Education: demographics and trends 2011-2012

Written by  //  December 26, 2012  //  Antal (Tony) Deutsch, Beryl Wajsman, Education, Guy Stanley  //  6 Comments

About Coursera
We are a social entrepreneurship company that partners with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free.
Getting our act together on early childhood education
(NBC News) Author and founder of “Room to Read” John Wood joins The Cycle to talk about the president’s plans for education in Tuesday night’s SOTU, and what needs to be done to get our act together on the issue.
See also Wednesday Night #1566 with Reuven Brenner
Bunker Roy: Learning from a barefoot movement (TED Talk)
In Rajasthan, India, an extraordinary school teaches rural women and men — many of them illiterate — to become solar engineers, artisans, dentists and doctors in their own villages. It’s called the Barefoot College, and its founder, Bunker Roy, explains how it works.
We are not philosophically aligned with Free Education Montreal, but if you want to understand some of the thinking behind the 2012 Québec student protests, this is a good place to start.


A.A. Gill: The Parenting Trap
(Vanity Fair) Forget all the advice. Forget the special tutors, camps, coaches, and therapists. A father of four argues that the biggest problem kids face is the byzantine education-industrial complex known as school, which ruins the most carefree and memorable years of their lives. A view from the vantage point of someone who is part of the most advantaged segment of society.  Some telling points, but perhaps the most interesting are made in the broad range of comments below the article. The entire thesis would be incomprehensible to the vast majority of young and not-so-young who crave formal education and will never ever have to worry about extracurricular violin lessons. See For Poor, Leap to College Often Ends in a Hard Fall below
26 December
Universities should foster talent, not sink it
(Globe & Mail) University is not just about survival of the fittest any more. Top-ranked schools such as Queen’s and McGill are trying to look out for their students’ mental health in an entirely new way. …
In part, the approach at Queen’s, the University of Calgary, Ryerson, Carleton, McGill and others is a recognition that large numbers of students have serious mental illnesses. About four per cent of students surveyed in six Ontario post-secondary schools said they have a diagnosed psychiatric condition, 15 per cent have been treated for mental health problems, 36 per cent have felt so depressed they said it was hard to function, and 53 per cent said they felt overwhelmed by anxiety. It makes sense to try preventive approaches – counselling services are overburdened.
“We’re simply doing what the most progressive workplaces are doing,” Dr. Woolf says, citing Bell Canada as an example.
Why are so many students facing mental-health problems? There is no simple answer. Advances in psychotropic drugs have enabled some to succeed who would have fallen through the cracks in previous generations. And when stigma eases, problems become more visible – on the whole, a good thing.
Ivy League Cracks Down as Students Spiral Out of Control
(Bloomberg) Harvard and Cornell universities have joined Yale University and Dartmouth College in cracking down on out-of-control behavior as drinking, hazing and sexual harassment endanger students and tarnish Ivy League reputations.
22 December
For Poor, Leap to College Often Ends in a Hard Fall
(NYT) … The growing role of class in academic success has taken experts by surprise since it follows decades of equal opportunity efforts and counters racial trends, where differences have narrowed. It adds to fears over recent evidence suggesting that low-income Americans have lower chances of upward mobility than counterparts in Canada and Western Europe.
Thirty years ago, there was a 31 percentage point difference between the share of prosperous and poor Americans who earned bachelor’s degrees, according to Martha J. Bailey and Susan M. Dynarski of the University of Michigan. Now the gap is 45 points.
While both groups improved their odds of finishing college, the affluent improved much more, widening their sizable lead.
Likely reasons include soaring incomes at the top and changes in family structure, which have left fewer low-income students with the support of two-parent homes. Neighborhoods have grown more segregated by class, leaving lower-income students increasingly concentrated in lower-quality schools. And even after accounting for financial aid, the costs of attending a public university have risen 60 percent in the past two decades. Many low-income students, feeling the need to help out at home, are deterred by the thought of years of lost wages and piles of debt.
7 December
Yves Boisvert: Tout le monde… sauf les étudiants
Le gouvernement péquiste, comme on sait, ne s’est pas contenté d’annuler la hausse des droits de scolarité. Il a décrété le gel pour cette année et laissé entendre que ce gel se poursuivrait l’année suivante.
Cette hausse apparemment dramatique des droits n’était en vérité qu’un rattrapage visant à compenser des années de gel. Mais le PQ a décidé de marcher avec les carrés rouges, qui présentaient cette hausse comme une atteinte inacceptable au droit à l’éducation.
La réalité des finances publiques va leur faire avaler de travers ce carré.
Compressions-surprises: les recteurs sur le pied de guerre
Les recteurs des universités se réunissent aujourd’hui pour préparer leur riposte au ministre Pierre Duchesne, qui leur impose des compressions de 140 millions de dollars à quatre mois de la fin de l’année financière.
Et pour une rare fois, ils s’entendent avec les associations étudiantes. Tous deux se sentent floués par le gouvernement Marois, qui annonce des coupes au beau milieu de ses consultations en vue du Sommet sur l’enseignement supérieur, en février, et alors qu’il avait promis un réinvestissement dans les universités.
5 December
Want To Create A Great Education System? Just Do The Opposite Of What America Does.
(Upworthy) By de-emphasizing competition and encouraging cooperation, doing away with standardized testing, and making teaching one of the most highly esteemed professions in the country, Finland has created one of the best education systems in the world. All while spending less per student than the United States does. How the Finnish school system outshines U.S. education
30 November
USC medical school launches fully online graduate program
(LATimes) The Keck School of Medicine at USC has begun accepting applications for a newly created online public health graduate program –- the first of its kind at the medical school.
The program, which combines online coursework and a practicum, is set to begin in the spring of 2013 and is the first fully online graduate program offered at the medical school.
Students will take core courses and choose between three different focuses, biostatistics and epidemiology, global health leadership and health education and promotion. The school has plans to add a focus on health policy in the future.
28 November
Beauty of alternative learning: Getting students to schools
(UNESCO Bangkok) In the marshlands of Bangladesh where the combination of floods and poverty make normal schooling almost impossible, BRAC’s ‘floating schools’ serve a dual purpose. They act as a bus to pick up children and as a classroom for learning. The new initiative of BRAC to build 400 boats for children from disadvantaged backgrounds living in the flood plains of remote parts of Bangladesh is among many other alternative learning strategies that this largest development organisation in the world has introduced. … BRAC’s specific approach to alternative learning has been followed by over 400 local NGOs in Bangladesh. Starting as relief operation in 1972 in a remote village of Bangladesh, the organization has spread to 10 other countries around the world. It has supported and facilitated the alternative schooling approach in Pakistan, Philippines, Uganda, and Liberia, using a holistic development model towards inclusion and tools like microfinance, education, healthcare, legal services, and community empowerment.
20 November
I Have Seen The Future of Education – It Looks A Lot Like This
(via Upworthy) The teaching revolution WILL be digitized. – positive results from using video lectures to enhance classroom time.
College of Future Could Be Come One, Come All
(NYT) Teaching Introduction to Sociology is almost second nature to Mitchell Duneier, a professor at Princeton: he has taught it 30 times, and a textbook he co-wrote is in its eighth edition. But last summer, as he transformed the class into a free online course, he had to grapple with some brand-new questions: Where should he focus his gaze while a camera recorded the lectures? How could the 40,000 students who enrolled online share their ideas? And how would he know what they were learning?
In many ways, the arc of Professor Duneier’s evolution, from professor in a lecture hall to online instructor of tens of thousands, reflects a larger movement, one with the potential to transform higher education. Already, a handful of companies are offering elite college-level instruction — once available to only a select few, on campus, at great cost — free, to anyone with an Internet connection.
