Education: demographics and trends 2013 – 2014

Written by  //  September 1, 2014  //  Education  //  4 Comments


education-word-cloud-19119234The Atlantic: The Most Notable Education Stories of 2013
The Atlantic: Vacation Reading — 9 Great Education Articles From 2013
Stories about iPads, high-school dropouts, standardized testing, and more
See Wednesday Night #1614, 6 February 2013
Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings: 2013 Brown Center Report on American Education: How Well Are American Students Learning?

Ken Robinson: How schools kill creativity
Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity. One of the wisest and most entertaining TED talks I have seen
Todd Hirsch–Dear undergrads: Your degree was never intended to land you a job
Dear Applicant: Thank you for your letter inquiring about positions in our economics department. At this time, we have no openings. However, I will keep your letter on file should an appropriate job become available. (published in the Globe & Mail 27 September 2013)
At least, that’s what I am required to tell you. But here’s what I’d really like to say to you – and to every recent economics graduate who sends me the same letter.
(CBC|The National) Education Revolution: Sal Khan’s Big Idea —  How a plan to help family members with homework online turned into an education revolution (video)
The Khan Academy is a non-profit educational website created in 2006 by educator Salman Khan, a graduate of MIT and Harvard Business School. The stated mission is to provide “a free world-class education for anyone anywhere”. Wikipedia
All about MOOCs
Whether you see them as a catalyst for change or mostly as hype, MOOCs are fundamentally different from other forays into open online learning.
And the World’s Most Educated Country Is…
(TIME) Based on a study conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 24/7 Wall St. compiled a list of the 10 countries with the highest proportion of college-educated adult residents. Topping the charts is Canada — the only nation in the world where more than half its residents can proudly hang college degrees up on their walls. In 2010, 51% of the population had completed a tertiary education, which takes into account both undergraduate and graduate degrees. Canada commanded the top spot in the last study in 2000, but even still has shown serious improvement. A decade ago, only 40% of the nation’s population had a college degree. (27 September 2012)
Who Are You and What Are You Doing Here?
(OxfordAmerican,org) If you want to get a real education in America you’re going to have to fight—and I don’t mean just fight against the drugs and the violence and against the slime-based culture that is still going to surround you. I mean something a little more disturbing. To get an education, you’re probably going to have to fight against the institution that you find yourself in—no matter how prestigious it may be. (In fact, the more prestigious the school, the more you’ll probably have to push.) You can get a terrific education in America now—there are astonishing opportunities at almost every college—but the education will not be presented to you wrapped and bowed. To get it, you’ll need to struggle and strive, to be strong, and occasionally even to piss off some admirable people. (wonderful article – long, every word worth reading)  More at the Education Issue August 2011
Everything You’ve Heard About Failing Schools Is Wrong
—By Kristina Rizga
(Mother Jones) Attendance: up. Dropout rates: plummeting. College acceptance: through the roof. My mind-blowing year inside a “low-performing” school. (September/October 2012)
One Size Does Not Fit All
17-year-old Nikhil Goyal offers a groundbreaking prescription for transforming American schools. Drawing from hundreds of interviews with renowned thinkers like Howard Gardner, Seth Godin, Dan Pink, Noam Chomsky, Diane Ravitch, and Frank Bruni, Goyal calls to radically redefine the way the country does schooling. From implementing an anti-disciplinary curriculum to reinventing the teaching profession, his propositions are timely and provocative. Goyal walks us through the tenets of the system, shattering claims dispersed in the education conversation. (published September 2012)
Are playgrounds too safe?
(CBC Radio) In recent years, there’s been a great deal of concern about playground safety. But Harry Harbottle of the German playground manufacturer Richter Spielgerate argues that an excess of concern about minor injuries means many playgrounds are being dumbed down to the point where they no longer offer a challenge to children. And he points out that research shows not allowing children to take risks may have serious consequences for their physical and mental health. (28 November 2012)
University of Waterloo The Graduate Diploma in Social Innovation, a partnership between leading academics at the University of Waterloo, expert practitioners from across the country, and the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, will very intentionally engage professionals from different sectors.
Together they will learn about the concepts and theories that frame ideas related to social innovation and collaborate to apply new ideas to design strategies that address challenges.
Professional learning and process support, expert advisors, and access to some of the world’s leading educators and consultants are just a few of the unique features of this collaboration for social innovation education.


