A recent article in Fast Company critiques Mark Zuckerberg’s plan of spending $100 million dollars to remedy Newark’s struggling education system. His chutzpah is reminiscent of good-intentioned celebrity activism that lacks actual impact. If anything, the article definitely illustrates the diversity of opinion among the educational community about what is best—from investing in early childhood development to incorporating more parent-teacher interaction to rethinking the way we teach.
This makes me think of two things:
First, that throwing $100 million at educational reform idea is unlikely to do the trick, particularly if said big spender is inexperienced with educational policy. Zuckerberg is of course not going it alone, but his approach is about finding what fits into his beliefs on what is the best “theory of change” for education as opposed to creating any compromise or innovation among the already disparate opinions of educationists.
Second, I’d like to see more of these ideas applied in developing nations. Naturally there are a great many binding constraints that need to be eliminated before many of these things could be feasible—for example, early childhood development matters little in the classroom in face of illness and malnutrition which will stop any progress in its tracks. But all things considered, the quality debate is a relatively new one in the literature on educational achievement in developing nations simply because the focus for so many years was just to get children into schools, regardless of whether they were actually learning or not.
That being said, it seems we are continually searching for the one mostly magic educational intervention that can have significant, distinguishable impact. There is a new paper by Eric Hanushek (gated), a man who knows his stuff, claiming that the economic value of higher teacher quality is enormous.
Education is the furthest thing from a recipe, and it’s easy to see that quality is difficult to agree upon, implement, and measure in the US. These problems are only magnified in situations with less infrastructure and fewer resources. Yet integrating quality dimensions more effectively into the strategic educational framework is crucial to bridging educational divides because it ensures that children are actually learning, rather than being tallied as enrollment statistics.