Bill Gates on Higher Ed Reform
I only now came across Bill Gates’ review (published a couple of weeks ago) of the blockbuster book, Academically Adrift. There were a few snippets from Gates which I thought are worth chewing over:
Overall, the book depicts a culture in academia where undergraduate learning is only a peripheral concern; where the professors don’t want to assign complicated papers because grading them is hard work; where the main feedback is course evaluations from students who dislike writing complicated papers; where there’s an attitude of, “Don’t mess with us and we won’t mess with you.” And there’s no accountability for any of it…
…I’m optimistic about the potential of innovation to help solve many of the problems with our post-secondary system. But we need more and better information. I’m reminded of a point made by Andrew Rosen of Kaplan, the for-profit education company, that colleges today know more about how many kids attend basketball games and which alumni give money than how many students showed up for economics class during the week, or which alumni are having a hard time meeting their career goals because of shortcomings in their education.
While certainly would second the motion that we need “more and better information,” from where I sit, I think the chief problem in higher ed today is actually what Gates mentions at the beginning of the passage I quoted. What really needs to happen is for student learning to move from the periphery to the primary focus. New and improved information is only worth in the context of achieving that overarching goal.