Some good advice as the academic year begins
The most important piece of advice for first year? Talk to your professors
Here’s the deal: University is a big step, it’s transformative, it’s provoking, it’s challenging – we’ve all heard this before. The general conversation on the transition to the first year of university falls nothing short of menacing. We are told that university changes our lives, it makes or breaks us, it changes personalities. Here is a list of nine things not to do in your first year of university to help you ease into this overwhelming experience:
22 August
Learn to code craze spreads to toddlersAlexandra's coding game
(Business in Vancouver) Could your three-year-old learn to code?
The founders of a days-old Vancouver startup think so. Entrepreneurs Nathan Slee and Alexandra Greenhill have started Littlecodr, a card game that teaches kids the basics of software programming.
Players use the cards to lay out a set of instructions (turn right, turn left, stop) another player then has to follow.
The idea sprouted from a conversation Slee and Greenhill had at the recent Grow Conference, a tech gathering in Whistler. Slee, who has young children, asked Greenhill how she had taught her kids how to code.
“My oldest is going into kindergarten and I want to start thinking about it but I’m not a developer myself so I don’t have a good idea of what to do,” Slee said.
“She made this card game where each card has a little instruction … and she’d get her kids to lay them out on the floor and she’d have to act it out.
“She’d follow the steps they’d laid out on the card and she’d bump into furniture or the walls, and she’d have to send them back to redo their code, so to speak, by reordering their cards.”
16 July
Koch High: How The Koch Brothers Are Buying Their Way Into The Minds Of Public School Students
(HuffPost) The official mission of Youth Entrepreneurs is to provide kids with “business and entrepreneurial education and experiences that help them prosper and become contributing members of society.” The underlying goal of the program, however, is to impart Koch’s radical free-market ideology to teenagers. In the last school year, the class reached more than 1,000 students across Kansas and Missouri.
Lesson plans and class materials obtained by The Huffington Post make the course’s message clear: The minimum wage hurts workers and slows economic growth. Low taxes and less regulation allow people to prosper. Public assistance harms the poor. Government, in short, is the enemy of liberty.
Though YE has avoided the public spotlight, the current structure of the program began to take shape in November 2009, documents show, when a team of associates at the Charles G. Koch Foundation launched an important project with Charles Koch’s blessing: They would design and test what they called “a high school free market and liberty-based course” with support from members of the Koch family’s vast nonprofit and political network. A pilot version of the class would be offered the following spring to students at the Wichita Collegiate School, an elite private prep school in Kansas where Koch was a top donor.
30 June
How Finland Keeps Kids Focused Through Free Play
An American teacher in Helsinki questioned the national practice of giving 15 minute breaks each hour—until he saw the difference it made in his classroom.
(The Atlantic) What’s most important is not where kids take breaks but how much freedom we give them from their structured work. When break times are teacher-directed, Pelligrini found, the recess loses its value. It’s free-play that gives students the opportunity to develop social competence. During these times, they not only rest and recharge—they also learn to cooperate, communicate, and compromise, all skills they need to succeed academically as well as in life.
23 May
‘Empathetically Correct’ Is the New Politically Correct
The movement for “trigger warnings” in college classrooms is part of a troubling trend toward protecting people from their own individual sensitivities.
(The Atlantic) While political correctness seeks to cultivate sensitivity outwardly on behalf of those historically marginalized and oppressed groups, empathetic correctness focuses inwardly toward the protection of individual sensitivities. Now, instead of challenging the status quo by demanding texts that question the comfort of the Western canon, students are demanding the status quo by refusing to read texts that challenge their own personal comfort. …
In a column titled “The Limits of Empathy,” David Brooks writes about a 2011 study on empathy.  “The problem,” Brooks reports, “comes when we try to turn feeling into action. Empathy makes you more aware of other people’s suffering, but it’s not clear it actually motivates you to take moral action or prevents you from taking immoral action.” … Brooks explains, “Empathy orients you toward moral action, but it doesn’t seem to help much when that action comes at a personal cost.” More than empathy, Brooks argues, what advances social good is encouraging and empowering people to “debate, understand, reform, revere, and enact” a moral code and a sense of duty. Not coincidentally, such has been the traditional purpose of higher education.
12 May
Frank Bruni: Read, Kids, Read
(NYT Op-ed)  … a new report by Common Sense Media …  showed that 30 years ago, only 8 percent of 13-year-olds and 9 percent of 17-year-olds said that they “hardly ever” or never read for pleasure. Today, 22 percent of 13-year-olds and 27 percent of 17-year-olds say that. Fewer than 20 percent of 17-year-olds now read for pleasure “almost every day.” Back in 1984, 31 percent did. What a marked and depressing change. …
I’m coming at this differently, as someone persuaded that reading does things — to the brain, heart and spirit — that movies, television, video games and the rest of it cannot.
There’s research on this, and it’s cited in a recent article in The Guardian by Dan Hurley, who wrote that after “three years interviewing psychologists and neuroscientists around the world,” he’d concluded that “reading and intelligence have a relationship so close as to be symbiotic.”
4 May
Purpose Learning
A look back from 2100 to the era when Stanford students began declaring missions, not majors.
As Stanford graduates would soon be called upon to lead in a world in which economic, political, social and technological disruptions created some of the largest collective risks that humans had yet faced, the University established Purpose Learning, whereby students declared a mission, not a major. The intent was that students couple their disciplinary pursuit with the purpose that fueled it.
“I’m a biology major” was replaced by “I’m learning human biology to eliminate world hunger.” Or “I’m learning Computer Science and Political Science to rebuild how citizens engage with their governments.”
The goal was to help students select a meaningful course of study while in school, and then scaffold a clear arc for the first 10 – 15 years of their professional lives. It wasn’t about the career trajectory, but the reasons behind it.
Frolic harderExtreme parents, with nothing to fear but fear itself
Today’s generation of parents is arguably the most overprotective in history. Which is odd, given their upbringing. As children, they walked to school alone, rode shotgun without a seat belt and roamed outside for hours on end in happy pursuit of parentless adventure.
These carefree children survived, grew up, and many became parents themselves. Their helicopter tendencies are both ironic and unrecognizable to those who preceded them. Today’s parents accompany their toddlers down playground slides, they fight their kids’ battles at the hockey rink and they fill out their teenagers’ university applications. From play date to prom, they are hell-bent on shielding their children from danger, both real and perceived. The ability to mitigate a child’s exposure to even exceedingly low-probability risks and dangers has become synonymous with any modern notion of good parenting.
The obsession with safety – nudged by fears over lawsuits – has fuelled a staggering amount of policy overreach, particularly in schools, the crucible where parental paranoia and society’s rules collide.
29 April
Why boomers are retiring to college
(PBS Newshour) In 2006, Carle, who founded George Mason University’s program in senior housing administration, coined the term “university-based retirement communities” — or UBRC’s for short — to describe retirement communities that have a formal or informal relationship to a nearby university, and as a result, offer their residents academic benefits that others cannot.
Like the Goldwires, many older Americans are trading the leisure circuit for the college campus in retirement. By moving close to a university, Carle said, seniors are primed to get what studies show they want: “They want active, they want intellectually stimulating, and they want intergenerational retirement environments.”
14 April
Student Loan Borrowers’ Costs To Jump As Education Department Reaps Huge Profit
The U.S. Department of Education is forecast to generate $127 billion in profit over the next decade from lending to college students and their families, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Beginning in the 2015-16 academic year, students and their families are forecast to pay more to borrow from the department than they did prior to last summer’s new student loan law, which set student loan interest rates based on the U.S. government’s costs to borrow. The higher costs for borrowers would arrive at least a year sooner than previously predicted.
The projection, made public Monday by the nonpartisan budget scorekeepers, provides the federal government’s best estimate of how much the government’s student loan program will cost taxpayers. That the program is predicted to generate an average annual profit of about $12 billion through 2024 is likely to fuel calls for the Obama administration and Congress to take additional steps to reduce borrowers’ debt burdens, which the Education Department pegs at an average of more than $26,000.
8 February
Those who can’t, teach
Business schools are better at analysing disruptive innovation than at dealing with it
(The Economist) … it is a rare profession where failure to obey its own rules is practically a condition of entry. Business schools exist to teach the value of management. They impart some basic principles—like setting clear goals and managing risk. They also teach how dangerous the business world has become. The most fashionable phrase today is “disruptive innovation”: professors solemnly warn people that entire industries face powerful new forces and that comfortable incumbents are at the mercy of swift-footed challengers. But when it comes to their own affairs, business schools flout their own rules and ignore their own warnings.
… many of the people who run business schools are approaching the future in the most unbusinesslike manner. The mood at this year’s meeting of deans in Gothenburg, Sweden, was a mixture of gloom and fatalism. They talked about academic inflation, image problems and the threat of MOOCs or massive open online courses (see Free exchange). But they showed little confidence in their own ability to grasp opportunities or combat threats.
The deans have few levers at their disposal to reorganise their schools or cut costs: more than 80% of their bills go on academic salaries. They also have few incentives to pull what levers they have: almost all of them are former academics who are appointed for a maximum of five years. Michael Porter of HBS once warned that the most dangerous place for a business is to be stuck in the middle without an obvious advantage of cost or quality. Over the next few years a striking number of business schools are going to discover just how right he was.
Margaret Wente: Amy Chua’s dangerous ideas
Ms. Chua’s book broaches a still-taboo subject: the fact that some ethno-cultural groups in North America starkly outperform others on measures of academic success and income. Why? The authors believe their success is rooted in three traits: a group superiority complex (“We are the chosen people”), individual insecurity (“I can never be good enough”), and impulse control (“so I’ll have to work like hell if I don’t want to be a complete failure”). The Chinese and the Jews have these traits in spades. So do Mormons, Nigerians, Lebanese, Iranians, Koreans, Cubans, and Indian South Asian groups.
The authors argue that it’s this constellation of traits – not socio-economic status, inherited privilege, or IQ – that matter most. For those who have them, upward mobility is alive and well. For those who don’t – well, too bad.
18 January
The effect of today’s technology on tomorrow’s jobs will be immense—and no country is ready for it
(The Economist) If this analysis is halfway correct, the social effects will be huge. Many of the jobs most at risk are lower down the ladder (logistics, haulage), whereas the skills that are least vulnerable to automation (creativity, managerial expertise) tend to be higher up, so median wages are likely to remain stagnant for some time and income gaps are likely to widen.
Anger about rising inequality is bound to grow, but politicians will find it hard to address the problem. Shunning progress would be as futile now as the Luddites’ protests against mechanised looms were in the 1810s, because any country that tried to stop would be left behind by competitors eager to embrace new technology. The freedom to raise taxes on the rich to punitive levels will be similarly constrained by the mobility of capital and highly skilled labour.
The main way in which governments can help their people through this dislocation is through education systems. One of the reasons for the improvement in workers’ fortunes in the latter part of the Industrial Revolution was because schools were built to educate them—a dramatic change at the time. Now those schools themselves need to be changed, to foster the creativity that humans will need to set them apart from computers. There should be less rote-learning and more critical thinking. Technology itself will help, whether through MOOCs (massive open online courses) or even video games that simulate the skills needed for work.
The definition of “a state education” may also change. Far more money should be spent on pre-schooling, since the cognitive abilities and social skills that children learn in their first few years define much of their future potential. And adults will need continuous education. State education may well involve a year of study to be taken later in life, perhaps in stages.
Yet however well people are taught, their abilities will remain unequal, and in a world which is increasingly polarised economically, many will find their job prospects dimmed and wages squeezed. The best way of helping them is not, as many on the left seem to think, to push up minimum wages. Jacking up the floor too far would accelerate the shift from human workers to computers. Better to top up low wages with public money so that anyone who works has a reasonable income, through a bold expansion of the tax credits that countries such as America and Britain use.
10 January
Montreal Diary: Learning code a key ability for kids
Kids Code Jeunesse teaches computer skills
(Montreal Gazette) Gersande La Flèche taught herself to code when she was 12 years old.
Now 23, she’s teaching children as young as 7 to program computers and create their own websites and games, empowering them with digital literacy she says will become increasingly indispensable for anyone entering the workforce.
In 2012, La Flèche, a computer-science and creative-writing student at Concordia, and Kate Arthur, who runs an IT company, founded Kids Code Jeunesse, a bilingual and national non-profit organization whose goal is to get elementary-school students to learn to code in classrooms across the country. They’ve started with three Montreal schools.
“There’s this huge gap that our kids are missing and we need to do something about it,” Arthur said, referring to Canada falling behind to countries like Estonia and England that have already implemented computer-science programs in their elementary schools.
9 January
Children in Singapore excel at math because parents care
(Globe & Mail) Singapore is an island nation of approximately the size and population of the GTA. It is a thriving and successful country despite having no natural resources other than its population. All children are required to write examinations at the end of grade 6 and their results have a significant impact on which secondary schools they can and cannot attend and the opportunities that are open to them. There is a lot of parental pressure on the students to do well and they study for these exams for months. No one worries about equality or the fact that poor children have fewer opportunities, it is believed that if they do well on the exam they have the same chances as anyone else.
If a child is not doing well in math it is not assumed to be a problem of the teacher, the school or the curriculum; rather, it is assumed to be a problem for the student and his or her parents to resolve. They may do this by hiring a tutor – tutoring is a huge business in Singapore with many teachers tutoring for a living rather than teaching in a school.
Alternatively, they may go to a local bookstore and buy a couple of books of extra practice questions from the thousands available covering all subjects and grade levels and then sit with their child to ensure that they actually do all the practice problems.
The result of this kind of behaviour is clear every time there is an international comparison of educational performance in mathematics and Singapore scores close to the top. Funnily enough, they also worry if they slip a position or two in the rankings! After spending many hours observing in Singaporean classrooms I can tell you that the performance of their students is not a result of teaching methods, curriculum or school facilities. It is a result of cultural norms and societal expectations. Trying to make subtle changes in the way we teach math or give teachers a couple of workshops is unlikely to make our Canadian children perform as well as they do in Singapore.
We need to ask ourselves whether the results on international comparisons are sufficiently important to us as a society to make us willing to behave like Singaporeans.
6 January
Why Canadian and U.S. education systems are so different
For Canadian journalists on education, the United States is a gift for all seasons. Student advocates point to astronomical debt levels among American students to warn against raising postsecondary tuition. Detractors of all-day kindergarten cite studies questioning the benefits of early learning. And both advocates and detractors of online learning treat U.S.-based MOOCs as if they were about to invade distance learning here.
3 January
Critics complain of qualification inflation as more Canadians hold university degrees — and low-paying jobs
Fifty-one per cent of Canadian adults achieved “tertiary qualification” — the highest among OECD countries. At the same time, in this ever-expanding pool of degree-holders, Canada also tops OECD rankings for the largest share of these graduates making less than the national median income.
We are number one when it comes to university and college enrolments, but we are also number one in the number of people with university degrees that live in poverty,” said Benjamin Tal, deputy chief economist with CIBC World Markets. …
Faced with [the] swelling ranks of overeducated baristas and telemarketers, employers apparently started getting picky. Two years ago, the job site surveyed 415 private-sector hiring managers and discovered that 36% of them had begun hiring university graduates for jobs that once required merely a high school degree.
The overall effect has been to erode the employment and earning potential of a university degree, a document once seen as a surefire ticket to the middle class.


