Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Gates Crashing the Curriculum Party?

America's high schools are obsolete according to Bill Gates.

“By obsolete, I don’t just mean that our high schools are broken, flawed, and under-funded...
By obsolete, I mean that our high schools – even when they’re working exactly as designed – cannot teach our kids what they need to know today.”

- Bill Gates at the US National Educational Summit on High Schools

Through the Gates philanthropic foundation he has spent nearly one billion dollars helping to rebuild or redesign 1500 US high schools. He doesn't claim to be an education expert but says that as head of a corporation and a foundation what he sees “leaves him appalled”.

He talks about how high schools fail to prepare most students for work, tertiary education and citizenship - because they were designed that way! He believes that in the past governments only required a small percentage of students to qualify for tertiary entrance but that today all students should do so. And he says that research has proved that all students can do so.

In his address to the recent US National Education Summit on High Schools he said that there are two arguments for better high schools:
  • the economic argument - in today's global economy it hurts us if all students are not being educated
  • the moral argument - we need to do something because it's hurting the students

He pointed out that as far back as 2001 India had almost a million more university graduates than the US - and that China now has twice as many graduates as the US. This puts the US behind in the international supply of knowledge workers - workers that are now only a mouse-click away.

The schools being funded by Gates are built on principles based around the “new three R’s“:

  • The first R is Rigor – making sure all students are given a challenging curriculum that prepares them for college or work;
  • The second R is Relevance – making sure kids have courses and projects that clearly relate to their lives and their goals;
  • The third R is Relationships – making sure kids have a number of adults who know them, look out for them, and push them to achieve.

How is Australia's secondary education system hurting?
What kind of education would business interests here promote if they began to put large sums of money into secondary education?

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