Thursday, January 5, 2012

“More Schooling, But Too Little Learning”

From the World Bank’s Education for Global Development blog (excerpt, emphasis added):

When an exclamation point is warranted

At the High-Level Forum on aid effectiveness (known as HLF4) a few weeks ago in Busan, South Korea, I had the pleasure of participating in a panel on education and aid...what we saw in our panel on aid for education, and in the one-day pre-conference that informed it, was very encouraging: it showed how Korea’s lessons about student learning are influencing international education policy.

The event had been given the title “Dream with Education!” by our hosts in the Korean government. The exclamation point may seem over-exuberant, but in the Korean context, it’s not. Korea’s universal high-quality basic education and high rates of participation in higher education have helped it achieve development that would have exceeded any dreams fifty years ago, when rapid growth started...

...My first job as a fresh college graduate was as a researcher and speechwriter at the country’s leading think tank, the Korea Development Institute. Upon moving to Seoul, I was struck immediately by two major contrasts with Mexico and Latin America, the country and region I knew best. First, it was obvious that (as income and human development statistics attested) the first decades of rapid growth in Korea had been widely shared throughout society. I could see this in the relative prosperity of the rural areas, which clearly benefitted from good infrastructure; in the near-absence of slums in urban areas; and, less tangibly, in the many signs of strong social capital, such as a lack of violent crime. Second, people I talked to evinced an ardent faith in education as the most reliable vehicle for personal and social progress...

...How much of Korea’s shared growth and development in recent decades is really owed to all its investment in education? Quite a bit, say most growth experts. For example…the World Bank's Growth Commission, led by Nobel laureate Michael Spence, concludes that impressive rates of investment in education were an essential ingredient. Education “crowds in” private investment by raising returns to private ventures, said the commissioners. Paul Romer, a leading growth theorist, emphasizes that education investments have helped rapid growers like Korea to get something of a free lunch, by giving them the ability to make use of the worldwide stock of knowledge that already exists in the advanced countries.

What’s most important about Korea’s fervor for education is that it has borne real fruit in terms of student learning. Investment in education yields little benefit if students don’t acquire the knowledge and skills they need for their lives and livelihoods. And in too many countries, this is exactly what is happening: more schooling, but too little learning.

As a friend said to me during our visit to Seoul last year…”throw a rock and you’ll hit a PhD!” But what really caught my attention was that last quote – too much schooling, too little learning.

If Malaysia wants a high income, knowledge driven economy; if we want R&D and innovation to be the linchpin for competitiveness; if we want our own Nobel Laureates; we’ll need critical thinking, interpersonal skills and life long learning ability inculcated in our children – and this is best done at the very earliest ages.

If you think this is a diatribe against our education system…yes, it is, but only in part. Parents have to play a role too. In fact, the parent’s role might be the more important of the two.

1 comment:

  1. Agreed! Instead of giving kids computer games to play.. maybe as a parent, we should encourage them to create their own physical game..

    Unfortunately most parents are already too tired working at the end of the day to bother about good parenting..