Moreover, these massive open online courses, or MOOCs, harness the power of their huge enrollments to teach in new ways, applying crowd-sourcing technology to discussion forums and grading and enabling professors to use online lectures and reserve on-campus class time for interaction with students.
The spread of MOOCs is likely to have wide fallout. Lower-tier colleges, already facing resistance over high tuition, may have trouble convincing students that their courses are worth the price. And some experts voice reservations about how online learning can be assessed and warn of the potential for cheating.
18 November
Degreed Wants To Jailbreak The College Degree
(TechCrunch) There’s a lot of buzz about how new education platforms are making it easy to acquire the kind of skills that, traditionally, have been reserved for the hallowed halls of higher education. These services, whether it be Khan Academy or one of the countless new MOOCs or MOOC hybrids, want to make it easy for students young and old not only to learn but also to get hired.
One new San Francisco startup, Degreed, is on a mission to “jailbreak the degree” and give learners a new form of academic credentialing. The startup’s free service essentially scores and validates a host of different learning inputs, whether they be from formal institutions, like the University of California, or informal platforms like Khan,, iTunesU, Coursera and so on.
The cost of a college diploma is seemingly unsustainable and student debt has crossed the trillion-dollar threshold, but formal education still has a vice grip on accreditation and assessment. Degreed has started down this road by offering “mastery points” for each subject based on classes you took at formal and informal institutions and how well you did. Of course, while it’s a good start, it remains to be seen whether or not these kind of numeric systems can really become valid currency. Sure, Degreed may show you have a 10K-point mastery score in engineering, but so what? It can’t just be the Klout score of education.
17 November
DJ Focus ~ Sierra Leone’s Kelvin Doe @ MIT!
DJ Focus — i.e. teenager Kelvin Doe from Sierra Leone — is the youngest person ever invited to the “Visiting Practitioner’s Program” at MIT. Why? He is…
“…an engineering whiz living in Sierra Leone who scours the trash bins for spare parts, which he uses to build batteries, generators and transmitters. Completely self-taught, [now 15 year old] Kelvin has created his own radio station where he broadcasts news and plays music.”
14 November
Nick’s Gleanings offers the following thoughts:
Last year there were 765,000 foreign students on US university campuses, 20+% of them Chinese (about 6x as many as on Canadian university campuses) who, according to the Department of Commerce contributed US$22.7BN to the US economy – given the cost of tuition, this Commerce Department estimate looks like a gross underestimate.
There is much talk across North America that, to remain competitive in a globalized world, the output of the educational system needs to be dramatically improved. For those in the education ‘biz’ this simply means more money. Unfortunately experience has proven time and again that adding money to an under-performing situation almost invariably merely succeeds in creating a bigger under-performing mess and that more money can only produce a Return on Investment once the management/attitudinal challenges are dealt with. Examples of inappropriate priorities in education are a dime a dozen (although there are also sufficient examples of educators focused on educational outcomes achieving astounding results with limited resources to provide reasons for optimism).
Thus Edmonton over the summer witnessed the case of a teacher with 30+ years’ experience being bullied by his principal, and subsequently dismissed by the School Board, for insisting on giving students zeroes for work not handed in, a stand overwhelmingly supported by parents (which raises the question as to whose views on issues such as these should prevail, those of the parties the system is supposed to be serving, in this case the parents, or those of ‘nanny state’, politically-correct bureaucrats who are supposed to enable those ‘at the sharp end’ to do the serving?) – in the end the public school system lost- and the charter school system gained- a committed, experienced educator with integrity; the School Board all but conceded the error of its ways by re-assigning the principal to other non-specified duties of an administrative nature, and the school in question got a new principal (and a new parents’ council unequivocally committed to marks based on results).
David Staples in the Calgary Herald recently came up with an even more egregious finding. In Alberta Grade 12 diploma marks depend for half their total on class room work marked by the teacher & for the other half on Department of Education-set & administered- exams (the long form answers of which are marked by two teachers on a “double blind” basis, i.e. neither knows the student nor the mark his/her colleague has given). Bewailing the lack of uniformity in teacher assessments of student achievements and the evidence of “grade inflation”, he noted “There are cases in this province where … the teacher has given every student in a class an A, … a mark over 80, and not a single soul in that class passed the (diploma) exam” – teachers who fail so badly in their fiduciary responsibility to parents ought to be tarred & feathered, and run out of town on a rail.
Tony Deutsch comments: There are lots of problems here, not at all confined to Alberta. University faculties of education have delivered mixed messages to the generation of teachers now in the classroom about what is expected of them, and the role of the schools themselves. Collective bargaining between school boards and teachers’ unions have delivered protection of the weak, as unions are supposed to do. In this case , protection of the weak translates to making it very difficult to impossible to get rid of the lazy and the incompetent. There is little concern given to the genuine interests of the students, but much attention is paid to popularity with the students. The latter motivate teaching evaluations, which are significant inputs in retention, pay, and promotion decisions. The results are as described in the article in the short run, and employment and economic growth problems in the longer term.
Personally, I keep remembering the marble plaque at the door commemorating Nobel laureates among the graduates of the school I went to in Hungary. (The communists abolished the institution as bourgeois decadent. Since 1989, it lives again.) By contrast , the school Julia went to prides itself in having produced a Miss Canada.
12 November
You can’t grade students’ behaviour, prof told after introducing ‘civility clause’ to university course
(National Post) A civility clause in a Queen’s University psychology class has sparked debate about whether professors should dock grades for bad behaviour, at a time when universities across North America struggle to limit disruptions and distractions in the classroom.
The Alma Mater Society at Queen’s says the clause, crafted by professor Jill Jacobson for her third-year psychology class, is a threat to academic freedom and would discourage students from speaking out in class lest they be accused of breaking the code. “Discriminatory, rude, threatening, harassing, disruptive, distracting and inappropriate behaviour and language will not be tolerated,” the clause reads. “The first offence will result in a 10% reduction in your final mark.” …
The clash strikes at the heart of a growing tension in universities over how to manage incivility in the classroom, something that has been aggravated by the rise of cellphones, laptops and iPads. But this case has little to do with technology, Ms. Jacobson said in an email interview, and more with ensuring respect for teaching assistants and graduate students who have command of the advanced research methodology class in tutorials and while Ms. Jacobson is away. …
Professors are getting more and more creative in their disruption-busting tactics as technology and growing class sizes make the landscape harder to navigate, said Zopito Marini, a child and youth studies professor at Brock University, who leads workshops for professors hoping to bring more civility to their classrooms.
Mr. Marini — who asks students to turn off their cellphones during class — said he had never heard of a professor docking marks for incivility and he worries that it’s “crossing the line” between what the academic code of conduct and non-academic code of conduct in universities are meant to cover.
11 November
Pakistan to open “Malala Schools” in honor of schoolgirl advocate
Pakistan has announced plans to open special schools for poor children, naming them after the schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, who is in Britain recovering from a shooting. The United Nations declared this past Saturday a global day of action for girls’ education in her honor and has launched an education campaign called “I am Malala.” The News International (Pakistan) (11/11), The Express Tribune (Pakistan)/Agence France-Presse (11/12), CNN (11/12), The Express Tribune (Pakistan) (11/11)

Do online courses spell the end for the traditional university?

