31 de maio de 2012

Why Steve Jobs Would Have Loved Digital Learning

Link to Education Next

Posted: 31 May 2012 , EducationNext
In the wake of Steve Jobs’ passing, many wrote about the statements he made throughout his adult life about how to improve the U.S. education system. Some noted that for much of Jobs’s life, he had, ironically perhaps, been skeptical of the positive impact technology could make on education.
But what has received less attention is how digital learning could have improved Jobs’s owneducational experience.
In the early pages of Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs, however, how a different education system—a competency-based one powered by digital learning—could have helped Jobs screams from the pages.
From the book: “Even before Jobs started elementary school, his mother had taught him how to read. This, however, led to some problems once he got to school. ‘I was kind of bored for the first few years, so I occupied myself by getting into trouble.’”
In other words, because today’s education system is a monolithic one—where students learn the same thing on the same day in the same way regardless of their individual needs—Jobs had to repeat things he already knew because that’s where the rest of the class was. Naturally he lost the zeal and motivation for school and therefore acted out, as there were few opportunities for him to realize real progress and feel successful.
“’Look, it’s not his fault,’ Paul Jobs [his father] told the teachers, his son recalled. ‘If you can’t keep him interested, it’s your fault.’”
This charge at teachers perhaps isn’t altogether fair, although it’s on to something; it really was the fault of the system itself. Most teachers have a nearly impossible task, as they are told to deliver a curriculum in the course of a year and somehow manage 20 to 30 children, who are all in different places and have different learning needs at different times.
A far better system for Jobs—and for every child—would have been a student-centric one that could naturally and affordably customize for each child’s needs.
That said, one teacher, Imogene Hill, seemed to be able to deliver the goods for Jobs in 4th grade.  To regain his interest, she had to use a little extrinsic motivation first.
“After watching him for a couple of weeks, she figured that the best way to handle him was to bribe him. ‘After school one day, she gave me this workbook with math problems in it, and she said, ‘I want you to take it home and do this.’ And I thought ‘Are you nuts?’ And then she pulled out one of these giant lollipops that seemed as big as the world. And she said, ‘When you’re done with it, if you get it mostly right, I will give you this and five dollars. And I handed it back within two days.’”
Soon, with the chance to be successful and make progress at hand, intrinsic motivation kicked in, which appears to echo some of Harvard Professor Roland Fryer Jr.’s research findings.
“After a few months, he no longer required the bribes. ‘I just wanted to learn and to please her.’”
Jobs recounted that she became “one of the saints of my life.”
But she alone couldn’t solve the more systematic problem at hand in the education system, nor can we continue to have an education system that relies on the anomalies—superheroes who ignore the system’s bad incentives.
Isaacson’s book supplies some evidence for why.
“Near the end of fourth grade, Mrs. Hill had Jobs tested.” According to Jobs, he scored at the high school sophomore level. “Now that it was clear, not only to himself and his parents but also to his teachers, that he was intellectually special, the school made the remarkable proposal that he skip two grades and go right into seventh; it would be the easiest way to keep him challenged and stimulated. His parents decided, more sensibly, to have him skip only one grade. The transition was wrenching. He was a socially awkward loner who found himself with kids a year older.”
And herein lies a real problem. Today’s education system forces us to make cruel tradeoffs. On the one hand, we can keep children with their age-level peers and friends regardless of academic fit—which may involve social promotion regardless of whether a student has mastered a subject or holding a student back even if she is capable of taking on much more difficult concepts. On the other hand, we can hold a student back if he hasn’t mastered certain concepts, which will put him in an unfortunate social position, or, if he has mastered the concepts already, we can have him skip grade levels and meet Jobs’s social plight. Neither answer is a great one.
What a competency-based learning system powered by digital learning does is break the tradeoffs. A student can remain with her friends and peers while working on the objectives, projects, and courses most appropriate for her, regardless of what the others are doing because the online medium can naturally individualize the learning. A student moves on to a concept once she has mastered it, not when the calendar dictates that she move on. Each student owns her learning; accelerating through learning objectives isn’t hard to accommodate. The teacher is freed to add significantly more value by serving as a learning coach, mentor, and much more—including by bringing students together to have important discussions and apply their learning with other students at all levels of learning where that is appropriate.
This week I had the opportunity to visit a school, the Silicon Valley Flex Academy, that is mere miles from where Jobs grew up. It’s working to create a student-centric education system, and it breaks these tradeoffs. It’s too bad that it wasn’t around when Jobs went to school, but fortunately an increasing number of programs are bucking the system and working on doing the same.
Of course, Jobs ultimately survived the educational malpractice he faced, and he changed the world in significant ways. The curiosity was not beaten out of him—but only barely, he said. All too many children, however, don’t escape this—and it’s not just their loss. It’s ours, too.
I suspect that is one of the reasons that toward the end of his life, Jobs—along with Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch, and others—had set his sights on bringing some disruptive innovation to education, as Isaacson recounts. According to Jobs, “All books, learning materials, and assessments should be digital and interactive, tailored to each student and providing feedback in real time.”
Jobs had come around. He had realized that although technology had not improved the education system to this point, in the future, it could be a part of the answer to America’s education woes—a critical component in creating a student-centric system in which every child could realize her fullest human potential, not just the lucky ones.
- Michael Horn

