The Middle East’s science revolution?
June 27th, 2013
09:28 AM ET

The Middle East’s science revolution?

By Shelly Culbertson, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Shelly Culbertson is a senior research manager at the RAND-Qatar Policy Institute in Doha, Qatar. The views expressed are her own.

It’s perhaps inevitable that violence in Iraq, Syria’s civil war, and ongoing unrest in Libya grabs international headlines. But in a part of the world so often associated with strife, significant progress is being made in areas that might come as a surprise to some. Indeed, even as conflict rages, a wave of research and innovation in Arabian Gulf countries is bringing with it significant investment in science and research infrastructure – and even U.S.-style universities.

When I moved to Qatar in 2006 to work at the RAND-Qatar Policy Institute, a partnership between the RAND Corporation and Qatar Foundation, my first project placed me as part of a team to set up the Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF), a sort-of national science foundation for Qatar. We were a diverse team of Americans, Qataris, Egyptians, and Iraqi scientists who had moved to Qatar for QNRF.

I admit I felt uncomfortable at first. After all, my country was at war in Iraq. How was this going to work? But amidst the regional upheavals, we focused on the opportunity to create something new and constructive together. We did, and we built trusting relationships with each other – but it was far from easy.

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Topics: Education • Middle East
April 6th, 2013
08:41 PM ET

America's higher education problem

"Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

As you know, American higher education remains the envy of the world, and it has been the nation's greatest path to social and economic mobility, sorting and rewarding talented kids from any and all backgrounds.

But there are broad changes taking place at American universities that are moving them away from an emphasis on merit and achievement and toward offering a privileged experience for an already privileged group.

State universities – once the highways of advancement for the middle class – have been utterly transformed in recent decades, under the pressure of rising costs and falling government support.

A new book, Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality, shows how many state schools have established a "party pathway," admitting more and more rich out-of-state kids who can afford hefty tuition bills but who are middling students.

Watch the video for the full take or read the column at TIME

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Topics: Education
April 4th, 2013
08:35 AM ET

The thin-envelope crisis

By Fareed Zakaria

It's time for the fat and thin envelopes–the month when colleges across the U.S. send out admission and rejection notices to well over a million high school seniors. For all the problems with its elementary and secondary schools, American higher education remains the envy of the world. It has been the nation's greatest path to social and economic mobility, sorting and rewarding talented kids from any and all backgrounds. But there are broad changes taking place at U.S. universities that are moving them away from an emphasis on merit and achievement and toward offering a privileged experience for an already privileged group.

State universities–once the highways of advancement for the middle class–have been utterly transformed under the pressure of rising costs and falling government support. A new book, Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality, shows how some state schools have established a "party pathway," admitting more and more rich out-of-state kids who can afford hefty tuition bills but are middling students. These cash cows are given special attention through easy majors, lax grading, social opportunities and luxurious dorms. That's bad for the bright low-income students, who are on what the book's authors, Elizabeth Armstrong and Laura Hamilton, call the mobility pathway. They are neglected and burdened by college debt and fail in significant numbers.

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Topics: Education
How to beat inequality
February 15th, 2013
06:27 PM ET

How to beat inequality

By Fareed Zakaria

Arguably the most important and innovative idea proposed by President Obama in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night was his call for high-quality, universal pre-school education.

“Every dollar we invest in high-quality early childhood education can save more than seven dollars later on, by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime,” Obama said. “In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children…studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, form more stable families of their own.”

He’s right. Most Americans would be surprised to learn that the United States now does worse in terms of social mobility than many European countries – especially those in Scandinavia – as well as Canada. What does this mean in practice? It means that a poor child born in the United States is much more likely to remain poor than one born in Canada or Denmark.

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Topics: Education • United States
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
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