Publishing, music, shopping, journalism – all revolutionised by the internet. Next in line? Education. Now US academics are offering world-class tuition – free – to anyone who can log on, anywhere in the world, is this the end of campus life?
(The Guardian) … Salman Khan, a softly spoken 36-year-old former hedge fund analyst, is the founding father of what’s being called the classroom revolution, and is feted by everyone from Bill Gates (who called him “the world’s favourite teacher”) down.
The Khan Academy, which he set up almost accidentally while tutoring his niece and nephew, now has 3,400 short videos or tutorials, most of which Khan made himself, and 10 million students. “I was blown away by it,” says Thrun. “And frankly embarrassed that I was teaching 200 students. And he was teaching millions.”
[Sebastian Thrun, a German-born professor of artificial intelligence at Stanford University] decided to open up his Stanford artificial intelligence class, CS221, to the world. Anybody could join, he announced. They’d do the same coursework as the Stanford students and at the end of it take the same exam.
CS221 is a demanding, difficult subject. On campus, 200 students enrolled, and Thrun thought they might pull in a few thousand on the web. By the time the course began, 160,000 had signed up. “It absolutely blew my mind,” says Thrun. There were students from every single country in the world – bar North Korea. What’s more, 23,000 students graduated. And all of the 400 who got top marks were students who’d done it online.
25 October
Going mobile, and green, to deliver education
Some developing countries in Asia and Africa have undertaken novel approaches to provide educations to their poorest children. The community of Chitradurga in India uses a solar-powered bus, while communities across Bangladesh are being visited by solar-powered floating schools. Shipping containers are being converted into solar-powered classrooms and delivered to rural communities in five countries in Africa, while SUVs are serving as mobile solar computer classrooms in Uganda. The Christian Science Monitor/Change Agent (10/25)
Taking stock: 15th anniversary of Ted Turner’s UN gift
Fifteen years after Ted Turner donated $1 billion to the United Nations, considerable changes have been seen in the scope of philanthropy and in improvements to global health, clean energy and, especially, women’s rights. “When you give a girl a chance to stay in school, it delays marriage, it delays child birth. When you invest in a woman, that money stays in her family, it goes into her community, it educates her children, and we begin to change the world,” Kathy Calvin, of the United Nations Foundation, says in a video interview with Turner. “And that’s frankly why we’re here. We’re not about charity, we’re about change.” CBS News (10/18)
Helping women overcome poor educations