The People Shall ... Reinventing Schools as the Commons by Deborah Meier

Dear Diane,

One more word about The New Jim Crow. Looking back, I wonder how many of my students had someone in their immediate family in prison or on parole or who was an ex-felon, without rights. Probably most. But it was never a topic of conversation. That's the worst of it for me. Schools should be at least the one place where the great questions of life are on the table. And children have such questions as young and younger than 4—the ages I got to know best.
One has to remind oneself that there's a good reason to have public schools despite their many unnecessary faults. (And thanks, Diane, for helping us define public vs. private.) I remember when some of my left-wing 60s colleagues called for abolishing public schools. Better no school than those we have, they said. I was influenced by the fact that I had three kids in those public schools and taught in one myself. No, worse is not better.
But there is a crisis facing the world and haunting America, so to speak. Like the prison crisis for black Americans, it's rarely a topic of conversation but threatens to make most of us second-class citizens. Even third class. I'm speaking about an economy which is increasingly unable to promise a better future for most American and politics that seem less and less designed to respond to citizens. A society where we need more and more schooling to have a shot at the remaining, and ever decreasing, well-paid jobs.
The pundits say, over and over, that only a better-educated workforce will save us. People believe it. Actually, it's a lie. Plain and simple. (Litmus test: If it were really true, we'd see massive support for free education all the way through college and beyond.)
Answer? The American "economy" is a tricky term, just as the word USA is when we talk about corporate wealth. Whose economy are we talking about? Follow the money is a slogan that democratic rules and policies should make untrue. As political life becomes accessible only for the rich (who make their money internationally), maybe public and private merge?
One of my favorite magazines, The American Prospect (which needs your financial aid immediately), has a piece that you must read entitled "The Hunger Games Economy" (June 6). Jeff Faux notes that for most of the past 30-plus years progress was dependent on more and more members of the family working and everyone borrowing while their real wages remained flat or declined. When it all came apart, some were well-prepared (ideologically, as well as organizationally). For others, it crept up slowly. At first, the low-paying jobs went overseas, and then the better-paying ones did, too. Then the higher wages of senior workers dried up as "seniority" lost its "appeal."
"American" business—Is there such a thing?—found it easier to make money abroad rather than to "fix" things at home. Still, the "fix" at home seemed simple: eliminate obstacles to ever lower wages (e.g. emasculate unions) and cut back on government safety nets that cost too much in taxes. Even liberals seem to have at least half bought into it. (The difference between them is still sufficient for me to enthusiastically support Obama et al this fall.)
But in the long run, the faster we face reality, the better it will be—at least for my grandchildren! (Even if education were the solution, it would take a generation to raise
the educational level of the adult!) The argument for education reform rests on deeply democratic, not necessarily good business, grounds. Critical thinking et al are better for democracy than for business. As it is, the fastest-growing sectors of our economy don't call for more than a high school diploma, if that. And even highly skilled workers make less than they have since World War II. But facts are irrelevant if the money and organizational structure to defend them doesn't reach the larger public.
Although, notes Faux, 79 percent (including 68 percent of Republicans) favor a Constitutional amendment to overturn the campaign-finance ruling in Citizens United (which favors money over people-power in politics), it's unlikely to happen soon. So why is Faux still hopeful? Because he claims that solutions do exist and if we had been in a different political position in 2008, and had we followed a different economic recipe—we'd now be out of the woods and prepared to face long-term issues. Yet it's never "too late" to change direction.
As schools become part-and-parcel of the "market" system, operated by business entrepreneurs with an eye on their own agenda, and whose kids go to school elsewhere, we've lost one of the last public spaces. Some are even calling for privatizing the Post Office (we've already partially privatized the military and prisons). Where do we gather to thrash out ideas, to hear each other's silly or sane solutions, and experience each other as a potential force? The People Shall ...
This is not, of course, something so new—but it's more brutally in-your-face than it used to be.
I remember, Diane, in 1967 telling kindergarteners in Harlem about the struggle for integration in Southern schools. I stopped and looked at the faces of my 5-year-olds. Every single one was black. What did they make of what I was saying? What do they think today?
Schools as the commons has rarely been a reality. But reinventing them as the "commons" is the right fight at the right moment in our history. Let's not let it slip away under the hammer of billions of corporate dollars. I'm exhausted, Diane, even thinking about how hard it will be defeat their agenda.

What will the global talent pool look like in 2020?

by Pedro Garcia de León, Corinne Heckmann, and Gara Rojas González 
Innovation and Measuring Progress Division, Directorate for Education

The “global talent pool” can be described in a lot of different ways.  But in an era in which having a higher (tertiary) education is increasingly a minimum requirement for successful entry into the labour force, one way to quantify it is to look at the number of people around the world who are obtaining a higher education degree.