26 December
‘We Are Creating Walmarts of Higher Education’
As colleges feel pressure to graduate more students for less money, professors worry that the value of an education may be diminished.
(The Atlantic) Universities in South Dakota, Nebraska, and other states have cut the number of credits students need to graduate. A proposal in Florida would let online courses forgo the usual higher-education accreditation process. A California legislator introduced a measure that would have substituted online courses for some of the brick-and-mortar kind at public universities.
Some campuses of the University of North Carolina system are mulling getting rid of history, political science, and various others of more than 20 “low productive” programs. The University of Southern Maine may drop physics. And governors in Florida, North Carolina and Wisconsin have questioned whether taxpayers should continue subsidizing public universities for teaching the humanities.
Under pressure to turn out more students, more quickly and for less money, and to tie graduates’ skills to workforce needs, higher-education institutions and policy makers have been busy reducing the number of required credits, giving credit for life experience, and cutting some courses, while putting others online.
16 December
US educators: Engage China, but defend freedom
(CSM) While some US universities with Chinese partnerships have spoken out in the wake of ill-treatment of Chinese academics, too many have been silent. Foreign universities underestimate their leverage in supporting academic freedom in China even as they hurt their own reputations.
… many Chinese universities proclaim the principles of liberal education and academic freedom, as advocated by China’s revolutionary movement of nearly a century ago. Yet these same schools remain under the influence of internal party committees, making them focal points of conflict and agents of indoctrination.
Collaborations with foreign institutions are one way Chinese universities have of remedying these liabilities, raising their profile, and polishing their image. As Xia told The Wall Street Journal recently, they seek the prestigious affiliations and “need famous foreign brand names to protect their very vulnerable capabilities for research and teaching.”
This search for greater legitimacy gives international educators opportunities to stand their ground, even as they collaborate. And advocates of greater academic freedom within China are looking for moral support from their foreign partner schools.
9 December
A turning point for teaching
(McGill News Fall/Winter 2013) Today, McGill has more than 50 classrooms equipped with a Lecture Recording System (LRS) that can record lectures and post them online. The recordings allow students in about 350 different courses to review the course material at their own pace – possibly without attending class at all.
Other recent innovations include “clickers” that allow students to respond en masse to questions posed by professors – enabling a teacher to assess on the fly how well students are comprehending the material being presented – and “flipped classrooms,” in which students listen to recorded lectures beforehand, so that class time can be freed up for more intellectually stimulating exchanges.
But what impact might these changes have on the qualities that define a good teacher? After all, one respected model of an effective learning environment hasn’t altered since Socrates gathered together some bright Athenian youth at the agora: a teacher, some students,and lively discussion. …
“We are excited about the possibility of learning from the MOOC experience things we can transfer to the campus environment,” stresses Laura Winer, the associate director of Teaching and Learning Services at McGill. Winer heads the team that is managing McGill’s initial MOOC offerings. Each course will run for about 13 weeks, like most regular McGill classes. All McGill MOOCs are expected to meet the same academic standards as regular McGill courses.
January will see McGill launch its first MOOC, “Food for Thought,” a course examining the science of what we eat, taught by Harpp and his Office for Science and Society colleagues Ariel Fenster, PhD’73, and Joe Schwarcz, BSc’69, PhD’74 …
Two more MOOCs will follow later in spring 2014, with “Rebalancing Society,” taught by Henry Mintzberg, BEng’61, and Leslie Breitner from the Desautels Faculty of Management, and “Natural Disasters,” taught by earth and planetary sciences professor John Stix and atmospheric and oceanic sciences professor John Gyakum. Another MOOC or two are planned for the fall of 2014.
The End of the College Essay
(Slate) I’d be happy if a plurality of American college students could discern even the skeletal plot of anything they were assigned. With more exams and no papers, they’ll at least have a shot at retaining, just for a short while, the basic facts of some of the greatest stories ever recorded. In that short while, they may even develop the tiniest inkling of what Martha Nussbaum calls “sympathetic imagination”—the cultivation of our own humanity, and something that unfolds when we’re touched by stories of people who are very much unlike us. And that, frankly, is more than any essay will ever do for them.
12 December
Youth Fusion unlocks doors for at-risk students
Organization fights the dropout rate by teaching high-schoolers what they want to learn
(Montreal Gazette) You might not expect the launch of an after-school program in fashion design to draw a who’s who of Montreal VIPs, from bank presidents and titans of industry to university rectors and school board presidents, to world-renowned astronaut Julie Payette.But this launch was just the latest offensive in Youth Fusion’s ongoing battle to reduce Quebec’s abysmal dropout rate by teaching high school students what they want to learn — by all measures, one of few success stories in a sea of bad news.
Celebrating its fifth anniversary on Wednesday, the organization, the brainchild of [Sauvé Scholars Program alumnus] Gabriel Bran Lopez, develops innovative partnerships between schools with high dropout rates and universities and private companies.
6 December
The problem with public policy schools
(WaPost) … are policy schools making a dent in Ellwood’s long and varied list of problems? The Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration already lists some 285 such institutions in the United States, and new ones are opening up — but the field as a whole seems to be having an identity crisis. The schools’ curricula and missions have become at once too broad and too academic, too focused on national and global issues at the expense of local and state-level ones. It’s not clear that the schools are preparing their graduates to fix all that needs fixing.
Quebec might hold the formula to better nationwide math scores
(Globe & Mail) What makes Quebec the nation’s star math pupil? … researchers have started focusing on Quebec’s intensive teacher training and curriculum, which balances traditional math drills with problem-solving approaches. Montreal’s McGill University is taking part in a study on math teaching across Canada, and early findings suggest Quebec’s four-year math-teacher course may be a model to emulate.
In Quebec, grade-school math teachers must take as many as 225 hours of university courses in math education; in some Canadian jurisdictions, the number can be as low as 39, Prof. Savard says. Quebec is also known to give math teachers at all levels a high degree of specialization. Some go through an entire 45-hour university course to learn to teach geometry to children in elementary school. High-school training is even more rigorous.
5 December
Have you ever heard of a “flipped classroom”?
It’s a model where students watch lectures at home at their own speed, then do their homework in class with the teacher. And it seems to be working.