The term “education widows” is being applied to young women in northern Ghana who have attended school so poor that they are unqualified for most jobs. UNESCO reports that most women ages 15 to 29 cannot read even one sentence after six years of schooling. The organization Camfed is trying to remedy this. The Guardian (London) (10/16)
Malala galvanizes Pakistan, world to fight for education for girls
Efforts to improve education for girls throughout the developing world now have “an icon for a global movement” in Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old Pakistani girl seriously wounded last week by Taliban gunmen who viewed her advocacy for girls’ education as “promoting Western culture.” Yousafzai “is being adopted as every child’s sister and every parent’s daughter,” writes Gordon Brown, former prime minister of Britain, where she was flown over the weekend for medical treatment. Tens of thousands of people rallied in her support Sunday in the Pakistani capital, Karachi. CNN (10/15), Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription model) (10/13), USA TODAY/The Associated Press (10/15)
Why university students need a well-rounded education
(Globe & Mail) Now, the tide seems to be turning, with business leaders lamenting that, although the new talent arriving at their doorsteps has deep technical knowledge, it lacks the skills needed to put this knowledge to full use.
Grads are said to have trouble communicating and working in teams, and often struggle to see complex problems from a variety of angles. Becoming a specialist, it seems, doesn’t mean losing sight of the fact that education is still defined as “acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally preparing intellectually for mature life.”
To ensure that students receive a broad foundation, universities are revisiting the concept of a “core” curriculum: a suite of courses that steer students through a combination of great texts, natural sciences and sometimes statistics, mathematics or languages.
A Hard Landing for University Endowments
(NYT) It’s true that Harvard’s and Yale’s endowments, in contrast to most smaller endowments, have outperformed a simpler and more conventional mix of stocks and bonds, and a Harvard spokesman noted that over the last 10 years, Harvard’s endowment has generated over $12 billion more than a 60/40 model would have. But that may be hard to replicate in the future, even for the Harvards and Yales of the world, since even access to top managers is no guarantee of future performance
Getting girls into schools in Afghanistan
Girls in Afghanistan were prohibited from going to school under the Taliban. Now, more than 3 million are receiving some form of education. Still, about 2 million girls have yet to set foot inside a classroom, and it is unclear how education will fare after NATO forces leave the country. BBC (10/11)
10 October
Cambridge Sells Its First Bond
(Bloomberg Business Week) Cambridge University has been authorized to borrow for investment in research facilities and accommodation, Moody’s Investors Service said in a report that cited the school’s “extraordinarily strong market position” and stable revenues
(WSJ) The University of Cambridge sold its first-ever bond Wednesday, in a highly anticipated deal that could encourage other U.K. universities to follow suit.
Cambridge sold 350 million pounds ($563 million) worth of 40-year bonds, making it the second U.K. university in three months to tap long-term debt markets in order to fund development projects.
27 September
Ban’s Education First initiative is “unprecedented”
The Education First initiative from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who attributes his successes to the transformative education he received in Korea, is “refreshing for its recognition of the role of teachers — drawing attention to the need to create [2 million] new teaching positions, reprioritize training and professional development, and redignify the profession,” writes David Archer. The Guardian (London)/Poverty Matters blog (9/27)
21 September
Cognitive Conundrum Is the Internet Really Making Us Dumber?
(Spiegel) Many scholars and critics warn that TV and the Internet are dumbing us down. But, if that’s true, why are children around the world performing better on IQ tests? Are we actually getting smarter, or are we merely thinking in different ways?
an example of a global trend widely acknowledged by specialists in this field: From one generation to the next, children are performing better on IQ tests. In Germany, scores increase by about 3 IQ points each decade. In fact, the tests have to be adjusted every few years to keep up. The test currently used for children is called the WISC-IV. A person claiming to have an IQ of 130 needs to specify which test generated that result: WISC-III? WISC-IV?
The astonishing upward trend in IQ levels is known as the “Flynn effect,” named after American political scientist James Flynn, who is now in his late seventies and lives in New Zealand. The emeritus professor with a full white beard published a new book this month, “Are We Getting Smarter? Rising IQ in the Twenty-First Century,” in which he seeks to elucidate this phenomenon.
In the book, Flynn offers a level-headed analysis of the limits and possibilities of intelligence tests. Germany falls in the middle of the Flynn effect phenomenon, with an annual increase of 0.35 IQ points, while countries such as Brazil and Turkey are catching up nearly twice as fast. China has long been playing in the top league, with an average IQ of 105.
Developing countries such as Kenya are also making gains. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, is making less progress — Flynn surmises this is because being subsidized by petrodollars provides little motivation for learning.
20 September
Canadian university tuition fees rising faster than inflation
Widespread student protests this past spring in the Canadian province of Quebec against student tuition hikes raised many questions about how post secondary schooling should be paid. One of the criticisms of the protests was that students in the province had not had a hike in fees in a long time, and that the fees were lower than in most of the other provinces in Canada.
A new study “Eduflation and the High Cost of Learning” by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) shows that university fees across Canada have been rising faster than the rate of inflation, and only a few provinces have not followed this pattern. It also shows that even if provincial government revenues would permit lower tuition fees, that has not always been what ends up happening.
19 September
“Teach for Canada” Schools Itself Ahead of Formal Launch
(HuffPost) Young students from Canada are ranked among the top academic performers in the world. So why does a strategy consultant and law student want to import parts of Teach for America, an educational improvement program that at times has proven controversial, up north?
Only 7.8 per cent of Canadians dropped out of high school last year, a figure that has steadily fallen for more than two decades, according to data from Statistics Canada. But scratch below that boast-worthy figure, which is lower than many other developed countries globally, and the dropout numbers actually climb from 17 per cent among rural students to more than 60 per cent for First Nations and Inuit students in remote communities.
“In our own country, in our own backyard, there are third-world conditions, and you don’t have to go to sub-Saharan Africa for a summer, or for a year or two years, to actually do development work,” says Adam Goldenberg, a former Liberal Party staffer on Parliament Hill who is now a law student at Yale University.
Goldenberg and Kyle Hill, a consultant at the Boston Consulting Group in Toronto, already hold impressive resumes. Yet their latest project — as co-founders of Teach for Canada — seems to outshine the rest, at least among a growing circle of social entrepreneurs.
16 September
Seen and Heard: Teach for Canada
“Educational inequality is one of the great unspoken public policy challenges,” said Teach for Canada’s Adam Goldenberg during a presentation at SPPG on Thursday afternoon. Goldenberg and Teach for Canada co-founder Kyle Hill stopped by U of T to deliver their presentation, “How Can We Make Education More Equal?” and to publicly discuss their Teach for Canada program for the first time.
Goldenberg and Hill began by addressing several unsettling statistics that revealed the disparities between the media’s celebrated view of Canadian education the reality of frequently overlooked inequalities. Schools in low-income urban areas and Aboriginal reserves, for example, demonstrate significantly lower performance levels than those in the rest of Canada. Particularly distressing is the fact that 61% of First Nations students who live on-reserve are not completing high school.
Reforms to Canada Experience Class are sensible
(Globe & Mail editorial) Ottawa’s decision to simplify an immigration program which allows international students with work experience to apply to become permanent residents is a sensible reform.
And yet, even as the government works to woo these highly qualified newcomers, it should be mindful of the impact of brain drain on developing countries, including the Philippines and Mexico. If too many people who get an education abroad abandon their homelands, then how will emerging economies ever progress, and benefit from the expertise and technical capacity of their overseas workers? Programs facilitating an exchange of knowledge between the north and the south, and even allowing immigrants to temporarily return home as leaders, are ideas worth considering.
12 September
Israel 2nd-most educated of OECD member states: report
(Xinhua) — Israel has the second-highest percentage of 25 to 64-year-old people attending higher education among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member states, according to a just-released report.
The report, “Education at a Glance 2012” released at the start of the school year, revealed that Canada led the list with 51 percent of the same demographic graduating from an institution of higher education.
Japan trailed Israel at 45 percent, and the United States at 42 percent, according to the report, quoted by the Ma’ariv daily.
50 percent of Israeli women have academic degrees, trailing Canada’s 56 percent; both are far above average, vis a vis the OECD country average of 32 percent.
11 September
Best Universities In Canada: Global Ranking Places Nine Schools At Top
(HuffPost) The QS World University Rankings for 2012 was released today, with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) named the top university in the world, based on academic reputation (weighted at 40 per cent), employer reputation (weighted at 10 per cent), faculty/student ratio (20 per cent), citations per faculty (20 per cent), international faculty ratio (five per cent) and international student ratio (five per cent). The University of Cambridge and Harvard University came in second and third, respectively.
But most importantly for Canadians, 2012 marks the first year when our two leading universities cracked the top 20 together, with McGill University standing at number 18, and the University of Toronto at number 19. McGill had dropped one spot from last year, while Toronto rose four, with the particular distinction of more published research than any other institution during the ranking period.
20 August
Anger as Iran bans women from universities
Female students in Iran have been barred from more than 70 university degree courses in an officially-approved act of sex-discrimination which critics say is aimed at defeating the fight for equal women’s rights.
It follows years in which Iranian women students have outperformed men, a trend at odds with the traditional male-dominated outlook of the country’s religious leaders. Women outnumbered men by three to two in passing this year’s university entrance exam.
Senior clerics in Iran’s theocratic regime have become concerned about the social side-effects of rising educational standards among women, including declining birth and marriage rates.
17 August
Canada needs (international) talent
Why must Canada become the 21st century leader in international education? Because the country needs top talent to fuel innovation, drive economic prosperity and propel its society forward. Tasked with developing a framework for how Canada would achieve this goal and let the world know about its world-class post-secondary institutions, the Advisory Panel on Canada’s International Education Strategy — led by Western President Amit Chakma — delivered its final report to the Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, earlier today in support of the government’s Global Commerce Strategy.
(RCI) The panel also advised the government to create 50,000 positions each year for Canadian students to go abroad also, to further their education and cultural knowledge and experience. …  Last year international students put $8 billion into the Canadian economy, up from $6.5 billion in 2008.
24 July
Berkeley signs up online with Harvard and MIT
(BBC) The emerging format war between online universities has accelerated, with the University of California, Berkeley signing up to Harvard and MIT’s edX partnership.
Last week, Coursera, a rival Silicon Valley-based platform, announced 12 more universities were joining.
This year has seen major US universities pushing ahead with rival plans to make courses available for free on the internet.
It has been hailed as a first step towards a major shift in higher education – with implications for the current constraints on time, capacity and funding. It raises the prospect of giving prestigious institutions a global reach and access to students around the world.
17 July
Fred G. Martin: Will Massive Open Online Courses Change How We Teach?