As the latest issue of the OECD’s series Education Indicators in Focus details, by that measure, the global talent pool is exploding across OECD and G20 countries. What’s more, it’s likely to grow far larger by the year 2020.

In the last decade alone, the number of younger adults with higher education degrees has grown at a remarkably fast clip. This is particularly true for non-OECD G20 countries like Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia and South Africa, where the number of 25-34 year-olds with a higher education degree increased from 39 million in 2000 to an estimated 64 million in 2010. By contrast, the number of younger adults with higher education degrees in OECD countries increased from 51 million to an estimated 66 million during the same period.

In addition, the rapid expansion of higher education in non-OECD G20 countries has significantly altered the distribution of the talent pool among countries. A decade ago, one in six 25-34 year-olds with a higher education degree was from the United States, and a similar proportion was from China. Twelve percent came from the Russian Federation, and about 10% each were from Japan and India. But by 2010, China was at the head of the pack, according to OECD estimates, accounting for 18% of 25-34 year-olds with a tertiary education.  The United States followed with 14%, the Russian Federation and India each had 11%, and Japan had 7%.

These trends are likely to intensify further in the years ahead. According to OECD projections, there will be more than 200 million 25-34 year-olds with higher education degrees across all OECD and G20 countries by the year 2020 – and 40% of them will be from China and India alone. By contrast, the United States and the European Union countries are expected to account for just over a quarter of young people with tertiary degrees in OECD and G20 countries.

In fact, these figures may underestimate the future growth of the global talent pool, because a number of countries – notably China, the European Union countries, and the U.S. – are pursuing initiatives to increase higher education attainment rates even further.

The explosive growth of the  talent pool raises a key question: With all of these highly-educated people emerging around the world, will the global labour market be able to absorb the increased supply?
Evidence from science and technology occupations – key “knowledge economy” jobs – suggests that it can. Between 1998 and 2008, employment in science and technology occupations increased at a faster rate than total employment in all OECD and G20 countries with available data. The average annual growth rate was uniformly positive, ranging from 0.3% in China to 5.9% in Iceland.

This consistently upward trend signals that the demand for employees in this knowledge economy sector hasn’t reached its ceiling. Applied to the overall labour market, the implication is that individuals from increasingly better-educated populations will continue to have good employment outcomes, as long as national economies continue to become more knowledge-based.

As such, countries may be well-advised to pursue efforts to build their knowledge economies, in order to avoid skills mismatches and lower returns on education among their higher-educated populations in the future.

For more information
On this topic, visit:
Education Indicators in Focus: www.oecd.org/education/indicators

Study looks ‘under the hood’ of new teacher-evaluation systems


More and more states are adopting new teacher-evaluation systems in response to a growing consensus that improved teacher quality can spell improved student achievement. The idea is that measuring how teachers perform in the classroom will help schools take the first steps toward helping them get better. But so far, there’s little consensus on the best ways to make those measurements.
Many states are moving quickly to launch new systems—in some cases, without much thought or work to ensure that the methods are sound. One teacher evaluation expert, Charlotte Danielson, has warned of a wave of lawsuits in places that don’t proceed with extreme caution.
A new report out today looks at the early adopters of new teacher-evaluation systems—and how they differ—as a way to help states and districts consider both innovations and potential missteps. The report, “Measuring Teacher Effectiveness: A Look ‘Under the Hood’ of Teacher Evaluation in 10 Sites,” was commissioned by ConnCAN,50CAN and Public Impact, all education advocacy groups that support overhauling how teachers have been evaluated historically.
While most states and districts have agreed to use multiple ways to rate teachers—including, usually, a combination of classroom observations and student test-scores—from there they often diverge.
The use of standardized test-scores to evaluate teachers has received a great deal of attention, but one of the bigger challenges that states and districts face is how to rate teachers whose students don’t take such tests. In most school systems, the vast majority of teachers—up to 88 percent, for instance, in the District of Columbia—do not teach subjects or grade-levels covered by standardized tests. The study found that the early adopters have come up with different ways to measure how the students of these teachers are progressing. In some instances, districts are simply adding more standardized tests. Elsewhere, teachers will be graded based on portfolios or teacher-created assessments.
In several cases, more than one measure looking at how a teacher has affected students is being taken into account. “The rationale is that no single measure is perfect, but combining multiple measures diminishes the weaknesses of any particular measure,” the report’s authors say.
Daniela Doyle and Jiye Grace Han of Public Impact, who co-wrote the report, also found differences in how student “growth” on standardized tests is measured; some of the more esoteric details of the calculations have been hotly debated among researchers.
When it comes to classroom observations, “there was a surprising amount of consensus,” according to Doyle and Han. But leaders of the various sites studied in their report made different decisions about who conducts the observations and how often they occur. (In our own reporting on efforts to overhaul teacher evaluations, we have found nuances among different systems that do seem to matter.)
“Measuring Teacher Effectiveness” doesn’t endorse any particular method: “None of these systems claims to have cracked the code for teacher evaluation,” the authors write. Instead, they focus on in-depth comparisons. What might seem like so many insignificant details to outside observers will loom large for the teachers and students they’re meant to help.

