Education is like a herd of buffaloes

Mcinksey recently published its 2007 report on high school systems throughout the world.

I came by this report at Ewan McIntosh’s blog. He is this funny scot who gave a very interesting chat on how education should be different for the tech-enabled noobs (sorry, I meant youngsters) at last year’s reboot. I didn’t attend the chat, unfortunately, but Humberto was kind enough to give us a summary about it. I suck, I know.

In the report they review most of the high school systems in the developed world. Apparently the surpirse comes from South Korea and Singapore that are currently rated in the top ten.

Why this? well, they weren’t that ahead a few years back, and have improved greatly, most than a lot of well balanced European countries such as Spain.

Education is a big issue, specially in the interaction design business, since it is nearly impossible to get hold of a decent influx of grad students with good enough preparation. Seems like we end up providing most of the training either onsite or through specialized courses that don’t come cheap. The inherent problem of either of these two methods is that you end up with jaded juniors more often than we wish. Specially in consultancy were the meat grinder is still working at a good pace, oh yes.

One of the things that the McKinsey guys try to communicate in their study is that you can’t just look at one system, copy it in your own country and think it will succeed right away. But they are pretty sure they have isolated three things that will determine wether your educational system will either succeed or fail like I failed my Cooper test back in high school. I blame my faulty genes, obviously.

According to them the three ‘ideas’ that should drive any educational system are:

  • “The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers”. So the buffalo herd runs as fast as its slowest member.
  • “The only wat to improve outcomes is to improve instruction”. No need to spend money on high tech plasma screens if your powerpoint still sucks.
  • “Delivering for every child”. It is not about getting every child to the next level at the same pace, is about reaching each kid in its own specific way.

Regarding quality of teachers: it is not the money what gets you the best professional. Remember, Spain is among the top three spenders in salaries relative to GDP. And the dirty truth is that we end up getting a fair share of unmotivated professionals who are in for the cash and über-long paid vacations.

Important to remember: if you make an adjusment in your educational system you won’t see what kind of ripples it makes at the same speed you accelerate your new beemer. Nope. Think more like 10 years later. So asking for changes on how your kid’s high school should work is not like adjusting your vcr. Next time think about it. Twice.

I am not going to delve on wether grad students asks for too much money of businessmen are filthy rats. That is another story that I am too tired of talking about already.

And, to close this lengthy post in a high note, let’s remember the words of someone who was smarter, prettier and probably better endowed than yours truly, Richard Feynman:

“First figure out why you want the students to learn the subject and what you want them to know, and the method will result more or less by common sense.”

1 Comment

  1. Por implicacion directa a mi este tema me apasiona. (Sorry, writting in spanish, ’cause anyway I’m making reference to an article also in spanish). Pero yo soy mas de hablarlo con una caña de por medio que de escribir, porque podria eternizarme. Sólo poner un link a un artículo con mucha miga, y desde mi punto de vista, mucha razón:

    Mi propia experiencia como educadora universitaria ya sabes lo surrealista que es…

Leave a Reply