As we know, the modern university is a much larger ecosystem than its collection of courses. Among many other things, students derive great value from being in close contact with their peers, participating in leadership opportunities across campus, and being part of our research labs. It may well be that this new breed of MOOC is a decent replacement for an average, large-sized lecture course. But this is a low bar.
In our drive for efficiency, we must aspire to higher than this. At least, we can use MOOCs to create a successful flipped classroom. We can use our “precious classroom time” for meaningful conversations. As Mazur and Beicher have demonstrated, this can be done even in large lectures by having students work in small groups.
At best, we can really add value, by being teachers. We can individually debug students’ thinking, mentor them in project work, and honestly be enthusiastic when they excel.
University rankings ‘distorting priorities’
( The current system of university rankings distorts higher education and research priorities, and undermines regionally relevant research, a conference has heard.
European and Commonwealth universities are now exploring alternative methods for assessing university performances, including offering students interactive web tools, which could help students choose universities according to their interests and priorities, rather than ranking alone.
Rankings help tracking shifts in the competitive strengths and weaknesses of nations through the performance of their universities, said Ellen Hazelkorn, head of the Higher Education Policy Research Unit at the Dublin Institute of Technology in Dublin, Ireland.
However, they have also created situations in which certain types of knowledge are considered more important than others, Hazelkorn told the Euroscience Open Forum (ESOF) last week (13 July).
For example, the current ranking system favours physical, life and medical sciences, creates a “hierarchy of knowledge in which arts, humanities and social sciences are ignored”, and benefits universities in English-speaking countries, Hazelkorn added.
13 July
(Nick’s Gleanings #470) The Québec students that struck to protest higher tuition fees are lucky they don’t live in India. There 520,000 students wrote entrance exams for 10,000 spots in its top Institutes of Technology & the cut-off grade for admission to its top medical & engineering schools is in the high 90’s (although, in all fairness, their training will provide graduates with far better career prospects than the typical Québec student can aspire to). Ditto in China; the admission exam for its top universities is so hard & so competitive, & the consequences of not getting a high enough mark so disastrous, that parents who can afford it send their children to universities abroad.
12 July
Carleton University admits to issues with $15-million donor deal for politics school
The contract reveals the Riddell Foundation effectively appointed three of five people on a steering committee. That committee was given sweeping power over the graduate program’s budget, academic hiring, executive director and curriculum.
Mr. Manning, the former Reform party founder, chairs the committee, while his former chief of staff Cliff Fryers sits on it along with Chris Froggatt, the former chief of staff to Conservative cabinet minister John Baird, and two university representatives.
… Private donor agreements within publicly-funded universities have been making news of late over issues of academic freedom, corporate control and public policy manipulation.
This spring, the Canadian Association of University Teachers threatened to boycott Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo if they did not “amend the governance structure for the Balsillie School of International Affairs so that academic integrity is ensured.”
1 July
Heather Mallick: Disastrous Ontario government report suggests three-year university degrees and online classes
(Toronto Star) The greatest danger is the report’s warm welcome to online study. It’s one thing to get an online degree if you live in Yellowknife but quite another for the rest of us. You learn from the hard slog of long afternoons spent in classrooms with brilliant people. You learn to read and understand and read further. You learn to evaluate and criticize and think for yourself.
You won’t get this fast, alone and on the cheap, but that is precisely what the government is planning and what employers are hoping for: dumbed down labour for underpaid jobs. Professors should fear it, but students should fear it more. If you want to sit alone in a room for years “studying” online and come out pale, shaky and Fifty Shades of Dim, this report is for you.
But it is not for anyone who values genuine education. The report is at, which I print in full so you can read it and mark it. I give it a failing grade.
29 June
This week’s Nick’s Gleanings contains an item that confirms the results of the Fondation universitaire Pierre Arbour awards: “The June 23rd National Post carried a full page ad congratulating this year’s 40 high school graduates who each won $60,000 Schulich Leadership Scholarships for undergraduate studies in Science, Technology, Engineering or Math at participating Canadian universities. Fully half of them were members of visible minorities which makes one wonder what their parents are saying, or doing, to motivate them to excel in high school that non-visible minority parents don’t, won’t or can’t? (Candidates must meet two out of three criteria : academic excellence, leadership at school and/or in the community & financial need – with the last in practice likely the least important – Nick’s emphasis).”
27 June
Right triumphs over might – a happy ending, but this also presents a thoughtful look at what universities should be and the role they play in innovation.
A Much Higher Education
UVA has its president back. But the fight to save our universities has only just begun.
(Slate) Higher education is not one system. There are multiple layers and a wide variety of institutions. But they all have one thing in common: They have a mission to use knowledge to empower people to imagine a better life and transform society. If we like where we are, let’s just forget about it and roll back public support for higher education. But if we aspire to better things as a society, not just as individuals, then we should rediscover the vision of public higher education that inspired the University of Virginia in the first place.
24 June
Classroom Lectures Go Digital
(NYT) Thanks to digital media like video-on-demand broadcasts, or VODcasts, lectures that students would normally receive in the classroom are migrating outside of brick and mortar schools.
TED, the global organization that specializes in both conferences and online inspirational talks, has taken the idea a step further with TED-Ed , a Web site with educational videos that can be customized. The site was announced in April. The idea is to use both educators and animators to produce videos for the site, which also has a YouTube channel. … “The discussion needs to focus on how people teach and learn, their needs and the choices they make,” said Alejandro Armellini, senior learning designer at the Beyond Distance Research Alliance at the University of Leicester. “If the technology becomes the driver, e.g. ‘let’s do X because this technology here is really cool’ — regardless of need or preference, we have problems.”
UVA Teresa Sullivan Ouster Reveals Corporate Control Of Public Education
(HuffPost) Members of the board, steeped in a culture of corporate jargon and buzzy management theories, wanted the school to institute austerity measures and re-engineer its academic offerings around inexpensive, online education, the emails reveal.
The controversy, which threatens to seriously damage one of the country’s oldest and most prestigious public universities, has implications beyond its own idyllic, academic refuge. For some, it is emblematic of how the cult of corporate expertise and private-sector savvy has corralled the upper reaches of university life, at the expense of academic freedom and “unprofitable” areas of study.
20 June
This is a dreadful story and that it has happened at ‘Thomas Jefferson’s university’ …
The Corporatization of U.Va.
How the controversy at the University of Virginia reflects the broad shift in our national values
Last week, two years into her term, Teresa Sullivan was removed as president of the University of Virginia. Helen Dragas, rector of the University’s Board of Visitors—what most states call a Board of Regents—explained the situation with a brief statement, “The Board believes that in the rapidly changing and highly pressurized external environment in both health care and in academia, the University needs to remain at the forefront of change.” Of course, this explained nothing about the decision to remove Sullivan, who by all accounts was succeeding as president of the university.
18 June
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan writes in HuffPost:
We know that increasing parent involvement, particularly the involvement of fathers, is key to improving schools and communities across the country. As we work to drive down drop-out rates and increase graduation and college completion rates, fathers have an important role to play.
Research shows that children do better in school and are less likely to drop out when fathers are involved. Engaged parents can strengthen communities, mentor and tutor students, and demonstrate through their actions how much they value their children’s education. Great teachers and principals make a huge difference, but they can’t do it by themselves. At the Education Department, we are investing more in parental engagement. We are re-doubling our efforts — and asking Congress to double the budget for parent engagement programs to about $280 million from about $135 million — in order to get more dads and parents engaged. We’re looking at programs that are already making a difference and scaling them up to help improve more communities.
Predators and Professors
By Simon Johnson, a former chief economist of the IMF
(Project Syndicate) Are America’s great universities still the stalwart custodians of knowledge, leading forces for technological progress, and providers of opportunity that they once were? Or have they become, in part, unscrupulous accomplices to increasingly rapacious economic elites?
15 June