A scary (and telling) school voucher story

If you are wondering where the new rush to implement school voucher programs in state after state may be taking us, consider these developments from Louisiana.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (Mike Carlson - Associated Press)
Gov. Bobby Jindal recently signed a new law that sets up the largest voucher program of any state in the country. It is part of a series of “reforms” that Jindal says will expand school choice for families and critics say is the broadest state assault on public educationin the country.
Louisiana just announced that for 2012-13, 125 private and religious schools from across the state have qualified to participate in Louisiana Believes program, which gives families public money to pay school tuition for their children.
One of those schools is the church-affiliated New Living Word School, which was approved to increase its student enrollment from 122 to 315 — even though it doesn’t have the space, computers or the teachers to handle the students, according to the News-Star.
This means that this school will have 100 more voucher slots than any other school in Louisiana. The state Department of Education chose schools to qualify for vouchers without visiting any campuses.
According to the News-Star, Rev. Jerry Baldwin, the school’s principal and pastor of New Living Word Ministries, said that construction will begin this summer on a metal school building though he isn’t sure when it will be done. Current students now attend class in rooms used by the church’s Sunday school. If the new building is finished by the fall, he said, new students can hold class in the church gym.
The school’s mission, according to its Web site, is: “The mission of NLWM School is to provide a foundation built on biblical principles that will create an atmosphere for scholastic advancement and spiritual development.”
The school, Baldwin was quoted as saying, is moving forward “on faith.”
Education historian Diane Ravitch also reported on her blog that another school, the Eternity Christian Academy in Calcasieu Parish, will benefit from the voucher program. It now enrolls 14 students but has said it will take in 135 new students, a move that will result in some $1 million in taxpayer funds.
When news got out about some of the schools that would be receiving public voucher money, members of the state Senate called in Louisiana Superintendent John White to grill him about the voucher program, the News-Star reported.
During that session, White said the announcement about the schools that had qualified for the voucher program for the next school year was only preliminary — even though that wasn’t the way it was described earlier.
Meanwhile, a news release from the Louisiana Education Department announced that the Obama administration had granted a waiver to the state, relieving it from the most onerous mandates of No Child Left Behind, the latest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA. That news release said in part:
“The federal waivers allow districts and schools to exercise flexibility from federal ESEA regulations, in exchange for instituting rigorous accountability systems.”
All of this makes you wonder what Louisiana and the U.S. Education Department define as “rigorous accountability systems.”

