've always been struck by how much more educated (meaning broadly knowledgable) many non-US educated people I've met are versus their US counterparts. Part of this comes down to selection bias (having the ambition and ability to practice law or investment banking on a global level, choosing to move to a foreign country, etc.) but I think there is more to it (I practice on those levels but do not feel similarly educated).

My guesses:

For the students at the highest levels, the university structure here pushes them to: (i) spend a lot of time getting to 99% knowledge; (ii) spend time on extracurricular activities as a resume filler; and (iii) learn some subjects (especially languages) late. The structure is the pyramidal hierarchy (and meaningful differences in outcome for different schools).

For most students, I think it comes down to weaker teachers, low expectations, and poor explanation of the reasons for education. Also, I believe that almost nothing is learned at the bulk of colleges.

Separately, I wonder how much the income disparities in the US play a role -- I'm especially wondering if teaching is closed off as an option to people who might consider it in other places with flatter income profiles.

I really have no idea but do wonder about how to improve basic and elite education.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Similar to this was an op-ed piece from August 13th's WSJ "For Most People, College is a Waste of Time".