Currently a debate is raging in Edmonton as to whether teachers should be allowed to give students a mark of zero for work not handed in/completed. The plot thickened when it came out school principals have a vested interest in no zeroes being given [Provincial funding formula encourages grade inflation, critics of no-zero policy say]; for in Alberta funding follows the student & the school gets to keep it if a student gets at least 50% in a course or, rather remarkably, if he/she gets a mark between 25-50% & has attended at least half his/her classes. Listening to the loosy-goosy reasoning of the apologists for the ‘no-zero policy’ & then reading about the tremendous competitive pressures to excel that students in emerging economies face, one cannot help but wonder if our ‘feel-good’ educational system really prepares our students, & our economies, for survival, never mind success, in the 21st century global economy.
David McCullough (David McCullough Jr.’s speech at Wellesley High School was bold and effective) is an English teacher with 26 years’ experience at Wellesley High School in the Boston, Mass. area. In his Commencement Address he told graduating students among others that “None of you is special. You are not special. You are not exceptional”, called them “pampered, cosseted, doted upon, bubble-wrapped, and fawned over”, and warned them that half of them would be divorced & that life wasn’t going to revolve around their every whim. After a video of his speech went viral on the social media circuit he told NBC’s Nightly News “this is what I have been saying for 26 years in the class room, so there was really nothing new in my message.” (From Nick’s Gleanings #466)

12 April
Student protests force class cancellations, exam delays
Concordia exams delayed by demonstrations
(CBC) … The exams started about a half an hour late, but all those scheduled were able to proceed.
4 April
Montreal police arrest almost 80 students after group storms upscale hotel
(Montreal Gazette) … Even with the increases Quebec will have among the lowest tuition rates in the country, at around $3,800 per year. Protest leaders, however, call their resistance a matter of principle to protect universal access to affordable education. Tens of thousands of students have voted, at public assemblies, to abandon their studies. The “striking” students have been warned that their semester might be cancelled if they don’t get back to class by next week. They are also facing legal threats from students who have successfully filed for court injunctions ordering some schools reopened.
3 April
Student wins injunction against strikers
(CJAD) Laurent Proulx convinced a Quebec Superior court judge that student strikes, declared by student groups across the province, should not be able to keep him from going to class. But, the court granted him an injunction that applies to only that one anthropology course, not to the rest of the shuttered Universite Laval classes.
York University teaches Jim Balsillie hard lesson of mixing philanthropy with public academics
(National Post) Jim Balsillie’s CIGI [Centre for International Governance Innovation] is now reeling from its second academic freedom scandal in two years, now that its offer of $30-million for an international law program at York University, in exchange for input on hiring and research, has been refused by a vote of faculty members.
12 March
Khan Academy launches on iPad: Is this education’s future?
Khan Academy’s YouTube video class database, which launched on the iPad on Sunday, gives any individual with a computer and sufficient Internet connection the opportunity to receive instruction on a variety of subjects, assuming they find the format and content of the classes palatable.
All the classes are taught by the site’s founder and executive editor, Salman “Sal” Khan, who brings a conversational tone to each of the videos. Unlike for-profit educational institutions that offer online classes for a fee, Khan Academy is a nonprofit group that offers all its classes free of charge, thanks in large part to big donors such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Google. (In the interest of full disclosure, my brother works for Google.)
11 March
Knowledge and skills are infinite – oil is not
by Andreas Schleicher
Deputy Director and Special Advisor on Education Policy to the OECD’s Secretary-General
OECD’s PISA study shows that there is also a significant negative relationship between the money countries extract from national resources and the knowledge and skills of their school population (see figure): Israel is not alone in outperforming its oil-rich neighbors by a large margin when it comes to learning outcomes at school, this is a global pattern that generally across 65 countries that took part in the latest PISA assessment. Exceptions such as Canada, Australia and Norway, that are rich of natural resources but still score well on PISA, have all established deliberate policies of saving these resource rents, and not just consuming them. Today’s learning outcomes at school, in turn, are a powerful predictor for the wealth and social outcomes that countries will reap in the long run. Tom Friedman: Pass the Books. Hold the Oil
7 March
Student protest turns violent in Montreal
Riot police used tear gas and pepper spray against protesting students Wednesday in the latest violent demonstration against tuition hikes.
5 March
Concordia students join tuition strike — At least 6,500 vote to join protest
25 February
Ten Problems with Canadian Universities
By Doug Mann,
Adjunct professor, Media Studies and Sociology, University of Western Ontario.
(The Mark) The decisions of students, professors, and administrators have resulted in deep-seated flaws in the political, economic, and ideological structure of our schools. Over the last two decades, I’ve spent no little time reading and thinking about the problems that plague our houses of higher learning. I’ve concluded that these problems come from all the principal players in the drama of academic life – students, professors, and administrators. All are the result of free human decisions, but all are deeply embedded in the political, economic, and ideological structure of our schools. Here are 10 of them:
17 February
Student loans: entry fees
(The Guardian|editorial) University entrance is in a mess. It is a mess that is damaging to individual students whose potential is wasted, and damaging to an economy which cannot compete without an expanding, well-educated workforce. Up to now, coalition policy has made matters worse rather than better.