Cloud Computing

31 May 2012 Oxford Internet Institute

● In terms of policy instruments, the main concerns and risks related to cloud
computing can be divided into three main categories: legislative framework-related
(legal fragmentation; jurisdiction; compliance and liability; enforcement and
redress),  contracts/terms and  conditions-related (Service Level Agreements; End
User Agreements; privacy terms and conditions; clarity and transparency), and
standards-related (interoperability; portability; vendor lock-in).
● Relevant actions to promote and encourage further development of cloud computing
are already included in the programme for the Digital Agenda for Europe. Based on
the evidence collected in the framework of this study, actions in five areas could be
considered by EU policy makers:
1. Address legislation-related gaps, by fully harmonising data protection rules across
the EU; by addressing gaps  related to cloud computing in other EU legislation; by
better protecting users regarding data disclosure by providers to law enforcement
authorities; by fostering global agreements on data protection standards; and by
providing collective redress against security and privacy breaches in cloud services.
Cross-border cloud services depending on a uniform intellectual property rights
regime would benefit from an increased level of harmonisation in this respect.
2. Improve terms and conditions for all users, by developing international best practice
models for contracts, or ‘model contracts’; and by ensuring complete transparency
by providing all terms and conditions in a very clear format.
3. Address stakeholder security concerns,  by examining the feasibility of an
independent auditing and certification system for provider security systems; and by
extending to cloud services providers the applicability of some of the provisions that
apply to ISPs and mobile networks under the EU electronic communications
regulatory framework.
4. Encourage the public sector cloud,  by developing systems of cloud-based
collaboration between public administrations across the EU and coordinating Member
States’ efforts; by promoting the adoption of cloud computing by EU institutions, as
well as its integration with the EU’s e-government plan; and by encouraging the
development of best practices in public procurement across the EU, including wide
use of open standards.
5. Promote further research and development in cloud computing,  in particular
regarding: costs and benefits of conventional IT services versus cloud provision;
how EU legislative frameworks and international agreements fit current and future
cloud computing services scenarios; the  economic impact and the environmental
impact of cloud computing; empirical research comparable across the EU 27 on
cloud computing user experiences, behaviour and risk perception; and cloud-based
awareness and resource exchange systems  particularly to educate and exchange
best practices for SMEs and public authorities.
PE 475.104 81 Policy Department A: Economic and Scientific Policy
6.1 Conclusions
The purpose of this study is to provide  a broad overview on  cloud computing, and
specifically how it relates to consumers and EU digital single market goals, in terms of
benefits, related risks and policy challenges. Its aim is to provide background information
and advice for the Members of the European Parliament IMCO (Internal Market and
Consumers) Committee on priority measures and actions to be undertaken in this field. One
of the first challenges encountered during the research for this study was to find an
established, widely accepted  definition of cloud computing. It does not denote a new
technology, but rather a new way of delivering computing services. Without a workable
definition, it can be a rather vague term with a multitude of meanings which can be as
broad as to encompass the whole of the Internet. We therefore adopted for this study the
NIST (the US National Institute of Standards and Technology) definition of cloud
omputing, which - to paraphrase - refers to computing services and resources (such as
 in importance and has climbed up on the EU
olicy agenda because of its close links with the single market goal of achieving a stronger
ed in the ambitious Digital Agenda. A
l justifies its perceived importance as
 Legislative framework related: legal fragmentation; jurisdiction; compliance and
liability; enforcement and redress. Due to fragmentation of legal regimes within the
EU 27 Member States, and the fact that data centres and providers can be located
anywhere round the world, it is not generally clear which legal system is applicable
islation may also have important gaps in its
versal definition. Consequently there may be limited enforcement and
software programmes, remote file storage, etc.) that can be accessed from any device at
any time and from everywhere, regardless of geographic location, and that can be rapidly
scaled to a user’s need with minimum management effort.
Under this definition, there are certain benefits and risks that are inherent to the cloud
computing model, rather than apply to the online world as a whole. Other concerns
expressed strongly by stakeholders - mainly about privacy and security of data entrusted to
the ‘cloud’ - are related to the online world generally, but the cloud computing model
intensifies them, and generates a lack of user confidence and trust that can limit adoption.
Cloud computing has in recent years gained
and more competitive digital internal market, as outlin
look into the potential benefits of this computing mode
a tool for the single market as it can bring considerable cost savings and increased
competitiveness of IT services to public and private organisations. It also makes it possible
for small start-up businesses to enter the market without worrying about large investments
into IT infrastructures; therefore it is also one of the enablers for innovation and jobs
creation. Potentially too, it can be an effective tool for collaboration at the EU
intergovernmental level and for enhancing e-government services for EU citizens.
Consumers could also benefit from the greater convenience, flexibility and cost-saving
afforded by cloud services. These important benefits indicate the need to spur on its further
development in Europe.
We have identified a number of main specific concerns and risks, expressed by virtually all
those we interviewed, as well as widely acknowledged in the literature reviewed. They
relate broadly to issues concerning privacy, security, trust and quality of service. In terms
of policy instruments, these can be divided into three main categories:
to a cloud computing service; there is difficulty in providing cloud services across
borders; and there is general confusion regarding rights and responsibilities related
to cloud computing services. Different Directives and Regulations may have different
liability provisions. Relevant leg
applicability to cloud computing services, given also that there is as yet no
established uni
 82  PE 475.104 loud Computing
compliance, and difficulties in obtaining redress. The choice of laws may have
serious repercussions for European based SMEs since they may not be able to afford
elevant for all stakeholders).
 Also very relevant
are various international agreements and guidelines, e.g.  the Safe Harbour
US, the OECD Guidelines for the
Protection of Privacy in Transborder Data Flows, and the OECD Security Guidelines.
an à la carte, with the
the inconvenience and expense of enforcing their rights in another country or
continent. Particularly relevant legislation includes: the Data Protection Directive,
and the related individual Member States’ laws regarding access to data stored in
the cloud (relevant for all stakeholders); the E-Privacy Directive
 (relevant for all
stakeholders), the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive
 (business to consumer
practices only), the Unfair Contract Terms Directive
 (consumer contracts only),
and the e-Commerce Directive (r
agreement  regarding data protection with the
 Contracts/terms and conditions related: Service Level Agreements (SLA); End
User Agreements (EULA); privacy terms and conditions and issues related to clarity
and transparency in disclosure. Due to uncertainties regarding applicable law and
jurisdictions, contracts are the main tools for establishing relationships between
cloud providers and customers. For consumers and the majority of business users of
public multi-tenancy ‘clouds’, they are ‘fixed menu’, rather th
terms set by the providers. For SMEs not covered by consumer protection legislatio
they are the only provision available. Large companies and public authorities ma
have more clout to negotiate. Contracts may be lacking key terms or use unfair o
even illegal terms, are unclear and difficult to read and/or print, often apply out-o
EU legislation resulting in difficulties to access redress, may have no readil
accessible complaints mechanisms, and many deny liability for loss of data an
other damage, and give no information regarding the location of data centres wher
the customer data is store
  Directive 95/46/EC. On 25 January 2012 the Commission published a proposal for a comprehensive reform of
the data protection rules, see Section 4.2.3 of this study.
Electronic Communications Privacy Directive, as amended by the Citizen’s Rights Directive 2009/136/EC.
Directive 2005/29/EC.
  Directive 93/13/EEC.
Directive 200
PE 475.104 83 olicy Department A: Economic and Scientific Policy
 Standards related: interoperability; portability; vendor lock-in. There is a risk of
further development of concentrated, incompatible cloud services. Profitability of IT
cloud services provision increases with  the number of users, so there are no
incentives for dominant providers to make their systems compatible with others and
thus open the doors to competition. This may have an impact on cost reductions and
innovation across the whole of the EU economy. Lack of interoperability also creates
the risk of lock-in for customers particularly when there is no mechanism to export
large amounts of stored data. It may also preclude effective inter-governmental cooperation on the EU level, including in the delivery of e-government services.
Standardisation, including use of open standards, is the most important tool for
achieving interoperability; there are currently many standardisation efforts, though
they are not as yet necessarily converging.
If not addressed, these issues can be a barrier to future adoption of this IT model,
particularly by SMEs and public authorities where take up so far has been limited. The
‘cloud’ for individual consumers is much more developed and used by many millions of
people, nevertheless there are risks there too, related to information asymmetries and
potential individual detriment. Further, lack of adoption by SMEs can also have an impact
on new Europe-generated innovative services for consumers.