How one school turned homework on its head with ‘flipped’ instruction
In 2010, with more than half of the school’s ninth graders failing math, science and English, principal Greg Green decided to adopt the flipped approach, a blended learning model that also relies heavily on outside videos like the popular Khan Academy and Ted Talks.
Clintondale ranked among the worst 5 percent of all schools in the state of Michigan prior to the flip. But since then, the principal says failure rates for students have declined from 52 percent to 19 percent, and standardized test scores have risen steadily.
3 December
Canada’s falling math rankings renews push for national standards
The failure of a growing proportion of Canadian students to understand even the most basic math concepts is strengthening the push from some educators to adopt national standards, improve teacher training and return to teaching basic equations.
Results from the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) reveal that almost all provinces have seen large increases over the last decade in the percentage of 15-year-old students failing the math test.
PISA Results: Canada Students High-Level Achievers But Math, Science Scores Dip
While Canada was among the high-level achievers, performance of the country’s 15-year-olds in math has declined, with a 14-point dip in the past nine years. While performance in reading has remained relatively stable, the decline in science performance was “statistically significant,” dipping from an average of 534 in 2006 and 529 in 2009. (CBC) Problem solving 2.0 — Programs that focus on traditional teaching of math are outperforming those trying new methods
Quebec adds, Canada subtracts on its math scores
Quebec schools, when compared with those in the rest of Canada, use more memorization and rote-learning, which has fallen out of fashion in other provinces, such as Ontario. There, the curriculum is more heavily tilted towards “discovery math,” in which students use their own learning styles to explore mathematics. Quebec has largely ignored the fad. The results suggest that was a wise decision.
[See Tom Loveless: PISA’s China Problem
China does not take the PISA test. A dozen or so provinces in China take the PISA, along with two special administrative regions (Hong Kong and Macao). But journalists and pundits will focus on the results from one province, Shanghai, and those test scores will be depicted, in much of the public discussion that follows, as the results for China. That is wrong.]
18 November
Quebec student associations struggle to sever ties with Canadian federation
(Montreal Gazette) All of CFS’s Quebec members have either petitioned to leave the organization or are involved in lawsuits to try to get out.
The Concordia Student Union alone is involved in a court case to fight the CFS’s assertion that the CSU owes $1.8 million in dues before it can even begin the process of petitioning to disaffiliate from the CFS.
“You can’t leave this organization without going to court,” said Lex Gill, former president of the CSU when the conflict with the CFS started. “It is stunning how much student money on both sides has been spent fighting this.”
Over time, local student groups have come to question CFS’s transparency, accountability and activities, and have tried to opt out — to no avail.
15 November
Lectures Didn’t Work in 1350—and They Still Don’t Work Today
A conversation with David Thornburg about designing a better classroom
(The Atlantic) In his latest book, From the Campfire to the Holodeck: Creating Engaging and Powerful 21st Century Learning Environments, Thornburg outlines four learning models: the traditional “campfire,” or lecture-based design; the “watering hole,” or social learning; the “cave,” a place to quietly reflect; and “life”—where ideas are tested.
13 November
After-School Activities Make Educational Inequality Even Worse
How middle-class parents use soccer, ballet, and chess to solidify their children’s advantage over others
(The Atlantic) While we talk a lot about inequalities between the rich and the poor, and the role school quality plays in perpetuating class divisions, one often overlooked factor is the opportunities middle- and upper-middle-class kids get to strengthen their life skills through organized competitive activities outside of the school system.
12 November
Andrew Delbanco: The Humanities Crisis
(Project Syndicate) A striking symmetry is emerging in debates about the future of higher education around the world. On the one hand, there is growing concern that the United States and many European countries are failing to prepare enough university graduates in the fields driving the twenty-first century “knowledge economy,” such as engineering and information technology. This fear has led to the narrowing of the concept of education to mean the acquisition of practical skills.
On the other hand, the worry in some parts of Asia is that young people entering the work force with strong technical training lack sufficient experience “thinking outside the box.” This fear is manifesting itself in an incipient effort to expand education to include the cultivation of feeling and imagination.
A disappointing interview from the Atlantic about a book of major interest: ‘I Don’t Know Anything’: Why M. Night Shyamalan Wrote a Book on Education
[From Amazon: I Got Schooled offers a look at America’s educational achievement gap that could only have come from an outsider.
Famed director M. Night Shyamalan has long had a serious interest in education. The founda­tion he and his wife started once gave college scholarships to promising inner-city students, but Shyamalan realized that these scholarships did nothing to improve education for all the other students in under-performing schools. When he learned that some schools were succeeding with similar student populations, he traveled across the country to find out how they did this and whether these schools had something in common. He eventually learned that there are five keys to closing America’s achievement gap. … These five keys are used by all the schools that are succeeding, and no schools are succeeding without them. Before he discovered them, Shyamalan investigated some popular reform ideas that proved to be dead ends, such as smaller class size, truculent unions, and merit pay for teachers. He found that the biggest obstacle to school reform is cognitive biases: too many would-be reformers have committed themselves to false solutions.]
11 November
Institute for New Economic Thinking Launches Project to Reform Undergraduate Syllabus
The CORE curriculum will equip students to understand how the economy has evolved and how it works by bringing advances in economics research over the past three decades, lessons from economic history, and the comparative experience of different countries into the curriculum.
In response to widespread discontent among students, employers, and university teachers, a project to create a new core curriculum for economics was launched at a seminar hosted by HM Treasury today… [and] was attended by academics, policymakers, business leaders, and students from around the world.
CORE stands for “Curriculum Open-access Resources in Economics”. The project provides a new approach to the design, content and way of teaching the core economics curriculum for undergraduates.
They Loved Your G.P.A. Then They Saw Your Tweets.
(NYT) As certain high school seniors work meticulously this month to finish their early applications to colleges, some may not realize that comments they casually make online could negatively affect their prospects. In fact, new research from Kaplan Test Prep, the service owned by the Washington Post Company, suggests that online scrutiny of college hopefuls is growing.
Of 381 college admissions officers who answered a Kaplan telephone questionnaire this year, 31 percent said they had visited an applicant’s Facebook or other personal social media page to learn more about them — a five-percentage-point increase from last year. More crucially for those trying to get into college, 30 percent of the admissions officers said they had discovered information online that had negatively affected an applicant’s prospects.
10 November
Inspiration or danger? Private schools in Pakistan ban Malala Yousafzai’s book
(The Independent) The All Pakistan Private Schools Federation, which says it represents more than 152,000 institutions across the country, has decided that allowing pupils to read the book, I am Malala, would have a “negative” effect on them. The federation also said it believed the book was not entirely respectful of Islam.
The book will not be included in the schools’ curriculum, nor will it be stocked in school libraries. Pakistan’s most elite schools belong to the federation. The government does not plan to teach it in state schools, though it is not banned.
7 November
Derek Bok: Higher Education Misconceived
(Project Syndicate) Apart from finding a first job, college graduates seem to adapt more easily than those with only a high school degree as the economy evolves and labor-market needs change. They also tend to vote at higher rates, engage in more civic activities, commit fewer crimes, educate their children better, and get sick less frequently by adopting healthier lifestyles.
Researchers estimate that these additional benefits are worth even more than the added lifetime income from a college degree. If policymakers overlook them, they run the risk of encouraging quicker, cheaper forms of education that will do far less to serve either students or society.
Report From Rural Maine: What It Takes to Make a School
(The Atlantic) Shead High School, home of the Tigers, sits on a hill in Eastport, Maine, just a short walk from everything else in town. I went to visit, curious about what a small public school in very rural, maritime Maine, with a total of 110 students, would be like.
4 November
Everything on the table in N.W.T. ‘education renewal’
(CBC) Education Minister Jackson Lafferty released a flood of documents in the legislature last week to introduce its “education renewal and innovation framework,” which is expected to lead to massive changes in the way students learn in the Northwest Territories.
Students and elders from across the territory helped draft the framework. It outlines nine commitments department officials say they plan to make over the next ten years. The department says to be successful, communities and school life need to be combined. And it says it must continue to work closely with Aboriginal governments.
2 November
A job for new graduates: fix Canada’s education gaps
(Globe & Mail) Only 40 per cent of First Nations students living on reserves graduate from high school. They score far below other students on standardized tests. And their numbers are about to explode.
So it might seem counterintuitive to send teachers with zero experience – or even a teaching degree – to help boost their educational prospects.
But Kyle Hill, one of the co-founders of a new organization called Teach For Canada, thinks idealistic young grads are just the leaders these students need. And he’s trying to sell them on two-year placements in remote communities.
If his project sounds familiar, it’s because it borrows heavily from Teach For America, which was founded in 1989 and has sent almost 30,000 college graduates and professionals to teach inner-city kids.
In Canada, the problem is most severe outside of cities. Unemployment rates for teachers in urban centres may be high, but native and rural communities struggle to attract and retain new grads, as a recent report from TD Economics points out.
30 October
As Interest Fades in the Humanities, Colleges Worry
(NYT) On Stanford University’s sprawling campus, where a long palm-lined drive leads to manicured quads, humanities professors produce highly regarded scholarship on Renaissance French literature and the philosophy of language.
They have generous compensation, stunning surroundings and access to the latest technology and techniques of scholarship. The only thing they lack is students … with the recession having helped turn college, in the popular view, into largely a tool for job preparation, administrators are concerned. …
The future of the humanities has been a hot topic this year, both in academia and the high-culture media. Some commentators sounded the alarm based on federal data showing that nationally, the percentage of humanities majors hovers around 7 percent — half the 14 percent share in 1970. As others quickly pointed out, that decline occurred between 1970, the high point, and 1985, not in recent years.
11 October
Was Malala snubbed for Nobel Peace Prize? Six experts weigh in
The selection of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize surprised many observers who had expected the award to be won by Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani education activist who survived a Taliban assassination attempt and later addressed the United Nations …
Tilman Bruck, director of the Stockholm International Peace Institute, … said he was relieved that front-runner Malala Yousafzai hadn’t been handed the “burden” of the Nobel Peace Prize, at least not this year while she was still technically a child.
“I just wonder if it’s fair to impose the prize on a minor. While of course the prize is a great honour to anyone, it’s a great burden as well… I would be happy to see her receive it in two years, when she’s an adult and can perhaps manage that burden with more resilience and independence.”
10 October
Grade inflation and the cult of self-esteem
By David Moscrop, PhD candidate in the department of political science at the University of British Columbia
(Ottawa Citizen) While Canada has seen a rise in university attendance, and consequently more undergraduate and postgraduate finishers, there is little evidence that these increases are leading to smarter scholars, citizens, business persons, widget counters, or whatever (though some desirable effects of post-secondary education are notable, including increased tolerance of social, political, cultural, and ethnic diversity).
Lowering standards in order to accommodate social expectations and competition emerging from increased enrolment is an insidious and dangerous practice. As these expectations are met with structural accommodations, they multiply and become entrenched.
Malala Yousafzai continues her campaign for education, women’s rights
Malala Yousafzai, who was shot a year ago today in Pakistan by the Taliban, is steadfastly campaigning for girls’ education and women’s rights even as the Taliban issues a fresh threat. “I stand for every girl to be able to go to school,” Yousafzai says. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (10/8), CNN (10/9), The Washington Post (tiered subscription model) (10/8), The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (10/9)
1 October
University is not about the subject, but about education
By James M. Skidmore, associate professor of German Studies at the University of Waterloo
If we want to re-establish the true worth of our universities, we don’t need teaching professors, we need educating professors – scholars who are dedicated to educating a generation able and willing to transform our society for the better.
Students who have been well taught but not well educated won’t have the capacity to meet future challenges; having been taught about the discipline, they haven’t been given the means to incorporate their knowledge into a bigger picture. Educating, as opposed to teaching, takes a longer view. And that’s why universities need to emphasize educating our students for the long term, not teaching them for the short term.
9 September
Opening the Door for Low-Income Students to Overcome ‘Aristocracy’ of Higher Ed

