February 7th, 2013
10:26 AM ET

Getting education rankings right

By Muhammad Faour, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Muhammad Faour is a nonresident senior associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. The views expressed are his own.

The World Economic Forum’s latest Global Competitiveness Report, which assesses the economies of 144 countries and ranks them based on more than 100 indicators, had something to say about education. This is hardly surprising since education is a main determinant of economic competitiveness. The question, though, is whether the index – which relies heavily on business executive assessments for the ranking – really gets education right.

After looking at the country rankings, it’s difficult not to have doubts.

For example, Lebanon and Qatar were among the top 10 countries in terms of quality of math and science education, quality of primary education, and more generally quality of the educational system. Though no doubt a pleasant surprise for Lebanese and Qataris, this assessment is a significant departure from the results of student achievement tests in every international test Lebanon and Qatar have participated in. In the international student achievement tests in math and sciences (TIMSS) in 2007 and 2011 for grade 8, Lebanese and Qatari students scored well below the international average of 500. In math, Lebanon scored 449 in both 2007 and 2011, while Qatar scored 307 in 2007, but 410 in 2011.

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Topics: Education
February 1st, 2013
02:25 PM ET

Bill Gates on what makes a good teacher

Fareed speaks with Bill Gates about education – and what we know about why some teachers are more successful than others. For the full interview watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS" this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.

What is it that makes a good teacher?

Well, it turns out that the way you engage the class [makes] a critical difference.  So an average teacher comes in – and it’s only through research we know this – and they pretty much know what they're going to present during that class.

And looking at the students – and seeing if they're sort of fidgeting, moving their leg – there's a lack of energy in the room going in, asking them questions, getting them engaged, seeing if they can relate to the topic.

The best teacher is very interactive. It's more performance oriented. And that is something that teachers that have gotten feedback can watch [and] do it well.

Calming the classroom down – there’s quite a range of capabilities there. So you often waste 5ive to 10 minutes at the start of the class. That’s not working well.

You know I think it’s fantastic that we’re finally getting to the bottom of why are those amazing people so good. And we're not saying we can get everybody to the very top. But at least we can do a lot better.

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Topics: Education
Washington must focus on growth
January 23rd, 2013
12:40 PM ET

Washington must focus on growth

By Bruce Katz and Mark Muro, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Bruce Katz is a vice president at the Brookings Institution and director of the Metropolitan Policy Program. Mark Muro is a senior fellow at Brookings and policy director of the Metro Program. The views expressed are their own.

Debt and deficits have dominated our nation’s capital for the last two years. From the near government shutdown over a budget impasse in April 2011 to the debt ceiling crisis and subsequent credit downgrade in August 2011 to the recent brinksmanship to avert a fiscal cliff, it has been “all deficits all the time.”

And yet, amidst the fiscal obsession, a slow-moving economic emergency persists. The U.S. faces an overall “jobs deficit” of 11 million to make up the jobs we lost during the Great Recession and account for a wave of new entrants to the labor force. The number of poor and near poor in America skyrocketed from 81 million in 2000 to 107 million in 2011, nearly one-third of the U.S. population.

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Topics: Economy • Education • United States
December 9th, 2012
01:02 AM ET

Exploring the Scandinavian model

“Because of their more limited inequality and more comprehensive social welfare systems, many perceive average welfare to be higher in Scandinavian societies than in the United States. Why, then, does the United States not adopt Scandinavian-style institutions?” asked three researchers in a recent MIT paper that can be downloaded here. “More generally, in an interdependent world, would we expect all countries to adopt the same institutions?”

In this week’s What in the World on GPS this Sunday at 10 a.m. & 1 p.m. ET, Fareed Zakaria takes a look at the surprisingly free market countries of Scandinavia, and what the United States can – and can’t – adopt from them.

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Topics: Education • GPS Show • Health
November 19th, 2012
01:47 PM ET

Bill Gates: I just don’t see room for education cuts

"Fareed Zakaria GPS" this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET.

Fareed Zakaria spoke with billionaire and philanthropist Bill Gates on Global Public Square and heard his take on the election, science and America’s budget priorities.