Investing in Education Will Save Adolescent Lives

Posted: 30 May 2012 06:30 AM PDT
Progress for Children: A Report Card on AdolescentsProgress for Children: A Report Card on AdolescentsToday, 18% of the world’s population is in the age between 10 and 19 years, these are 1.2 billion children and youths transitioning into adulthood. This period in young peoples’ lives is the gateway to adulthood: while building and shaping her or his skills, values and attitudes still greatly depending on a nurturing and protecting environment, they are taking on more responsibilities, and are at the same time exposed to more risks. UNICEF’s report cardon the state of adolescents highlights the following:
  • Some 71 million children of lower secondary school age (10-14 years) are not in school.
  • Some 127 million youth between the ages of 15 and 24 are illiterate.
  • Every year, 1.4 million adolescents die from road traffic injuries, complications of childbirth, suicide, violence, AIDS and other causes.
  • An estimated 16 million births worldwide, are to girls aged 15–19, who are the most likely to experience complications and die of pregnancy related causes.
  • An estimated 2.2 million adolescents, around 60% of them girls, are living with HIV, and many do not know they are infected.
  • 215 million children (aged 12-17) are engaged in child labour.
Research has shown the value of education for an individual’s life as well as his or her immediate environment.  Building on primary education, trough secondary education, adolescents expand their skills and ability to use information and knowledge to make informed decisions about their lives but also to grow stronger in defense and avoidance of the risks for themselves and others. The report makes a case for investing in adolescents and underlines:”There is a crucial need for educational opportunities that are meaningful for young people as future wage-earners, parents and citizens. The foundation for this is quality basic education, including primary and lower secondary education. […] Girls, in particular, must acquire the skills that will help them earn their livelihoods and become productive members of society.”  Read the report …
The State of the World’s Children 2012:Children in an Urban World: The report focuses on the experience of children and young people in urban areas, especially the poorest and most marginalized. Traditionally the living conditions of children in rural and urban areas are compared. And in this regard children in urban settings tend to be better off than those in rural settings. But it masques the hardships endured by poorer urban children and hides the wide disparities in children’s rates of survival, nutritional status and education resulting from unequal access to services. The report shows that children from poor urban neighborhoods are among the least likely to attend school. Although a poor family might live close to a school they might not use its services, even if guards or fees do not bar entry, they may lack the sense of entitlement and empowerment.
The report highlights that poverty can severely limit a child’s education in urban areas: In Benin, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Venezuela, the education gap between the richest 20% and the poorest 20% is greater in urban than in rural areas. Pupils from the richest urban families in Venezuela have, on average, almost eight years more schooling than those from the poorest ones. Marginalized groups, including children living or working on the street, migrant children and the children of refugees and internally displaced persons, face particular challenges. Poor urban areas are the most challenging places for children to live. Read the report …

QS University Rankings: Asia – Battle of the Big 3


The QS University Rankings – Asia (Results | Methodology) were launched yesterday and have been widely viewed across the region and the world. Hong Kong University of Science & Technology and National University of Singapore take the top two spots but there are three large systems that each have a high number of well placed institutions in the table: Japan, Korea and China.
Studying the rankings trends of these three systems seems to show that Japan remains the leading system in the region but that its lead position is being rapidly eroded while those of China and Korea are in the ascendancy.
Representation in Asia's Top 200
The above chart reveals the number of institutions from each of the three systems that have been featured in the Top 200 in each of the last three years. We can see dramatic improvements at all levels for China and a gradual decline for Japan. The situation for Korea is even more interesting, with a gradual decline in total institutions within the 200 but solid increases in those within 100. Perhaps revealing a system with diverging poles of quality relative to the regional context.
Average Rank of Leading Institutions
This second chart looks at the movement in average ranks amongst the top 5, 10 and 20 institutions in each of the three countries and it reveals a similar trend with Korean and Chinese institutions moving up to assail Japan’s still dominant position. The ascent of China’s top 20 is particularly marked.