For kids who grew up poor or without higher education role models, the idea of attending one of the best colleges in the country isn’t just a dream — the goal may not have ever occurred to them. Jeffrey Brown looks in on a program that gives select high school seniors the guidance and tools to dream big.
The class is part of an intensive boot camp for 60 high school students from around the country from inner cities and rural areas, students who never imagined they could attend or afford an Ivy League school.The program is called the Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America, LEDA for short. It provides academic tutoring and help with the admissions process for students about to enter their senior year of high school, as well as follow-up counseling through four years of college.
Costs run about $23,000 per student, and are paid with private donations. Princeton provides both money and the facilities. LEDA has ambitious goals, to narrow a socioeconomic gap that’s been widening at the nation’s top colleges.
8 September
Harvard Business School Case Study: Gender Equity – fascinating experiment in social engineering at HBS
(NYT) When the members of the Harvard Business School class of 2013 gathered in May to celebrate the end of their studies, there was little visible evidence of the experiment they had undergone for the last two years. As they stood amid the brick buildings named after businessmen from Morgan to Bloomberg, black-and-crimson caps and gowns united the 905 graduates into one genderless mass.
But during that week’s festivities, the Class Day speaker, a standout female student, alluded to “the frustrations of a group of people who feel ignored.” Others grumbled that another speechmaker, a former chief executive of a company in steep decline, was invited only because she was a woman. At a reception, a male student in tennis whites blurted out, as his friends laughed, that much of what had occurred at the school had “been a painful experience.”
4 September
Education Chief: Maybe Start School Later In Day
(HuffPost) A later start to the school day could help teenagers get the most from their classroom time and local districts should consider delaying the first bell, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Wednesday.
“There’s lots of research and common sense that lots of teens struggle to get up … to get on the bus,” said Duncan, the former chief of Chicago Public Schools.
The main reason?
“Teen brains have a different biology,” said Kyla Wahlstrom, director at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Applied Research and Education Improvement.
3 September
Nicholas Kristof on Facebook: The anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech generated lots of discussion about race, inequality and progress, and that’s all good. But I’ve been disappointed that more of the discussion hasn’t focused on structural inequities — such as unequal schools. It sure seems to me that the civil rights issue of the 21st century is access to good education. The blunt truth is that as long as suburban white kids go to good schools, and inner city black kids go to failing schools, the dream of equality will remain a dream.
Granted, it’s not just about race, or just about schools. Plenty of working class white kids get a lousy education, too, while upper middle class black kids get a good one. What used to be a racial divide also has become a class divide. That makes it no less important to address it.
I’ve also been persuaded by the evidence that the single most important intervention comes before first grade — getting kids ready for school. The awkward truth is that upper middle class families (of any race) invest in all kinds of enrichment programs for their children and low socio-economic status families (of any race) talk to their kids less, read to their kids less and have fewer enrichment activities. Partly that’s because of a lack of money and the greater likelihood of being an over-stressed single parent. But it’s also because that’s just the cultural expectation in some communities of how kids should be raised–and that can be changed. (Reducing teen pregnancies would also help, because it’s pretty hard to be a great 16-year-old mom.)
Some home visitation programs like Nurse Family Partnership have shown remarkable results by sending nurses to low-income at-risk families with infants to encourage breastfeeding, talking to children, and so on. The program ends when the infant is 2, but astonishingly those kids are less likely to drop out from school as teenagers. Early investments really do pay off. Likewise, a program called Reach Out and Read uses doctors to encourage moms and dads to read to their kids (and hands out free children’s books), and it seems to have a real impact on whether small children are exposed to books. The evidence base for these kinds of interventions is very, very strong.
Early childhood education programs are also hugely important, and I’m a really strong believer in President Obama’s call for universal pre-K. The problem is that it has almost no chance of passage. But some states and localities (Oklahoma, Utah, San Antonio) have taken the lead on this, and I hope other states are watching their success and will emulate it.
The basic problem now is that disadvantaged kids in the wrong zip code start behind and never catch up. Education at every level is the best escalator out of poverty, but it’s broken for those kids. If we want to create greater opportunity and equality, we have to start by repairing that escalator — starting with young children, before they get behind.
2 September
Seven characteristics of great education systems
In her recent book The Smartest Kids in the World, the American journalist Amanda Ripley delves into the highly reputed education systems in countries such as Finland, South Korea and Poland, and surveys the latest literature on why kids learn or don’t. The book contains many fascinating revelations and a number of prescriptions that can be boiled down to seven key lessons for educators, parents and students.
Mathematics is vital.
Teachers should be highly prized.
Classroom technology is a waste of money.
School should be about school.
Extra help is widely available.
Critical thinking is emphasized.
No system is perfect. …
30 August
No paper, no light, no money – but Dark Ages were best for studentsAs might be expected, the article has generated a wide range of comments – interestingly, a fairly even split between favorable and unfavorable.
Whereas today the word “student” is used to designate one’s intention to become qualified for mass labour, the title was once respected for its inherent worth, signaling, as it did, the path to enlightenment-through-knowledge. Graduates of university didn’t blend into the crowd, they stood apart from it. Their knowledge was considered a treasure, not a commodity.
(Globe & Mail) The Dark Ages may have led to the Enlightenment, but now the most enlightened thing we can do is return to our gloomy past. As an entry point for the middle class, our institutions of luminous knowledge have lost their efficacy.
This is an economic consequence of oversupplying the market with similarly educated labour. Too many graduates have the same qualifications, resulting in a loss of competitive edge in the workplace.
8 August
An Extra Hour of TV Beyond Recommendations Diminishes Toddlers’ Kindergarten Chances
Every hourly increase in daily television watching at 29 months of age is associated with diminished vocabulary and math skills, classroom engagement (which is largely determined by attention skills), victimization by classmates, and physical prowess at kindergarten, according to Professor Linda Pagani of the University of Montreal and the CHU Sainte-Justine children’s hospital. “This is the first time ever that a stringently controlled associational birth cohort study has looked at and found a relationship between too much toddler screen time and kindergarten risks…
5 August
Konrad Yakabuski: Students are cool with MOOCs, so why aren’t profs?
(Globe & Mail) … the stories of MOOC successes – of Pakistani twentysomethings logging on for an MIT economics class 11,000 kilometres away – underscore the potential. For a generation raised online, it seems only natural that their post-secondary education should go partly digital, too.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t a downside for some professors. MOOC critic Jonathan Rees, a University of Colorado history professor, predicts that the teaching profession could be divided in the future between a small number of star professors earning hefty MOOC royalties and an army of lower-paid teaching assistants without job security who will do the grunt work.
“From an administrative point of view, the beauty of MOOCs is that they provide an easy opportunity to drastically cut labour costs by firing existing faculty members or simply hiring poorly trained ones – whom they won’t have to pay well – to help administer the class,” Prof. Rees wrote in a recent Slate article. “Why should I hire a new PhD when I can get the best professors in the world piped into my university’s classrooms?”
17 July
Teachers: A Solution to Education Reform in India
Teachers can lead improvement in education; we need to help them develop the mindset, skills, and networks they need to create change.
By Sharath Jeevan & [Sauvé Scholar alumnus] James Townsend
It’s extremely easy to feel gloomy about teachers in India. We know that the single biggest in-school factor contributing to a child’s educational success is the quality of her teacher, and yet, across India, around 25 percent of teachers are absent every day. You’ll often find those who do show up reading the newspaper or chatting in the staff room rather than teaching—let alone teaching high-quality lessons. But this data presents only a partial view of teachers across the country. After speaking to more than 3,000 teachers working in schools serving low-income communities across Delhi last summer, we strongly believe that teachers can be part of the solution, rather than a barrier, to education reform.
Studies by the Poverty Action Lab and others help us understand effective mechanisms and incentives for improving teacher accountability, but how do we encourage teachers to want to teach well? How do we motivate and support teachers so that they become quality-conscious and see themselves as responsible for improving the system? These are the questions we are trying to answer at Schools and Teachers Innovating for Results (STIR). And although changes to school governance structures (such as those suggested in Susannah Hares’ recent “Education in India: Time for a Bold New Experiment” post) are critical, an important first step towards higher-quality education is to make teachers desire change in the first place.
12 July
A trend that we would endorse everywhere – wonderful initiative by former Sauvé Scholar Ed Vainker, headteacher at the Reach academy in Feltham, west London
School dinners: pupils given a taste of quality
Chips, over-boiled vegetables and packed lunches are banned from the Reach Academy free school, where the head eats with the pupils
(The Guardian) In their place are Moroccan lamb tagines and roasted vegetables, Thai curries and salade niçoise, with strawberry trifle or watermelon for dessert. And all for £2 a day. The school has also taken the unusual step of stopping parents from sending packed lunches to school. … Even on a warm summer’s day, with the playground beckoning, the reception class children cheerfully chatted about dinosaurs and the state of Iraq while eating jelly for dessert before tidying up and waiting to be let out. The fact that they were in no rush to leave the table suggests they enjoy it.
Malala Yousafzai urges world leaders to get all children in school by 2015
Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai presented a petition to the United Nations today, calling for the UN and other world leaders to help all children to be in school by December 2015. “Let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons,” she said. Reuters (7/12), The Guardian (London) (7/12), The Huffington Post/The Blog (7/11), (7/12)
Millions of children go without education, UNESCO report says
About 57 million children worldwide aren’t enrolled in primary school, says a report from UNESCO and Save the Children. Children living in conflict zones and ages 6 to 15 make up 48.5 million children of that total. In Syria, “girls and boys face a disruption of their learning process at a critical time — and the risk of a lifetime of disadvantage as a result,” says UNESCO’s Pauline Rose. The Guardian (London)(7/11)
25 June
Cursive is dying, kids can’t sign their own names – and that’s a huge problem
There’s now less of a focus on teaching children how to cursive write in schools, and while you might think, “So what? I learned how to cursive write and I don’t do it on a regular basis,” there are some stunning drawbacks to this.
Signatures are our identifier. They are the passwords that unlock our banks, that sign our bills, that prove that we are who we say we are. And they require a basic, working knowledge of cursive writing. Those intricate loops and delicate swirls are pieces of a key we all need to open vaults we have chosen to store important things in.
An article in the Toronto Star highlights this growing issue: Children who aren’t learning how to cursive write are unable to form their personal signature. See also Andrew Coyne: Losing longhand breaks link to the past
“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate…”
(RCI) Both employers and educators are beginning to wonder if young people, so familiar with electronic communication, are now losing the ability to actually communicate effectively in person in face to face social situations with others? … many school systems have eliminated programmes that do not make school “fun” and/or which don’t appear to have an immediate practical purpose. Many courses on the English language have disappeared from school curricula along with public speaking, and even cursive writing, now classified as outmoded and unnecessary by some, is on the way out in schools.
23 June
Forest schools connect children to the environment
Canada Forest Schools

