Tough Choices/Knowledge and Learning

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Knowledge and Learning

Generative Questions

The report emphasizes that a hunger for education currently exists in India and China. It juxtaposes the educational systems in these two countries with the American system by emphasizing that the latter instills low expectations and is not well structured to produce motivated students and high academic achievement. What should be made of this position? How much of American attitudes toward learning have to do with the American educational system and how much have to do with American culture in general?

Relevant Passage(s)

To help facilitate discussion, the following excerpt provides a general point of reference [1]:

Consider our students. First, the United States, almost unique among the advanced industrial nations, has managed to construct a system that could not be better designed to deprive the vast majority of our students of a reason to take tough courses or to study hard. We described how the Indian system works to produce an enormous hunger for education and achievement among Indian students. It is hardly clear that it is the quality of instruction that has produced very high mathematical literacy among so many young Indians. It is very clear that a very high level of student motivation has played a crucial role in their achievement. Many of the advanced industrial countries have education system designs that produce much the same result. But in our system, the message has gone out to all except the students aiming at selective colleges (a very small proportion of all students) that all they need to do is achieve an 8th- or 9th-grade-level of literacy to go to college in their state. And in many states, even that minimum has been waived.[2]
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Commentary and Critique

An Indian Perspective
The enormous hunger for education and achievement that the report talks about in India is not reflected in the statistics below, neither is the high mathematical literacy.
Secondary school enrolment ratio,gross,male (1998-2002) 56(India) 94(USA)*
Secondary school enrolment ratio,gross,female (1998-2002) 40(India) 95(USA)*[3]


That means half of the student population in India drops out by Grade 5. Percentage of students passing the 10th grade exam (that leads to junior college) in 2005 in Maharashtra (one of the better educated states in India) was 57%. This is in spite of the aggregate passing percentage required for this exam being as low as 35%. That means about a quarter of the population at the college going age is deemed eligible (by performing at the level of 35%) to go to college. How many of them continue is another story. Where in these numbers did the writers see motivation and achievement?


Furthermore, I am clueless how a passing percentage of 35% in 10th and 12th grade and a 40% for undergraduate University level is motivating and induces hunger for education and achievement.

The model proposed later in the report is identical to the existing formal model of education in India. If one of the main reasons to propose the model is the perceived 'hunger for education and achievement' in India then it is bound to fail.


Notes and References

  1. Should a given excerpt be found to be less than optimal, it is imagined that one of two things can be done. Additional excerpts can be submitted, or discussion/review of an existing excerpt can take place on this article's talk page. Here there is a compromise to make between depth and breadth. Let's try to broker that compromise together.
  2. National Center on Education and the Economy. (2006). Tough Choices or Tough Times: The Report of the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, p. 37.
  3. http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/india_statistics.html, http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/usa_statistics.html



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