Only one in five adult Americans have the work skills or education to be competitive in the global economy, says MIT economist Lester Thurow. To be equipped for the global economy today’s children today need to learn more than ever before sooner than ever before. Vic Lee illustrated how true this is in his comic strip Pardon My Planet when he pictured a young boy saying to his father, “Dad, you really should help me with my homework while you still can. Next year I enter the 4th grade.”
But American children are falling behind. They are leaving school unprepared to meet the demands of fast-changing industries, while children in other countries are springing ahead. More than one in every four college freshmen is taking a remedial math or English course. National Science Foundation data over the past seven years shows a 14% decline in enrollment in science and engineering graduate programs with current numbers showing further declines. As a result, not only are many skilled jobs being off-shored to other countries but skilled workers from other countries are being recruited to fill many of our top jobs here.
An Obama-Biden campaign policy paper stated “Too many Americans are not prepared to participate in a 21st century economy: A recent international study found
that U.S. students perform lower on scientific assessments than students in 16 other economically developed nations, and lower than 20 economically developed
nations in math performance. Only one-third of middle class physical science teachers are qualified to teach in that subject, and only one-half of middle
school math sciences have an educational background in that subject area.”
To bridge this educational gap, I propose a Tutors for All program. Every child can benefit from the individual attention and guidance of a tutor, or even a team of tutors, to
help master the requirements for today’s highly skilled positions. Research shows that tutoring works! It produces better results among all groups than virtually any federal aid to education program, too many of which cost school districts $1500 to administer and comply with for every $1000 in aid. We need to invest our resources in people, not paperwork. We need to enable children to compete – not feel compelled to cheat.
A Tutors for All program would employ tens of thousands of people who are now out of work, including teachers who have been laid off by so many school districts. Another problem with the existing school structure is they operate on a top-down, hierarchical model that prescribes a one-size-fits-all education where students all learn the same thing in the same way on a schedule that many find out of pace with their individual biology. A combination of computer-based learning and tutoring will enable students who learn differently to do so and at their own pace. Berlitz, Vocabu, and Popling are producing computer-based innovative modular instruction.
New approaches can save money, too. A Jefferson County, MO, school district that was spending spends about $330 a year per student on textbooks is buying tablet computers, leaving it over half this amount to buy or rent digital textbooks.
Tutors for All can serve as a benefit not unlike the GI Bill that enabled millions of vets to go to college after WWII. A publicly-funded voucher system would allow parents to choose from among pools of capable local tutors. Such a direct investment in the future will also provide meaningful work for millions, particularly older skilled Americans who would like to continue
working and earning even after retiring.
Higher education must become more affordable if the U.S. is going to produce the knowledge workers necessary to our economic future.. The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education gives 43 states an F’s for affordability. Tuition for students attending four-year public colleges and universities in-state averaged $16,140 a year in 2010-2011, almost triple the 2006-07$5,836 cost. The cost of a college education is higher than it cost to own a home only 40 years ago.
Textbook costs are skyrocketing too, averaging $1137 for that same period. These costs have become economically crippling, often leaving college graduates with heavy debt from student loans even before they enter the workforce.
To bridge this affordability gap, we advocate a strong program of online education. George Washington University Online High School (GWUOHS), is offering such a program for $9,995 per student, or $4,995 per semester and similar programs are available from leading universities such as Stanford, Northwestern, and Johns Hopkins.
Despite the criticism of skeptics who claim there is no valid evidence that online
education provides a good education, the Virginia Department of Education is
- Interactive e-books increased student engagement.
- Students appreciated being able to work at their own paces, whether in small groups or
- The vast majority of students reported being enthusiastic about reading and using e-books.
- Many teachers noted a dramatic increase in the students’ independence and willingness to be
responsible for learning on their own
- Teachers noted that the e-books encourage more engagement to learn the material.
What I offer here is an idea that needs and deserves research and testing.
Comments on the substance of the blogs are welcome. If you have other questions, please contact me directly for a consulting appointment.