20 November
Étudier en anglais au Québec est une aubaine pour les Français
(La Presse) À HEC Montréal, les Français sont surreprésentés au baccalauréat trilingue en administration des affaires, un programme en français, anglais et espagnol. … À compter de l’automne prochain, le baccalauréat en administration des affaires sera également offert dans un programme bilingue.
Les universités québécoises développent de plus en plus de programmes avec des cours en anglais, particulièrement aux cycles supérieurs, pour recruter des étudiants étrangers.
11 November
David Brooks: The Inequality Map
Foreign tourists are coming up to me on the streets and asking, “David, you have so many different kinds of inequality in your country. How can I tell which are socially acceptable and which are not?” I will provide you with a guide to the American inequality map to help you avoid embarrassment.
8 November
A university education is for everyone
By Mark Mercer,
(Postmedia News) Whatever the problems are that plague universities in Canada these days, the solution isn’t to turn away young adults seeking an education.
The boom in universities in the last half of the 20th century promised to create a place in a university for everyone who wanted one, and to a great extent the promise was realized. It also created a demand for education. Young people came to know that they could go to university if they wanted to, and that made them want to. The noble ideal of being an educated citizen came within the reach of just about everyone.
7 November
Bangladeshi Humanitarian Wins Half-Million Prize
Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder of the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), was selected from over 100 nominations worldwide for the first ever award given by the Qatar Foundation. In presenting the award Tuesday, WISE chairman Dr Abdulla bin Ali Al- Thani said, “Fazle Hasan Abed’s life and career embody the values of WISE. He recognised that education is a passport to social inclusion and opportunity. He discovered a successful formula and he adapted and expanded it – first in Bangladesh and then in other countries.”
17 October
World Bank says top research universities not for all
(SciDevNet) Developing countries should only establish world-class research universities once they have a good tertiary education system in place, says a World Bank report. Link to full report.pdf (394 pages)
The report, ‘Academic Excellence: The Making of World-Class Research Universities’ published earlier this month (6 October), examined the experience of 11 leading public and private research universities in nine countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe.
The top performers shared three key factors, it found. These were: high concentration of talented academics and students, abundant resources and strategic vision and leadership.
14 October
Ivy League universities are now India’s safety schools
(NYT via FP blog) American universities and colleges have been more than happy to pick up the slack. Faced with shrinking returns from endowment funds, a decline in the number of high school graduates in the United States and growing economic hardship among American families, they have stepped up their efforts to woo Indian students thousands of miles away. Read more
World facing shortage of 8 million teachers, UN says
The world is facing a shortfall of some 8 million teachers, especially in primary schools, undermining chances of reaching the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education by 2015, according to a UNESCO report. Of that number, an estimated 1 million will need to be recruited over the next three years merely to meet the growing numbers of primary school students in sub-Saharan Africa, while 6.2 million teachers will be needed to account for attrition. The Guardian (London)/Data Blog (10/7)
6 October
McGill University cracks top 30 in global ranking
(Gazette) Université de Montréal hits No. 104 on Times Higher Education list
Nine Canadian universities are among the Top 200 educational institutions in the world, according to an annual assessment released by a prominent British publication.
The University of Toronto has been ranked highest among Canadian universities, at No. 19, while two other schools — the University of British Columbia and Montreal’s McGill University — broke the Top 30 on the 2011-2012 Times Higher Education list, at No. 22 and No. 28, respectively.
29 August
George Monbiot: The Lairds of Learning
How did academic publishers acquire these feudal powers?
Who are the most ruthless capitalists in the Western world? Whose monopolistic practices makes WalMart look like a corner shop and Rupert Murdoch look like a socialist? You won’t guess the answer in a month of Sundays. While there are plenty of candidates, my vote goes not to the banks, the oil companies or the health insurers, but – wait for it – to academic publishers. Theirs might sound like a fusty and insignificant sector. It is anything but. Of all corporate scams, the racket they run is most urgently in need of referral to the competition authorities.
Is Going to College Worth It?
(The Tyee) The Economist magazine is latest to fret that post-secondary education is next bubble to burst.
A subversive idea has been rumbling around North American campuses in recent months: Post-secondary education, on a cost-benefit basis, may not be worth the time and money.
A column in The Economist quotes investor Peter Thiel: “Education is a bubble in the classic sense. To call something a bubble, it must be overpriced and there must be an intense belief in it.”
Most students would agree that post-secondary is overpriced, but their intense belief is not in education but in what it should lead to — a well-paid career.
7 August
Virginia Heffernan: Education Needs a Digital-Age Upgrade
The contemporary American classroom, with its grades and deference to the clock, is an inheritance from the late 19th century.
(NYT) Simply put, we can’t keep preparing students for a world that doesn’t exist. We can’t keep ignoring the formidable cognitive skills they’re developing on their own. And above all, we must stop disparaging digital prowess just because some of us over 40 don’t happen to possess it. An institutional grudge match with the young can sabotage an entire culture.
6 July
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Commerce… and Other Scholastic Satires
(HuffPost) Scholastic, the nation’s largest purveyor of school-based book clubs and book fairs, bills itself as the “most trusted name in learning.”
But lately the company has come under fire for its “InSchool Marketing” division — a program that cashes-in on this trusted name by allowing corporations to create teaching materials designed to further “client interests,” and create “brand awareness” and “consumer loyalty.” The program has been used to promote everything in classrooms from ice cream to television programming to sugary beverages to the world’s dirtiest form of energy.
Last week, @Scholastic4Sale — with its proclaimed mission to help “underserved corporations reach children’s classrooms” — began a satiric skewering of Scholastic with series of mashups of classic Scholastic book covers combined with real InSchool Marketing partners (Check out the slideshow of @Scholastic4Sale’s handiwork).
5 July
America’s biggest teacher and principal cheating scandal unfolds in Atlanta
(CSM) At least 178 teachers and principals in Atlanta Public Schools cheated to raise student scores on high-stakes standardized tests, according to a report from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
In February 2009, Atlanta Superintendent Beverly Hall was named 2009 Superintendent of the Year in San Francisco. Ms. Hall stepped down from her post on June 30, days before the release of a report that documented widespread cheating by teachers and administrators in the 55,000-student Atlanta Public School District.
15 June
Margaret Wente: Is our students learning?
(Globe & Mail) … My friend Ben teaches introductory sociology at a large urban campus that shall remain unnamed. “Fifteen or 20 per cent of the students are really terrific,” he says. “Some of the others try hard. But most of them really don’t have a clue.”
Ben wouldn’t be surprised by Academically Adrift, a new book that is today’s must-read in higher education circles. Its findings are devastating. A large number of students learn little or nothing in university. More than a third show no improvement in their skills at all.
The message of Academically Adrift is that apart from getting that credential, for many students higher education is a total waste of time.
12 May
Higher-education bubble
instead of European-style government-run universal health insurance, we have the Rube Goldberg machine that is the American public-private health-insurance system. And instead of the largely government-run nearly-free university systems you have in Europe, we have the government-guaranteed student loan system that has delivered a generation of American students into indentured servitude.
(The Economist) THERE’S a debate going on (Sarah Lacy on Peter Thiel, William Deresiewicz, Annie Lowrey, Matthew Yglesias and even our own Schumpeter and Lexington) about whether the American higher-education market is failing, perhaps in the way the housing market failed (leaving average people with huge overhangs of debt for assets that turn out not to be worth what they thought they were worth), or perhaps in the way the health-care system is failing (sucking up an ever-bigger slice of the national income for services that don’t seem to be providing significantly higher value).
26 April
Poor white pupils lag behind black peers
White schoolchildren in the UK’s poorest communities lag behind peers who are black or of Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin, a Financial Times analysis of more than 3m sets of exam results reveals
8 April
David Ritter: Libya, the LSE and Globalization
(Global Policy Journal) The LSE’s Libyan connection has become a full-blown cause celebre.
It is worth looking beyond particulars to consider two structural forces at work, both of which are intimately associated with the politics of globalization. The first relates to the functioning of universities within the neo-liberal economic order. In states that have adopted competitive education-as-private-good models of tertiary education, universities are driven to secure international and external funding, creating a pressure that will inevitably result in some unwise arrangements being reached. As Stefan Collini argued in The Guardian: If anything, the further universities move away from being properly funded by the state, the greater will become the risk of misjudgments such as seems to have happened at the LSE.
Collini is right to point out that the LSE’s problems in relation to Libya are symptomatic of a wider crisis created by neoliberal attitudes to proper provisioning of universities.
4 April
We thought that the Amy Chua talk had died down, but this entertaining piece has resuscitated it
P.J. O’Rourke: Irish Setter Dad
Whose children will succeed in life, Amy Chua’s or mine?
(The Weekly Standard) What’s all this bother about Chinese Tiger Moms? Amy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, has America’s female parents in a swivet. You’d have to take Sarah Palin to a NOW convention to see so many ladies mad at a fellow woman. Practically a third of the Atlantic’s April issue is taken up with Caitlin Flanagan and Sandra Tsing Loh giving Amy Chua the dickens in terms strong enough for Hillary Clinton’s private thoughts on Monica Lewinsky. My wife put it more succinctly: “This person is factory farming her kids.”
… Being a male parent with a typical dad-like involvement in my children’s lives—I know all of their names—I thought Battle Hymn was great. That is, I thought it made me look great. Not that I read the dreadful book, but I did buy each of my children a copy and inscribed it, “So you think you’ve got it bad?” What with three editions lying around because my kids would rather fool with the Wii than read, I admit I gave in to the temptation to skim.
4 March
Stefan Collini: The university funding system is set up to invite supper with the devil
The exalted status of ‘external funding’ at UK universities has led to a willingness to take risks over the legitimacy of the source
(The Guardian) Revelations about the London School of Economics’ Libyan connections have highlighted the pressure that universities are under to accept money from businessmen and foreign governments, leading many commentators to give their recommendations about the length of spoon required for supping with the devil. But there is a wider point here that needs exploring: the fetishising in contemporary British universities of “external funding”. This category embraces not only the kinds of deal at issue in the LSE case, but all forms of income that are “external” to the institutions’ own recurrent budget.
18 January
David Brooks somewhat tongue-in-cheek, or is he? : Amy Chua Is a Wimp
… I believe she’s coddling her children. She’s protecting them from the most intellectually demanding activities because she doesn’t understand what’s cognitively difficult and what isn’t.
Practicing a piece of music for four hours requires focused attention, but it is nowhere near as cognitively demanding as a sleepover with 14-year-old girls. Managing status rivalries, negotiating group dynamics, understanding social norms, navigating the distinction between self and group — these and other social tests impose cognitive demands that blow away any intense tutoring session or a class at Yale.
13 January
Amy Chua on high-stakes parenting
The author on the evils of sleepovers, the benefits of practising and how discipline builds self-esteem
(Macleans) Her new memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, recounts raising her two daughters, now 15 and 18, using what she calls “Chinese parenting” methods.
11 January
Chinese Daughters and Amy Chua
(The New Yorker) Until this week, Amy Chua was best known as a Yale law professor, but now she stands, with arms crossed confidently, at the center of a raging online battle between detractors and defenders of the parenting approach she proclaims in her essay, “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior.” It is a manifesto that, as my colleague Blake Eskin puts it, “makes a case for parenting with the kind of overwhelming force Colin Powell deployed against Saddam Hussein.”
8 January
Amy Chua: Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior
Can a regimen of no playdates, no TV, no computer games and hours of music practice create happy kids? And what happens when they fight back?
(WSJ) A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it’s like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I’ve done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to
6 January
Dropping Out: Who Leaves High School, and What Can We Do About it? – C.D. Howe Institute
Toronto, Jan 6 – While Canada has made progress in the past two decades in terms of lowering high-school dropout rates, those rates remain unacceptably high for boys and certain groups limited by poverty or other factors, according to a study from the C.D. Howe Institute. In School Dropouts: Who Are They and What Can Be Done?, John Richards, the C.D. Howe Institute’s Roger Phillips Scholar in Social Policy, and a professor at Simon Fraser University, warns that the male share of the dropout population continues to rise, with five males now dropping out for every three females. As well, some groups of immigrants, those living in rural areas and Aboriginals also exhibit a worrisome lack of educational achievement compared with the Canadian average.  For the study, click here.