La alta tasa de fracaso universitario inquieta a Francia

La licenciatura es el eslabón débil de la enseñanza superior en Francia, y ese es un diagnóstico que comparten la izquierda y la derecha: el 48% de los estudiantes matriculados en primero (280.000 en 2008) no pasa a segundo, y apenas el 38% culmina sus estudios en los tres años previstos para el primer ciclo.
Este índice de fracasos al terminar el primer año se convierte en más del 80% entre los estudiantes procedentes del bachillerato tecnológico y profesional (que constituyen el 17% de los alumnos de primero e incluso el 30% en algunas carreras). Peor preparados para los estudios superiores, en su mayoría, que los estudiantes que han hecho el bachillerato clásico general, las universidades no de élite los aceptan, de todas formas, porque en teoría no tienen ninguna prueba de acceso.
El «filtro» se pone en práctica de la peor manera posible, al final del primer curso, sobre todo en las carreras más demandadas, como derecho o medicina, en las que solo pasa a segundo el 15% de los alumnos después de un examen de selección muy exigente en el que se disputan un número limitado de plazas.
La peculiaridad del doble sistema francés (por un lado las Grandes Écoles, muy selectas, y por otro las universidades, abiertas a todos) crea una competencia desigual. Las primeras atraen a los mejores alumnos, lo cual acentúa las dificultades de acceder a las segundas. En 1996, el 40% de los estudiantes que habían terminado el bachillerato tenían intención de ir a la universidad; en 2008, ya no eran más que el 31%, es decir, una cuarta parte menos.
La consecuencia es que los profesores e investigadores en las universidades ven llegar a un nuevo grupo de alumnos, con un nivel más bajo que antes. Algunos piden el restablecimiento de algún tipo de selectividad o de un año de preparación, para no devaluar su nivel de enseñanza, pero no es esa la vía que han escogido los sucesivos Gobiernos.
En 2007, la derecha puso en marcha el programa "Conseguir la licenciatura" para reducir el índice de fracasos a la mitad en cinco años, con medios económicos suplementarios (670 milliones de euros) y la instauración de un número mínimo de horas de clase (500 horas al año durante tres años), pero sus resultados son discretos. Hoy, la izquierda tiene la intención de abordar el fracaso en el primer ciclo universitario con una mejor orientación, por ejemplo, pero excluye cualquier tipo de selección. Para algunos especialistas en ciencias de la educación también es necesario dar a los enseñantes universitarios una formación pedagógica.

Los pobres no salen de la ignorancia

Visto desde fuera, este debate puede parecer extraño, una especialidad alemana como lo fue en el pasado la indignación por la muerte de los bosques o las centrales nucleares. Al fin y al cabo, en estos momentos, prácticamente no hay otro país europeo al que le vaya tan bien desde un punto de vista económico como a la República Federal Alemana y eso hace que las perspectivas que tienen los jóvenes de conseguir un empleo y ascender sean muy halagüeñas. Pero Alemania también es famosa por ser el país de los papeles, de las calificaciones y los certificados. Son el salvoconducto de entrada a las empresas y hay que ganárselos primero.
Y es ahí donde se origina el debate sobre la equidad educativa en las escuelas: en ellas, el éxito de los niños sigue dependiendo en gran medida de si los padres son trabajadores o tienen un título superior, de si traen a casa 1.000 o 4.000 euros al mes. Quien nace pobre, aunque sea inteligente, no será considerado apto para el bachillerato y, más tarde, no pasará de ser un trabajador con un salario bajo; así de contundentemente se puede formular esa falta de igualdad de oportunidades. El informe Pisa, el primer estudio internacional sobre educación, ponía de manifiesto este problema en el año 2000 causando una auténtica conmoción. Desde entonces se han hecho algunas cosas: según el último estudio Pisa del año 2010, Alemania ya está dentro del pelotón europeo en lo que respecta a permeabilidad social. No es una buena posición, al menos en opinión de muchos investigadores y políticos vinculados al ámbito educativo que, en un espectro que abarca hasta la CDU, reclaman mejores oportunidades para los niños cuyos padres carecen de estudios superiores.
Existen varios factores que explican el fuerte y pertinaz vínculo entre la procedencia social y el éxito en los estudios. Recientemente una investigación llevada a cabo por la Universidad Técnica de Dortmund y de la Fundación Bertelsmann constataba la relación recíproca entre el ascenso personal y los colegios de jornada completa. En aquellos centros donde los alumnos también reciben asistencia o clases por las tardes, los alumnos procedentes de hogares con menos recursos tienen mejores oportunidades. Porque, como los niños permanecen juntos más tiempo y en un mismo entorno, la influencia de los padres es menor. Pero, a diferencia de lo que ocurre, por ejemplo, en Francia, la escuela de jornada completa aún no es la norma en Alemania.
No obstante, los padres desempeñan un papel fundamental, por ejemplo, a la hora de elegir la escuela donde deben estudiar sus hijos. En ese sentido, muchos padres con menos recursos tienden a no enviar a sus hijos a centros que preparan para acceder a los estudios superiores aunque los niños saquen buenas notas, explica David Deissner, experto en educación de la Fundación Vodafone. Rehúyen las inversiones en formación o las consideran innecesarias. “El graduado escolar ya es instrucción suficiente”; así podría formularse esa actitud. A su vez, los profesores recomiendan a los niños de familias de clase baja que hagan el bachillerato más raramente que a los niños de “buena familia”, aunque hayan obtenido las mismas notas, tal como han documentado varios estudios.
El hecho de que esa recomendación se convierta en un verdadero problema en lo que respecta a la igualdad de oportunidades se debe a su vez a una especialidad genuinamente alemana: el sistema educativo tripartito, es decir, la división en enseñanza general básica, enseñanza media y bachillerato preuniversitario. Una vez que un alumno va a parar a un tipo de enseñanza determinada, por lo general suele seguir en ella, como también ha puesto de manifiesto recientemente el análisis de la diferencia de oportunidades educativas. En el ínterin, varias regiones se han propuesto demoler estas tres columnas para sustituirlas por un único pilar que recibirá el nombre de escuela común o escuela secundaria. Se puede considerar este planteamiento como claro seguidor de modelos europeos, por ejemplo, del modelo finlandés, con sus escuelas integradas que han contribuido a que el país ocupe permanentemente puestos punteros en el informe Pisa.

