elizabeth lane lawley's thoughts on technology, academia, family, and tangential topics

Tuesday, 25 April 2006

milken conference: "changing post-secondary education to meet the needs of a global economy"

I had breakfast this morning with the other members of our panel, and if our conversation was any indication, our panel this afternoon is likely to be quite lively.

This first panel of the day includes the followingg participants:

(This room is full of people in black suits. Good thing I’ve got one on now…)

Driving question is “whether the pre-eminence of the American educational system is destined to maintain itsel.”

Cappelli starts with Powerpoint charts (sigh) to compare GDP among countries, focusing on China. China’s is currently 6th in the world, but is predicted to be 3rd in a few years. Foreign direct investment into China is huge. 110 million Chinese are between 18-22 years of age. Lots of private investment in education in China. More facts and figures, but am waiting for implications…

Guiliano says that China is swallowing the American model of higher education—he says that in 5-20 years we won’t call it the American model anymore, we’ll call it the “world model.” He talks about “international education” (education that takes place outside your home country) is growing quickly. The biggest challenges and opportunities in higher ed will not take place here in the US. What/how/where we teach will be transformed by this huge global need, and a paradigm shift will result. (The focus is here on external pressures creating changes; not much discussion about internal pressures from a new generation of students with different expectations…) He notes that the ruling classes in China—the government and educational leaders don’t speak English, but the younger generation does.

Ah, now they’re shifting to the “world of the student.” Sanders talks about challenges to global economic success. 1 in 5 Americans have passports. 87% of college-educated Americans can’t find Iraq on a map. 65% of college-educated Americans can’t find France on a map. Notes that in one generation, China has become the largest English-speaking nation in the world—all because they made a commitment to teach English to every single college student. More discussion of how poorly we communicate information about the world around us—not enough in our news, not enough to prepare us for living in a global economy. He says we also need real, person-to-person connections with people from other countries and cultures.

This room is full, and I find myself wondering who the audience is, and why they’re here (in this room, as well as at the conference). Typically when I speak at a conference I have a pretty good sense of the audience, and what their information needs are. In this case, I feel as though I’m flying blind. Why are there so many people at this panel? What is it about global education that they’re interested in? Do they want to understand education? Critique it? Influence it? Because this panel is entirely lecture-driven—with no participation from the audience—it’s hard to get a sense of the audience needs and interests.

An audience member says that Europe is moving towards a 3-year baccalaureate; is that something we should be doing here? Sanders says yes. It’s less expensive. And here we got…they move on to how the real problem is obstructionist faculty. I’m doing deep breathing exercises and trying not to say anything at all. I know it’s futile. Faculty are such an easy scapegoat, particularly when they’re not around to defend themselves.

Another audience member, a former university president, talks about (Qatar’s? China’s? Dubai’s? I missed which country) “education city.” (I’ve been to Dubai’s version of this, it’s quite amazing.)

A discussion about language learning resources points us to Chengo, a Chinese language learning resource geared towards middle-school ages that was a US-China collaboration.

An audience member asks where the next generation of faculty members will come from. The panel looks discomfited. “It’s hard to find faculty,” says the university president. The answer is to recruit on a global scale. (That’s not an answer.)

Another question: a woman says young people are not being taught the critical skills they need to succeed in the real world. Kids are dropping out of school due to lack of relevancy. Young people are job hopping. How are schools preparing students to network and communicate? Panelist responds that very little is being done with K-12, because we’re concerned with “grinding through literacy and numeracy.” Totally sidesteps the question by saying “we ought to be doing that stuff in undergraduate education.”

Posted at 10:41 AM in: academia | conferences

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Comment from Glo on April 25, 2006 12:11 PM (Permalink to Comment)

Hmm...I don't necessarily know what to think about all of that - I'll admit to being a product of a system that refused to accept advancing globalization...on the other hand, it sounded like he was willing to blame and not solve - is that accurate?

I don't think American education is as broken as it's rumored to be. I had an amazing education. I can speak with people from various cultures and ethnicities. I find that I'm relatively well-informed on global matters because I know how to seek and analyze information.

And I grew up with teachers, so the part about blaming faculty just annoys me. The problems at universities are much more varied. Rather than searching for a scapegoat, let's do what "global" education supposedly does so much better - analyze and repair.

Comment from Jeremy hunsinger on April 25, 2006 12:59 PM (Permalink to Comment)

Hard to find faculty? heh..... wrong. It is just hard to find the kind of faculty that some places want.

Comment from andrea forte on April 25, 2006 1:32 PM (Permalink to Comment)

Hi Liz! I've been lurking around your site for a couple months now and it's always a fun read.

What a bizarre conference. :-) It is interesting to me that the panel attracted so much interest among the suits. The pundits seem to be drawing a lot of attention to post-secondary ed in the globalized economy. I've been hearing a lot about educating for the global economy--for one because Thomas Friedman's revised "The World is Flat" came out this month with his specific recommendations for better preparing students. Your description of the session makes me wonder if this kind of broad, popular attention is a blessing or a curse.

Comment from Jeff Utecht on April 26, 2006 11:05 PM (Permalink to Comment)

Thanks for posting this!

I work at the Shanghai American School in Shanghai, China. When talking about American education becoming the world model you're right on. My school is a private American school offering an American curriculum just like any other high school in the states. We have an AP program and an IB program. Talking about growth, our school has gone from 600 students to 2000 students in 5 years. These are not Chinese nationals, but rather other nationality passport holders. That being said 40% of our population is American passport holders, but most of those are Chinese-Americans. All instruction is given in English, but our students start learning Chinese in Grade 2 and by grade 4 are taking Chinese class 5 days a week for 45 minutes a day. There are more and more American curriculum schools popping up in China. There are at least 3 others that I know of just in Shanghai. China's a big country I don't know how many there are in all...lots!

Comment from Helen, school teacher on May 20, 2006 2:19 AM (Permalink to Comment)

To keep pace with the globalization we should make our children be aware of what's going on outside the US.

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Liz sipping melange at Cafe Central in Vienna