The Education Gap

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Recently, BusinessWeek published a column by Intel Chairman Mr. Craig R. Barrett discussing the 'graduation gap' between American students and their counterparts in China and Japan in the fields of science, math, and engineering. When compared to our Asian rivals, according to the conventional wisdom, it seems too many American young people are selecting majors in the social sciences and humanities to detrement of the country's competitive edge in many high—tech industries.   

While studying these 'hard' sciences is fine, we should not underestimate the value of music, fine arts, and related subjects, to help develop a child's creative abilities.  As I have experienced first—hand in the classroom for the past nine years in Japan and China, the ability to 'think outside the box' is a real difficulty in Asian cultures, where rote memorization and group conformity are often emphasized. 

In an interesting twist, many educators in Asia are trying to adopt more of an Western educational model.  In a Japan Times article, Mr. Tawamitsu Sawa explains:

Another problem is that education in the arts is excluded from major universities and is addressed only by small colleges that offer degrees in specialized subjects. This appears to reflect the assumption that arts and sciences are incompatible.

Unlike their U.S. counterparts, Japanese university students do not have the option of majoring in mathematics with a minor in jazz music, for example. Such opportunities should be offered if Japan expects to develop software brains like that of Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates in the future.

While Mr. Barret's basic point that we must do more more to prepare our young people for the capital—intensive jobs of tomorrow is undeniably true,  we should also realize our Asian rivals face similar challenges.  The South China Morning Post recently reported:

Beijing's primary and junior secondary school students are poor readers and struggle to solve practical math problems, a municipal study has found. The conclusions are contained in a report on the compulsory education system released this week by the Beijing Municipal Education Committee.

Researchers tested and surveyed 7,000 fifth— and eighth—grade students in the city and found they did well in writing and recognizing characters, but reading was their weakest area.  The tests indicated the students could not readily comprehend the relationships between words and sentences, or the meaning of an entire article.

Despite the claims by some liberals, all of America's high tech jobs are not moving to Asia.  While lower labor costs in China are indeed attractive, corporate executives like Mr. Barrett must consider a variety of factors in their location decisions.   Don't underestimate America's hidden strengths.

Brian Schwarz   12 05 05

Recently, BusinessWeek published a column by Intel Chairman Mr. Craig R. Barrett discussing the 'graduation gap' between American students and their counterparts in China and Japan in the fields of science, math, and engineering. When compared to our Asian rivals, according to the conventional wisdom, it seems too many American young people are selecting majors in the social sciences and humanities to detrement of the country's competitive edge in many high—tech industries.   

While studying these 'hard' sciences is fine, we should not underestimate the value of music, fine arts, and related subjects, to help develop a child's creative abilities.  As I have experienced first—hand in the classroom for the past nine years in Japan and China, the ability to 'think outside the box' is a real difficulty in Asian cultures, where rote memorization and group conformity are often emphasized. 

In an interesting twist, many educators in Asia are trying to adopt more of an Western educational model.  In a Japan Times article, Mr. Tawamitsu Sawa explains:

Another problem is that education in the arts is excluded from major universities and is addressed only by small colleges that offer degrees in specialized subjects. This appears to reflect the assumption that arts and sciences are incompatible.

Unlike their U.S. counterparts, Japanese university students do not have the option of majoring in mathematics with a minor in jazz music, for example. Such opportunities should be offered if Japan expects to develop software brains like that of Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates in the future.

While Mr. Barret's basic point that we must do more more to prepare our young people for the capital—intensive jobs of tomorrow is undeniably true,  we should also realize our Asian rivals face similar challenges.  The South China Morning Post recently reported:

Beijing's primary and junior secondary school students are poor readers and struggle to solve practical math problems, a municipal study has found. The conclusions are contained in a report on the compulsory education system released this week by the Beijing Municipal Education Committee.

Researchers tested and surveyed 7,000 fifth— and eighth—grade students in the city and found they did well in writing and recognizing characters, but reading was their weakest area.  The tests indicated the students could not readily comprehend the relationships between words and sentences, or the meaning of an entire article.

Despite the claims by some liberals, all of America's high tech jobs are not moving to Asia.  While lower labor costs in China are indeed attractive, corporate executives like Mr. Barrett must consider a variety of factors in their location decisions.   Don't underestimate America's hidden strengths.

Brian Schwarz   12 05 05