by Stephen Downes
Feb 17, 2017
Two things have held up through decades of research on education and its impact. First, socio-economic background is the single best predictor of educational outcomes. And second, education is a necessary but not sufficient precursor to increased socio-economic outcomes. These are the findings that are rediscovered in the current study published in the journal Social Forces. But Facebook devotes a substantial portion of this article repeating criticism from an outlier study (more here) "finding that college is in fact the great equalizer." According to that outlier critics, "students who graduate from the same Ivy League college -- or any college -- tend to earn similar amounts of money in their adult lives." Well sure - if you ignore selection bias, graduation rates, and the fact that income at age 30 is not an educational outcome, you get similar results. I would caution against making this study the basis of criticism of future studies.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg released a manifesto yesterday afternoon stressing the importance of community and Facebook's role in developing it. It is worth noting that I quit Facebook last September because, in my view, Facebook was subverting community, and replacing it with advertising. Zuckerberg emphasizes, "the most important thing we at Facebook can do is develop the social infrastructure to give people the power to build a global community that works for all of us." I think, though, that there is am important distinction to be drawn between the concept of infrastructure that is owned by, and operated for, the benefit of a community, and a privately owned platform managed for private interests. Zuckerberg believes he is building society, without realizing that society can only be built by all of us.
It's no surprise to anybody that distance and online courses cost students more (a least, when they're offered by traditional educational institutions). But more controversial in this WECT report (79 page PDF) is the contention that they cost more to produce. This result is based on 197 responses (from an unknown number of institutions) to an email survey sent to WCET members. Reading the results, the main reason distance education costs more seems to be "distance education costs more" (p.48). Every category of expense was higher for distance education. The main costs are faculty support and development (52%), tech (37%), and student support (28%). The report also makes the point that lowering cost isn't seen as part of the mandate by many institutions. Via Inside Higher Ed.
The focus of this article is critical thinking in the South African context, and in particular the recent Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) and Thinking Schools South Africa (TSSA), "a non-profit organisation encouraging and resourcing the teaching of effective thinking in schools." One of the unsung advantages of critical thinking, writes Peter Ellerton, is that it creates resilience, promoting the development of "students who have an ability to think their way through problems, a confidence in their ability to do so, and who can apply critical thinking skills to understand their circumstances and explore options open to them."
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