El abandono universitario se extiende en Italia

Giulia tiene 20 años, está matriculada en segundo de Ciencias de la comunicación en la Universidad de la Sapienza en Roma y ha decidido abandonar. Una carrera equivocada, quizá. Desde luego, ya no cree que un título pueda ayudarla a encontrar trabajo. Lo mismo que ella opinan muchos otros jóvenes en Italia. La culpa es de la incertidumbre sobre su futuro, un paro juvenil que, debido a la crisis, ha roto el techo del 35% (con picos de más del 50% en el sur de Italia) y un sistema educativo que no ayuda en absoluto a las familias que quieren que sus hijos estudien y no recompensa el mérito.
En el curso actual, 2011-2012, segun el último informe del Comité nacional para la evaluación del sistema universitario, el número de matriculados en las universidades italianas es ligeramente inferior al 60% el total de los jóvenes diplomados de primer ciclo. Es el número más bajo de los últimos 30 años. "Desde hace seis años", denuncian las asociaciones estudiantiles, "cada vez son más los diplomados de primer ciclo que no continúan sus estudios universitarios; en un país como el nuestro, el último de Europa por número de titulados superiores, eso debería hacer sonar todas las alarmas". Pesan las perspectivas económicas y pesan, sobre todo, los recortes llevados a cabo en los últimos años en los fondos para el derecho al estudio, que han bajado hasta apenas 12 millones de euros, frente a los 2.000 millones asignados por Francia y Alemania. Esta decisión se traduce en que al menos 45.000 estudiantes que merecen tener becas se han quedado sin ellas y tienen enormes problemas para proseguir sus estudios. Eso, sin contar con que Italia es el tercer país con las tasas universitarias más altas de Europa y que "33 universidades públicas, de 62", sigue la denuncia de los estudiantes, "tienen unas tasas de matrícula ilegales por ser excesivas".
Descubrir, como revela Eurostat, que Italia ocupa los últimos puestos, no solo en la clasificación mundial de universidades, sino en la proporción de jóvenes con másters que encuentran trabajo (76,6% frente a un promedio del 82,3%), solo contribuye a aumentar el desconsuelo.
"Más vale no tener título pero sí trabajo", dice Giulia, que se ve ya, de aquí a pocas semanas, sirviendo en el mostrador del bar de sus tíos en el paseo marítimo de Ostia. Pese a todo, la realidad es que los índices de paro de los que tienen un máster se mantienen en un nivel más bajo que el de los diplomados de primer ciclo, señal de que seguir estudiando más siempre es útil. Pero el mercado no premia a quien decide proseguir los estudios: los salarios de los trabajadores con un máster caen sin cesar (el salario del primer empleo, para quien tiene la suerte de obtener un puesto fijo, apenas consigue alcanzar los mil euros) y las ofertas de trabajo están congeladas desde hace meses. Y de poco servirán los fondos, 300 millones, asignados por el nuevo Gobierno a la Universidad. Un dinero que, no obstante, tras años de vacas flacas, es bienvenido.