Carp Ridge Forest Preschoolers sometimes grow their own food.
© Marlene Power

New kinds of schools are starting up in Canada that are based in the environment and favour child-directed learning. The so-called forest schools are based on a model of education that started in the 1950s in Denmark that has become popular in several European countries.
Children spend most of the day outdoors in natural settings. They might explore forests, creeks, meadows and ponds. There is emphasis on exploring local habitats, connecting to indigenous cultures, and issues like sustainability and conservation. They might snowshoe, birdwatch, track animals, compost, build fires and shelters, and grow and cook their own food.
15+ forest schools in Canada
There are currently at least 15 such schools in Canada, mostly private. A new body called Forest School Canada has been set up to promote this kind of education in the early, primary, and secondary years. The hope is to work with provincial governments which have control over education to have the school recognized and thus, be eligible for funding.
4 June
Elizabeth Warren Calls for Grassroots Movement on Student Loan Debt
(Mother Jones) Over the past decade, student loan debt has nearly quadrupled, and now stands close to $1 trillion. On July 1, rates for federal need-based student loans are set to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. The deadline has lawmakers scrambling for a fix. There are a bunch of proposals out there, including Warren’s call for students to be allowed to pay the low, low rate that big banks pay the Federal Reserve for their short-term borrowing; a plan President Barack Obama laid out in his budget in April; and the GOP plan that recently passed the House, which Warren and Obama hate.
The GOP bill would allow interest rates on student loans to rise or fall from year to year with the government’s cost of borrowing, ending the current system under which rates are fixed by law. … Warren says the plan would turn students into “a profit center”: “Already the government is scheduled to make $51 billion in profits in loans it makes next year. That’s 36 cents in profit for every dollar they lend out. And the House bill would make even more money off students” .
9 May
How do Finnish kids excel without rote learning and standardized testing?
(Globe & Mail) … if innovation requires people who thrive on collaboration, why are our education systems so focused on individual achievement? This question is at the heart of the work of Pasi Sahlberg, a Finnish education official and author of Finnish Lessons: What can the world learn from educational change in Finland. “Policymakers looking for a more competitive economy in their countries thought it required more competition in the school system so that young people can experience what competition means,” Dr. Sahlberg says. “That is completely the wrong way.” …
The reality in Canada, which is unfortunate in Dr. Sahlberg’s view, is that students are rewarded for competing against their peers, teachers are held accountable by their class’s performance on exams, and schools are compared through widely published standardized test results. Finland takes an alternative approach. Students receive only narrative evaluation instead of marks or grades until Grade 5. Thereafter, their grades rely on how they’ve performed relative to their individual potential rather than as compared to their classmates. “Teachers stress grades as little as possible,” Dr. Sahlberg says. “This means that students ‘compete’ against themselves, not one another.”
2 May
Stephen Harper’s Conservatives to lead review of Canadian history
Federal politicians have launched a “thorough and comprehensive review of significant aspects in Canadian history” in Parliament that will be led by Conservative MPs, investigating courses taught in schools, with a focus on several armed conflicts of the past century.
The study was launched by the House of Commons Canadian heritage committee that went behind closed doors last Monday to approve its review, despite apparent objections from the opposition MPs.
The parliamentary investigation would examine “relevant standards and courses of study offered in primary and post-secondary institutions in each of the provinces and territories.” Provinces are responsible for education in Canada, under the constitution.
1 April
Competitive Robotics: Bringing Excitement Back to the Canadian Classroom
By Karthik Kanagasabapathy
(HuffPost) We face a crisis today in Canadian schools and society. Simply put, not enough students are choosing to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields as they enter post-secondary education and determine their career paths, resulting in a shortage of the dynamic thinkers who are needed to solve our world’s largest problems in the 21st century. Climate change, food shortages, generation of affordable energy; these major issues cannot be solved unless we have a pipeline of motivated students pursuing STEM careers. Our traditional way of teaching STEM education to elementary and high school students needs to evolve at a quicker pace. We need to move past the paradigms of “chalk and talk” and embrace new methods of teaching. This is where competitive robotics in the classroom comes into play.
23 March
Suzanne Fortier, McGill’s new president, at centre of debate
Some researchers have concerns about the effect she may have on one of Canada’s leading research institutions
(Montreal Gazette) It was a coup for McGill to land Fortier, a respected scientist and administrator who will be bringing some highly-valued expertise with her when she starts her new position. But as her legacy at NSERC has come under scrutiny, some academics are very worried about what her appointment could mean to McGill, one of Canada’s most research-intensive university.
Will professors be asked to become more like entrepreneurs, managing their research as an investment that must yield a quickly produced, marketable product while being able to navigate the complex patent process? Or was Fortier merely enacting a policy shift mandated by the government of the day?
If nothing else, Fortier has been at the centre of a stormy debate about the direction of research in Canada. Even David Naylor, the outgoing president of the University of Toronto, weighed in on the debate in a speech this month, saying that “great basic, disruptive, fundamental research matters” but that there is a “pronounced trend” toward applied research.
18 March
Raises some good questions. What is the best-before date for professors? Do you really want your high performing Nobel laureate to retire because he is 80? How to keep the good ones around, benefit from their knowledge and experience, but make room for the young, deserving colleagues to advance?
(PBS Newshour) Graying Workforce Holding On to Coveted Positions
Short excerpt from the transcript:
PAUL SOLMAN: America’s work force is graying, and so is academia along with it. Professors over 65 have more than doubled since 2000. Some 40 percent of all workers say they will work past 65.
In academia, however, however, a full 75 percent plan to work past a normal retirement age.
Historian Claire Potter is at The New School in New York.
CLAIRE POTTER, The New School: Most of us believe that we should be able to work on our own terms for as long as we want.
PAUL SOLMAN: Potter blames lifetime tenure, meant to protect professors from political firings, and the legal end to mandatory retirement in 1994. But Potter insists she will be different.
CLAIRE POTTER: I’m going to retire when I’m 67.
PAUL SOLMAN: A blogger for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Potter has argued that older scholars are clogging the pipeline for the younger ones. The number of Ph.Ds now far outstrips the number of tenured job openings.
CLAIRE POTTER: There’s a lot of rage out there about being trained for jobs that you can never have. Is it worth keeping younger people out, not giving them the chance to have full-time work, to develop themselves, so that older people can hang on to keep everything we love?
6 March
Thomas L. Friedman: The Professors’ Big Stage
Institutions of higher learning must move, as the historian Walter Russell Mead puts it, from a model of “time served” to a model of “stuff learned.” Because increasingly the world does not care what you know. Everything is on Google. The world only cares, and will only pay for, what you can do with what you know. And therefore it will not pay for a C+ in chemistry, just because your state college considers that a passing grade and was willing to give you a diploma that says so. We’re moving to a more competency-based world where there will be less interest in how you acquired the competency — in an online course, at a four-year-college or in a company-administered class — and more demand to prove that you mastered the competency.
Therefore, we have to get beyond the current system of information and delivery — the professorial “sage on the stage” and students taking notes, followed by a superficial assessment, to one in which students are asked and empowered to master more basic material online at their own pace, and the classroom becomes a place where the application of that knowledge can be honed through lab experiments and discussions with the professor. There seemed to be a strong consensus that this “blended model” combining online lectures with a teacher-led classroom experience was the ideal. Last fall, San Jose State used the online lectures and interactive exercises of M.I.T.’s introductory online Circuits and Electronics course. Students would watch the M.I.T. lectures and do the exercises at home, and then come to class, where the first 15 minutes were reserved for questions and answers with the San Jose State professor, and the last 45 were devoted to problem solving and discussion. Preliminary numbers indicate that those passing the class went from nearly 60 percent to about 90 percent. And since this course was the first step to a degree in science and technology, it meant that many more students potentially moved on toward a degree and career in that field.
We demand that plumbers and kindergarten teachers be certified to do what they do, but there is no requirement that college professors know how to teach. No more. The world of MOOCs is creating a competition that will force every professor to improve his or her pedagogy or face an online competitor.
23 February
Le recours à la technologie favorisera la formation des élèves
Des chercheurs de 19 universités de six pays collaborent à l’élaboration d’une boîte à outils
(Le Devoir) La technologie est-elle la solution pour enrayer le décrochage ? Cette question sous-tend le vaste projet de recherche Learning Environments Across Disciplines (LEADS), dirigé par Susanne Lajoie, professeure à la Faculté des sciences de l’éducation de l’Université McGill et titulaire de la Chaire de recherche du Canada en technologies de pointe pour l’apprentissage dans des contextes authentiques. Le projet vise à développer des outils technologiques destinés à améliorer l’éducation, stimuler l’apprentissage et freiner le décrochage
21 February

