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August 27, 2009



Influence can be defined as the power exerted over the minds and behavior of others. A power that can affect, persuade and cause changes to someone or something. In order to influence people, you first need to discover what is already influencing them. What makes them tick? What do they care about? We need some leverage to work with when we’re trying to change how people think and behave.



This is all great information. For those of you with experience in schools in other countries; let us teachers know what we need to change! What needs to happen so we can catch out students up to the rest of the world?


I have spent roughly half of my life in India and the other half in the US. At different times in my life, I have supported both sides of the argument.

In the early 1990s, I found myself supporting the merits of the American education system. My support was based on the better facilities, the care given to the safety of students, and a general concern towards the students' self esteem. It all came to a head when my eldest started falling behind in standardized tests, and I could not get anyone in the system to help me. That resulted in a long period of research into how the education system is set up and run, and what values and goals are generally espoused.

What I found was completely in contradiction with my expectations, so I ended up being very picky with schooling. I have tried private schools, home schooling, after school programs, you name it. In effect, I had to put myself in charge of my children's' education. The results, at least in terms of academic achievement, have been startling.

This brings me to my current position on public education, which aligns closely with Bob Compton's. I contend that the US has lost its momentum when it comes to leading the world in innovation. Bob is not alone in investing abroad. GE, HP, Intel, Microsoft, Oracle, Cisco, Boeing, and other high tech companies have set up significant R&D presence in India.

What Bob found when he visited India was not the result of overnight transformation in Indian education system. It is the result of several decades of focused effort on the part of both public and private schools. Just to give one example, all 10th grade students must pass a state board exam in three languages (including English), Social Studies (World Geography, History, Indian History), Sciences (Physics, Chemistry and Biology) and Mathematics. This is a very high bar. And with less than a tenth of the investment, they achieve better results.

They still have a long way to go in building huge buildings, offering electives, etc., but I think they have been funding their priorities correctly with the limited resources they have. With over 200 million students in the system, roughly four times our student body, even if 25% of their students excel, they have now graduated a potential workforce that completely outnumbers our entire graduating class. Add China to the mix, which has been doing extremely well in educating their workforce, we have a situation where we can only hope to find a niche that we can call ours.

Jay and Prof Yang have been playing up the merits of the system, I wonder on what grounds? If the proof of a good K-12 education system is in how well the K-12 graduates perform in their freshmen year in college, the data have been depressing for decades. Remedial rates as high as 50% in four year colleges and higher than that in community colleges are not uncommon.

If the proof is in employment prospects for high school graduates, that does not look good either. High school dropouts can pretty much write off their entire futures in this economy. I fail to see how the current system is serving the best interests of their students.

Our only saving grace is a vast network of research universities, which is still arguably world class. Even with the trend of increasing numbers of foreign students, these universities have incubated innovation and good ideas. But I maintain that our K-12 system is not doing a good enough job of feeding the much needed raw talent into these universities.

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