6 Comments on "Education: demographics and trends 2011-2012"

  1. Antal (Tony) Deutsch August 29, 2011 at 8:07 pm ·

    This is topical, but not a new theme. Post-secondary Education has an investment component, and a consumption/entertainment/glorified baby-sitting component. Both have to be paid for by someone. Students, and teachers unions with dues collected dependent on student numbers, usually voice a preference that “someone” be somebody other than the students. To complicate matters, not all the returns to the investment component are pecuniary: President Obama’s years at Columbia and Harvard would not be best measured by his current salary. That, however, is the usual statistical methodology for measuring the social returns to education. The formula is average earnings of BA’s minus the average earnings of high school grads constitute the returns to that first university degree. To complicate matters further, some of those who went on to that BA have abilities which would give them high incomes even without that diploma. (A couple of soft-ware billionaires who dropped out come to mind.) So maybe not all the difference is attributable to formal education!
    But not all the returns are pecuniary! The statistical returns to degrees in Divinity and Ph.D. s in Computer Science are notoriously negative. Should we not have such programmes?
    The world is full of institutions that sell diplomas certifying years spent delivering consumption /entertainment/glorified baby- sitting to yet another crop of graduates. These raise the real issues about the taxpayer-financing of post- secondary education. To complicate matters, there are perfectly respectable universities that end up offering mickey-mouse material as part of their menu. Should taxpayers pay for that the same as for nuclear physics?
    There are many questions, and few answers.

  2. Diana Thébaud Nicholson August 29, 2011 at 8:50 pm ·

    Another of our Wednesday Night professors writes “I think the primary motivator for university should be to enhance one’s learning. Going to university, especially for advanced degrees (except possibly for an MBA) is not to make a lot of money. It is the desire to learn. I also found the arguments in the article contradictory. First the amounts were comparable with inflation taken into account, then later they were claimed not to be – or maybe I read too fast.”

  3. Guy Stanley August 30, 2011 at 10:04 am ·

    Re: Is Going to College Worth It?
    I think the question about a university education bubble may be more directly relevant to élite colleges in the US which can cost $100K a year (fees and expenses) rather than 4 years as noted for BC in the article. Had the Canadian numbers been compared with an alternative investment, such as acquiring significant competence in a skilled trade, the case for undergrad university might be less compelling. But a great deal depends on the student’s ambition: in Canada, a plumber or CEGEP grad with professional certificates can look forward to a good quality house in the burbs with a pool and good schools. A civil engineer can have the same or can advance to senior management of a global engineering firm and winter in Davos or Gstaad. Interestingly, the author suggests companies could end the “bubble” by taking on more training responsibilities. In fact, many global manufacturing companies in advanced technologies have to take over after grad schools–training engineers in particular in interpersonal communications as a precondition for leading project teams. More generally, since the 60s, universities in OECD countries have been gradually moving away from conferring “status” to preparing graduates to be judged on “performance”. In that sense, companies value universities as recruitment screeners, separating the brightest and more ambitious from the rest. Hence one element in the continuing “value” of “élite” schools that attract a global student body. Not counted in this rush away from keeping “humanities” as the core of university experience is the potential loss of generations of leaders with the tools to articulate a wider vision of human progress and the current and emerging obstacles to achieving it.As Tony says, there are more questions than answers.

  4. Guy Stanley October 15, 2012 at 7:50 pm ·

    Re: Why university students need a well-rounded education
    Not sure that being able to “communicate” with colleagues is the best “justification” for a liberal education. I thought it had more to do with human potential and democratic citizenship. Wonder how the Chinese and some others will deal with Pericles, Rousseau and company, or perhaps the course will just present the perspectives of the oligarchs and the Bourbons on the above.

  5. Antal (Tony) Deutsch November 16, 2012 at 1:31 am ·

    Re: You can’t grade students’ behaviour, prof told after introducing ‘civility clause’ to university course
    Docking grades for lack of civility is counterproductive to the purpose of the grading process, which is supposed to measure the student’s competence in the subject. Where professors ask their students to call them by their first names and go out drinking beer with them, they should not be surprised if the students are not deferential in the classroom setting. I found it useful to wear a tie and a jacket to classes I taught, as a matter of respect for the process of teaching and learning. The last wearers of academic gowns retired from McGill maybe forty years ago, and the tweed-jacket and pipe set is also gone. People who teach university classes in T-shirts and blue jeans have only themselves to blame if the students treat them as their peers.
    Many students sit through classes with open laptops. It is convenient to assume that they are taking notes. As long as no noises emanate from the laptop, that strikes me as optimal for all concerned. I never had problems with cell-phones. Sometimes students forgot to turn them off, but they quickly did so, when they rang. The old-old problem with classroom decorum are students chatting with each other in what they believe to be a low voice. Whenever I encountered this, I just stopped speaking, and stood there in silence until everyone else became silent. For me, it worked.

  6. Catalina January 1, 2013 at 11:54 am ·

    Hello! I could have sworn I’ve visited your blog before but after going through many of the articles I realized it’s new to me.
    Anyways, I’m certainly happy I came across it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking
    back often!

Comments are now closed for this article.