Are you happy with the outcome of the election?

Well, now we have certainty about who’s going to be in the leadership. And, they’ve got a very challenging budget situation. I’m quite hopeful that they will find a way to reach a compromise, while not cutting the key investments in the future, whether it's helping poor countries or funding research in the U.S., funding the education system. You know, now, we’ve got several months here of very important negotiations.

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Topics: 2012 Election • Education
And the best university in the world is...
October 10th, 2012
12:27 PM ET

And the best university in the world is...

By James Lindsay, CFR

Editor’s note: James Lindsay is senior vice president and director of studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. This entry of Water’s Edge was first published here. The views expressed are his own.

The new college rankings are out. No, not the rankings for football prowess (though they are out too). The Times Higher Education World University Rankings. They debuted last week, and American higher education has reason to chant, “We’re Number One!” The question, though, is for how long?

Now university rankings should always be taken with a grain of salt for anything other than establishing broad trends. For example, I don’t know any University of Virginia graduate who thinks that UVA (#118) ranks behind the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (#42), let alone nearly every school in the Big Ten (which oddly enough has a dozen members). The reality is that universities have different strengths and weaknesses, and there’s no sure way to measure either. Even if there were, it’s not obvious whether great strength in, say, engineering should count more, the same, or less than great strength in the physical or social sciences. Throw in the differences across borders in terms of teaching formats and approaches, and global college rankings are a dicey enterprise.

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Topics: Asia • China • Education • United States
Reasons for optimism in today's world
Because of the coordinated actions of world governments, we avoided another Great Depression, Fareed Zakaria said.
May 25th, 2012
10:53 AM ET

Reasons for optimism in today's world

Editor's note: Fareed Zakaria recently delivered the commencement address at Harvard. While the audience was graduates, the message could apply to a great many of us, so we've reprinted a modified version below.

By Fareed Zakaria

The best commencement speech I ever read was by the humorist Art Buchwald. He was brief, saying simply, “Remember, we are leaving you a perfect world. Don’t screw it up.”

You are not going to hear that message much these days. Instead, you’re likely to hear that we are living through grim economic times, that the graduates are entering the slowest recovery since the Great Depression. The worries are not just economic. Ever since 9/11, we have lived in an age of terror, and our lives remain altered by the fears of future attacks and a future of new threats and dangers. Then there are larger concerns that you hear about: The Earth is warming; we’re running out of water and other vital resources; we have a billion people on the globe trapped in terrible poverty.

So, I want to sketch out for you, perhaps with a little bit of historical context, the world as I see it.

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Topics: Culture • Economy • Education • From Fareed
What Finland can teach China about education
May 1st, 2012
05:00 PM ET

What Finland can teach China about education

Editor's Note: Jiang Xueqin is a deputy principal at Peking University High School and the director of its International Division. The following post was originally published in The Diplomat, a stellar international current-affairs magazine for the Asia-Pacific region. 

By Jiang Xueqin, The Diplomat

I’ve just finished a week visiting Finnish schools, and on my last day, while touring Finland’s best high school, I ran into China’s vice minister of education, who was spending the day in Helsinki looking at what China can learn from the world’s best K-12 school system.

If the vice minister were to ask me what parts of Finland’s education system I thought China could and should emulate (he didn’t) I’d tell him there were two things.

First is Finland’s pre-kindergarten system, in which children as young as nine months-old can attend until they are six. In each class, four university-educated teachers supervise about twenty children as they play sports, eat meals, and sleep together. This voluntary and pay-as-you-can daycare may seem costly, but it’s the best investment a society can make if it wants to ensure equality of opportunity for its children. FULL POST

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Topics: China • Education
Is an MBA worth it for the entrepreneur?
(Courtesy: Dinesh Moorjani)
April 24th, 2012
07:00 PM ET

Is an MBA worth it for the entrepreneur?

Editor’s Note: Dinesh Moorjani is the Founder and CEO of Hatch Labs, a mobile startup incubator creating new platforms and applications to improve mobility for the wireless generation.

By Dinesh Moorjani – Special to CNN

It’s often perceived in the business world that pursuing an MBA degree is analogous to buying career insurance, especially if you attend a top program.

