Friday, 23 March 2012

Skills shortage

In this week's excellent leader from India Today magazine, it says:
It is estimated that in a decade from now, in 2022, there will be a demand for 500 million skilled workers whereas the supply will only be 122 million. 
That's why ReadingWise is in the skills education business!

Content is not king

I met a very smart chap this week who is a senior executive in a major learning company.  He believes that if you make good learning content available, people will learn it.
Ha ha, such naive optimism, I say!  My Uncle Arnold read the whole Encyclopedia Britannica twice, and it did not make him any smarter.  It just made for endless dinner conversations full of trivia.
I know a billionaire who has put a lot of money into providing the whole secondary school curriculum online.  He thinks this will solve the education problems of India.  I think his effort has been misplaced.
What they are all missing is that PROCESS is king.  The process by which one learns has to be the best available.  I think that there is no point in having content unless you teach learning processes so students learn effectively - how to retain, how to apply.  Which of course is why everyone should do our study skills course MemoryWise!

I've changed my mind about the best approach to tackling corruption

This week I had an excellent conversation with an Indian state senior civil servant (called a Secretary here in India) about corruption.
I have always been of the opinion that the offices of law and order have to take care of corruption at the top of the pyramid, but it behoves us NGO people to find effective ways to bring about behaviour change at the bottom of the pyramid.
(The pyramid is that representation of the economic situation where the haves sit at the top and the have-nots sit at the bottom, and people are usually trying to climb higher in the pyramid no matter where they are.)
Mr Secretary said that the people at the bottom of the pyramid cheat usually because they have to.  They have such low income that in order to feed their families, they have to be corrupt.  They have an almost altruistic motivation to do so.  A typical case is the cop who executes fines in the form of cash payments that go into his own pocket.
The best case entrance point (as we say in therapy language) is to address bureaucrats in the middle of the pyramid.  These are people who don't need to cheat - they have a good income and a good pension and good working conditions, and risk their whole careers in the cause of greed.  They siphon public money into their own pockets, sometimes in vast quantities.  They prevent the implementation of audit measures that would prevent this happening.
Mr Secretary thinks it should be possible to reduce this kind of corruption by a kind of preventative education program. It would be what they call in some countries a value education course.  I think he might be right, it should make a difference.  The difficulty would be setting up the RCT (Random Control Trial) to prove it worked!  However, I'm up for the challenge.  I've agreed to write the program, and he's happy to pilot it, so let's see if it works out.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Fertility rates fall almost exactly as female literacy rises

Dominic Lawson wrote something extrememly important in the (London) Sunday Times last November (which I forgot to post then.)
With the possible (and brutal) exception of China, the UN population division’s own figures demonstrate that in countries where fertility rates have fallen markedly there has been no great difference in the rate of decline whether governments have promoted birth control or not. There are only two statistically water-tight correlations: fertility rates fall almost exactly as female literacy rises; and the more urbanised a country becomes, the smaller is the average family.

Hardware problems

Memo to self:
I'm designing a large rollout of learning software on Reliance 3G Android tablets in India.
Must remember to check the breakdown rate.
Last time we rolled out 300 laptops, they were Lenovo and the maintenance/breakdown system wasn't too bad.  We want to avoid the following.  (Excerpt from Educational Technology Debate newsletter)

Wayan - Technology and Child Development: Evidence from One Laptop per Child Program in PeruMar 08, 2012 06:19 pm | Wayan
The report says that 13% of XO laptops in Peru malfunctioned at some point, and about half of them were successfully repaired. Yet in Uruguay, which has a much more efficient XO laptop maintenance and repair system, still had 27% of the XOs under repair at any given time. This makes me think that either children in Peru are much more careful with their XO laptops, or they are using them significantly less than in Uruguay.

Monday, 5 March 2012

OLPC study reiterates - technology is not the solution, pedagogy is

From Education Technology Debate 5 Mar 2012:

So far, the IDB has issued two synopsis examining the academic achievement and impacts on cognitive skills that XO laptops facilitated in a 15-month randomized control trial with 21,000 students in 319 schools – an initial report in 2010, and a second reportearlier this year. The summary findings should not be a surprise to EduTechDebate readers:
The effective implementation of the “One Laptop per Child” program was not enough to overcome the difficulties of a design that places its trust in the role of technologies themselves. The use of technologies in education is not a magic and rapid solution through which educational problems and challenges can be solved with the simple acquisition of technological devices and systems.
The IDB did find some positive and significant results in cognitive ability – a five-month lead over non-XO students – but no overall significant differences were found on Mathematics and Language standardized tests 15 months after the implementation.