University of Toronto joins online learning consortium

PictureThe University of Toronto has signed on with edX, a not-for-profit U.S.-based consortium founded last year by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Edx, which offers free massive open online courses (MOOCs) to hundreds of thousands of students from all over the world, is expanding quickly. Besides the U of T, other new edX member schools include McGill University, in Montreal, and École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne.McGill gets on MOOC bandwagon
(Montreal Gazette) These massive open online courses — all the rage in education circles, with the New York Times having dubbed 2012 as The Year of the MOOC — may offer Quebec students the kind of accessibility they’ve been looking for.
That is to say the courses are free, although they don’t typically offer academic credit.
McGill will join several universities around the world as a member of the edX consortium, founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
McGill will begin to offer the courses in 2014.
Professors at McGill, working closely with edX teams, will design, develop and deliver MOOCs, with initial course offerings in sciences, humanities and public policy.
18 February
The Pros and Cons of MOOCs for Credit
While it remains to be seen if many colleges and universities will accept MOOCs for credit toward a degree, it’s certain that these points will be debated over and over again as MOOCs continue to evolve. It will be particularly interesting when the first generation of MOOC-educated students enters the work force or applies to graduate school. Only then will we know the answers to come of these questions.
17 February
Why Finland’s public schools are so successful
(CBC radio The Sunday Edition) Finland is consistently put at the very top of global educational rankings despite, or perhaps because of, taking a very different approach: teachers are highly trained and very well-paid, students aren’t tested until their teens, there’s very little homework, and there are no private schools.
Michael Enright speaks to Finland’s education reform guru, Dr. Pasi Sahlberg, about how the country’s egalitarian, low-stress model has helped Finnish students reach for the top.
Finland has an education system the US should envy – and learn from
Finland’s test scores top global charts, but the country doesn’t obsess about tests like the US, and it pays teachers adequately
(The Guardian) Finnish students take only one mandatory standardized test, at age 16. Finland has the same number of teachers as New York City, but only 600,000 students compared to 1.1m in the Big Apple. Finnish teachers’ starting salaries are lower than in the US, but high-school teachers with 15 years’ experience make 102% of what other college graduates make. In the US, the figure is 62%.
Some of Finland’s students’ outcomes should be especially interesting to US policy makers. Fully 93% of Finns graduate from high school – 17.5 points higher than American students. And 66% of Finns are accepted to college, a higher rate than the US and every European nation. Strikingly, the achievement gap between the weakest and strongest students academically is the smallest in the world.
Focus on education in UN post-2015 development agenda
Education remains a priority for creating a better world, according to a United Nations survey, and the UN should focus on “equitable learning” in its post-2015 development agenda, writes Allison Anderson of The Brookings Institution. Finding high-level champions to tackle this issue is critical to achieving this goal, she argues. Brookings Institution (Washington, D.C.)/Up Front blog (2/15)
11 February
Accusations, impossible demands, problem parents drive away teachers
By Freda Lewkowicz, Special to The Gazette
According to McGill University statistics, nearly 50 per cent of all new teachers in North America leave the profession within their first five years of teaching. As a teacher in my 39th year in a public high school, I understand the many reasons they do so.
First, looming dangerously in every school’s landscape is the epidemic of hate crimes against teachers, known as the false accusation syndrome. This syndrome has so drastically changed teaching that it not only contributes to teacher attrition but it also rings the death knell for master teachers, those educators who teach not only subjects but also children.
9 February
A warning to college profs from a high school teacher
(WaPost) For more than a decade now we have heard that the high-stakes testing obsession in K-12 education that began with the enactment of No Child Left Behind 11 years ago has resulted in high school graduates who don’t think as analytically or as broadly as they should because so much emphasis has been placed on passing standardized tests. Here, an award-winning high school teacher who just retired, Kenneth Bernstein, warns college professors what they are up against. Bernstein, who lives near Washington, D.C. serves as a peer reviewer for educational journals and publishers … This appeared in Academe, the journal of the American Association of University Professors.
4 February
Malala announces fund to promote girls’ education
Malala Yousafzai, who is recovering from two surgeries to repair damage to her skull from an attack October by Taliban gunmen in Pakistan, announced in a video Monday that she wanted to “serve the people” — including through the creation of the Malala Fund, an effort promoting the education and empowerment of girls, and supported by Vital Voices, the United Nations Foundation and Girl Up. ABC News (2/4), The New York Times (tiered subscription model)/The Lede blog (2/4)
29 January
Janet Bagnall: Too many teachers are quitting, experts warn
(Montreal Gazette) False allegations of misconduct are one element in a toxic brew of problems driving an extraordinary number of teachers out of the education field, say educational experts.
“Across North America, nearly half of all new teachers leave the field within five years,” said Jon G. Bradley, associate professor of education at McGill University. In Alberta, one of the few provinces to collect data, the figure is 40 per cent within five years. Figures for Quebec were not available, but believed to be similar to the North American average.
27 January
$1.1 Billion in Thanks From Bloomberg to Johns Hopkins
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is the most generous living donor to any education institution in the United States, according to university officials and philanthropic tallies.
Thomas L. Friedman: Revolution Hits the Universities
(NYT) There is one big thing happening that leaves me incredibly hopeful about the future, and that is the budding revolution in global online higher education. Nothing has more potential to lift more people out of poverty — by providing them an affordable education to get a job or improve in the job they have. Nothing has more potential to unlock a billion more brains to solve the world’s biggest problems. And nothing has more potential to enable us to reimagine higher education than the massive open online course, or MOOC, platforms that are being developed by the likes of Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and companies like Coursera and Udacity.
When I visited last May, about 300,000 people were taking 38 courses taught by Stanford professors and a few other elite universities. Today, they have 2.4 million students, taking 214 courses from 33 universities, including eight international ones.
26 January
Will your college go out of business before you graduate?
Unless your parents are wealthy or you quality for a full ride or something close, the days of picking a school because that is the school you always wanted to go to are gone.
The class of 2014 and beyond now has to prepare a college value plan. What classes are you going to take online that enables you to get the most credits for the least cost. What classes are you going to take at a local, low-cost school so you can get additional credits at the lowest cost.
17 January
University students fail simple geography
(RCI) For years there have been on and off complaints about the sloppy language skills of students arriving at university. Recently, a surprising revelation was made about university students lack of knowledge of basic geography.
[Professor Adler] notes that knowing basic geography is relevant to understanding historical situations, geopolitics, and day to day things like why gasoline prices rise. A lack of knowledge will also hinder university students in their comprehension of other subjects.
Professor Adler suggests that simply putting back the big world maps in elementary and secondary school classrooms along with some basic discussions of where events take place is a good and easy place to start.
7 January
Les étudiants français «envahissent» l’Est-du-Québec
(Rimouski) Les cégeps de l’Est-du-Québec et l’Université du Québec à Rimouski (UQAR) recrutent annuellement quelques centaines d’étudiants en provenance de la France, en métropole comme dans les départements d’outre-mer, dans ce que d’aucuns appellent de plus en plus la french invasion.
En 2009, les Français composaient 47 % des quelque 31 000 étudiants étrangers du Québec, selon le quotidien parisien Le Figaro.
Près de 4000 Français ont officiellement immigré au Québec pour les neuf premiers mois de 2012, ainsi que 10 000 étudiants dans les universités québécoises, un chiffre en forte hausse, note le quotidien.