What many aspiring entrepreneurs have found, however is that earning an MBA can actually momentarily slow down an upward career trajectory, considering the degree typically requires a two-year job hiatus at a full-time program.

The real benefit of this advanced degree may be the parachute it serves in times of economic distress.  But for those assessing the risk vs. reward opportunity, the need to consider the likelihood of that parachute opening properly remains paramount.  And perhaps the best indicator of that is how well the parachute is packed, or without the laborious analogy, how talented the individual is and how those talents are channeled toward meaningful professional endeavors. FULL POST

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Topics: Business • Education • Innovation • Technology
Zakaria: A global education for a global age
Yale University in 2008. (Getty Images)
April 11th, 2012
06:00 AM ET

Zakaria: A global education for a global age

Last week I wrote in op-ed in the Yale Daily News in support of Yale's new college at the National University of Singapore.  There has been strong disagreement among members of the Yale community over whether Yale should open a campus in Singapore, which has limits on freedom that we in the West strongly disagree with. Here's a portion of my response:

"Singapore is not a liberal democracy, though it is not so different from many Western democracies at earlier stages of development. It is not the caricature one sometimes reads about. Singapore is open to the world, embraces free markets and is routinely ranked as one of the least corrupt countries in the world.

"It has also become more open over the last ten years. In fact, it is to enhance and enrich this process that Singapore has invited Yale to help create a liberal arts college. There will be differences in perspectives among students and faculty, foreigners and locals, but that makes it an ideal place to engage with issues of democracy and liberalism. I can imagine a fascinating seminar on democracy that would be much feistier in Singapore than at Yale precisely because there will be those who take positions quite critical of what is received wisdom in the West. FULL POST

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Topics: Education • From Fareed • Global
Rice, Klein: Education keeps America safe
Condoleezza Rice and Joel Klein say improving education is key to America's leadership and national security.
March 20th, 2012
06:59 PM ET

Rice, Klein: Education keeps America safe

Editor's note: Joel Klein and Condoleezza Rice lead the Independent Task Force on U.S. Education Reform and National Security, sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations. Klein served as chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, where he oversaw a system of more than 1,600 schools with 1.1 million students. He is CEO of the Education Division at News Corp. Rice served as the 66th U.S. secretary of State from 2005-2009. She is a professor at Stanford University (where she also served as provost) and a founding partner of The RiceHadley Group.

By Condoleezza Rice and Joel Klein – Special to CNN

The United States is an exceptional nation. As a people, we are not bound by blood, nationality, ethnicity or religion. Instead, we are connected by the core belief that it does not matter where you came from; it matters only where you are going. This belief is what makes our country unique. It is also what makes education critically important, more so today than ever.

While our political leanings may be different, our careers have taught us that education is inextricably linked to the strength of this country and our leadership in the international community.

Today, globalization and the technological sophistication of our economy are widening already troubling socioeconomic disparities, rewarding those who acquire the right skills and punishing brutally those who do not. Much is at stake. FULL POST

Dyson: From standardization to inspiration
(Getty Images)
February 21st, 2012
10:30 AM ET

Dyson: From standardization to inspiration

Editor's Note: Sir James Dyson is a British industrial designer and founder ofDyson Company. Fareed Zakaria recently interviewed 

By James Dyson - Special to CNN

Last week, President Obama granted 10 states freedom from the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The decade-old act holds states to a 2014 deadline to have all students deemed proficient in reading and math.

Even as the standards were enacted, its authors weren’t optimistic. They’d hoped the U.S. Congress would have stepped in to develop a more robust educational measure. The aim of the act was noble: To ensure American students were educated to a level at which they could compete with their global peers. But the method is flawed. Standardization does not inspire.

Two years shy of the deadline, the Obama Administration has given states an out, but not before setting its own benchmarks. To be exempted, states must agree to college- and career-ready standards, set new achievement standards and create new teacher evaluation systems.

The waivers signal a shift in the right direction. But do the new terms simply trade one yardstick for another?

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Topics: Education • Innovation • Technology • United States
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