4 Comments on "Education: demographics and trends 2013 – 2014"

  1. John Evdokias February 22, 2013 at 1:37 pm ·

    Notes on The Pros and Cons of MOOC
    — Now that ACE has deemed certain courses credit-worthy, students can also take a fee-based proctored exam that will allow them to transfer the Coursera credits to any colleges and universities that will accept MOOC credits.
    — MOOCs do not offer much support for struggling students.
    — Khan Academy founder Salman “points to research that shows that most students get bored and distracted after about 15 minutes”
    — will be particularly interesting when the first generation of MOOC-educated students enters the work force or applies to graduate school. Only then will we know.

  2. Guy Stanley February 22, 2013 at 7:36 pm ·

    There was a lot of enthusiasm around web-based distance learning in the 90s which recognized the need for on-going support, peer association etc.None of those ideas has found many echos as far as I know in the MOOCs. They are not really about education in the sense most people mean by it, in my view– they are designed to complement initiatives like the $100 laptop in every school–the development of tech gadgets that will overcome economic, social and political obstacles to economic development. It might be instructive to remember the cacaphony of sneers at Britain’s Open University when it started up–and how educational establishments bottled it up safely in the UK. rather than copying the design in other countries. Much harder to accomplish with MOOCs. Guy

  3. Antal (Tony) Deutsch February 22, 2013 at 8:23 pm ·

    Re MOOC notes
    Perish the thought, but I have encountered students who have been “bored and distracted after the first 15 minutes” in a real classroom. MOOC is clearly not for everyone, neither is any particular university, programme, or professor. As long as enough people find it worth their while to pay for maintaining the system, it will survive. I clearly recall TV-courses, both live and canned, that lived for a while and then died. Brick and mortar universities provide personal contacts which people have found worthwhile since the Middle Ages. Has technology found a new way, more accessible, cheaper, but less human contact based, that finds a market to sustain it? Tony

  4. Raf Feys November 24, 2013 at 11:42 am ·

    Finnisch miracle: fata morgana?
    Finnish students’ achievement (15 y) declined significantly: study of University Helsinki
    University of Helsinki – Faculty of Behavioral Sciences, Department of Teacher of Education Research Report No 347Authors: Jarkko Hautamäki, Sirkku Kupiainen, Jukka Marjanen, Mari-Pauliina Vainikainen and Risto Hotulainen
    Learning to learn at the end of basic education: Results in 2012 and changes from 2001
    S.: The change between the year 2001 and year 2012 is significant. The level of students’ attainment has declined considerably: under the mean of the scale used in the questions. The difference can be compared to a decline of Finnish students’ attainment in PISA reading literacy from the 539 points of PISA 2009 to 490 points, to below the OECD average. The mean level of students’ learning-supporting attitudes still falls above the mean of the scale used in the questions but also that mean has declined from 2001.
    Since 1996, educational effectiveness has been understood in Finland to include not only subject specific knowledge and skills but also the more general competences which are not the exclusive domain of any single subject but develop through good teaching along a student’s educational career. Many of these, including the object of the present assessment, learning to learn, have been named in the education policy documents of the European Union as key competences which each member state should provide their citizens as part of general education (EU 2006).
    In spring 2012, the Helsinki University Centre for Educational Assessment implemented a nationally representative assessment of ninth grade students’ learning to learn competence. The assessment was inspired by signs of declining results in the past few years’ assessments. This decline had been observed both in the subject specific assessments of the Finnish National Board of Education, in the OECD PISA 2009 study, and in the learning to learn assessment implemented by the Centre for Educational Assessment in all comprehensive schools in Vantaa in 2010.
    The results of the Vantaa study could be compared against the results of a similar assessment implemented in 2004. As the decline in students’ cognitive competence and in their learning related attitudes was especially strong in the two Vantaa studies, with only 6 years apart, a decision was made to direct the national assessment of spring 2012 to the same schools which had participated in a respective study in 2001.
    The goal of the assessment was to find out whether the decline in results, observed in the Helsinki region, were the same for the whole country. The assessment also offered a possibility to look at the readiness of schools to implement a computer-based assessment, and how this has changed during the 11 years between the two assessments. After all, the 2001 assessment was the first in Finland where large scale student assessment data was collected in schools using the Internet.
    The main focus of the assessment was on students’ competence and their learning-related attitudes at the end of the comprehensive school education, but the assessment also relates to educational equity: to regional, between-school, and between- class differences and to the relation of students’ gender and home background to their competence and attitudes.
    The assessment reached about 7 800 ninth grade students in 82 schools in 65 municipalities. Of the students, 49% were girls and 51% boys. The share of students in Swedish speaking schools was 3.4%. As in 2001, the assessment was implemented in about half of the schools using a printed test booklet and in the other half via the Internet. The results of the 2001 and 2012 assessments were uniformed through IRT modelling to secure the comparability of the results. Hence, the results can be interpreted to represent the full Finnish ninth grade population.
    Girls performed better than boys in all three fields of competence measured in the assessment: reasoning, mathematical thinking, and reading comprehension. The difference was especially noticeable in reading comprehension even if in this task girls’ attainment had declined more than boys’ attainment. Differences between the AVI-districts were small. The impact of students’ home-background was, instead, obvious: the higher the education of the parents, the better the student performed in the assessment tasks. There was no difference in the impact of mother’s education on boys’ and girls’ attainment. The between-school-differences were very small (explaining under 2% of the variance) while the between-class differences were relatively large (9 % – 20 %).
    The change between the year 2001 and year 2012 is significant. The level of students’ attainment has declined considerably. The difference can be compared to a decline of Finnish students’ attainment in PISA reading literacy from the 539 points of PISA 2009 to 490 points, to below the OECD average. The mean level of students’ learning-supporting attitudes still falls above the mean of the scale used in the questions but also that mean has declined from 2001.
    The mean level of attitudes detrimental to learning has risen but the rise is more modest. Girls’ attainment has declined more than boys’ in three of the five tasks. There was no gender difference in the change of students’ attitudes, however. Between-school differences were un-changed but differences between classes and between individual students had grown. The change in attitudes—unlike the change in attainment—was related to students’ home background: The decline in learning-supporting attitudes and the growth in attitudes detrimental to school work were weaker the better educated the mother. Home background was not related to the change in students’ attainment, however. A decline could be discerned both among the best and the weakest students.
    The results of the assessment point to a deeper, on-going cultural change which seems to affect the young generation especially hard. Formal education seems to be losing its former power and the accepting of the societal expectations which the school represents seems to be related more strongly than before to students’ home background. The school has to compete with students’ self-elected pastime activities, the social media, and the boundless world of information and entertainment open to all through the Internet. The school is to a growing number of youngpeople just one, often critically reviewed, developmental environment among many.
    The change is not a surprise, however. A similar decline in student attainment has been registered in the other Nordic countries already earlier. It is time to concede that the signals of change have been discernible already for a while and to open up a national discussion regarding the state and future of the Finnish comprehensive school that rose to international acclaim due to our students’success in the PISA studies.

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