The global battle in education

Yesterday the land was the capital. Plowing and pastures irrigated the farm. Wheat, rice, corn filled cities and empires, systems of power and exchanges. Then energy was wealth: coal, oil set machines in motion. The factory was the capital. All this is accompanied by this ingenious invention, because it covers space and time, money, that is, banking and credit. Therefore, complaining that the financial economy dominates the world is old chit-chat, as in the days of Croesus, Fugger, the Genoese bankers, the papal bank, and Luther.

Today, capital is the processing of information. After agriculture and industry comes the civilization of information or intelligence, even artificial. Therefore, capital is knowledge, from data (raw materials) to their analysis by algorithms, from AI to a teacher.

Is the school modern or yesterday’s?

In the civilization of knowledge, capital is the brain. Research is on the rise. Obama launched the Brain Initiative in the US and the Human Brain Project in Europe. Wouldn’t a better knowledge of the brain save time on learning? This is what John Negroponte, creator of MediaLAB at MIT, was planning. The pill to know all of Shakespeare, he said at TED.

Is the school of today the school of today’s world or yesterday’s? What do we learn there, how not to arrive on time, how to observe the discipline of the office and the factory, and not the new world?

Elon Musk hates school. He created his own: “Ad Astra”. Mysterious, different school: no age division (OECD recommendation 20 years ago); no memorization or learning of instruments. Encountering problems, leading to a search for tools to solve them, like in a game. “Subjects”: artificial intelligence, coding, robotics, applied science, but not languages: useless as translation software exists. An elitist, quirky, inappropriate school? What if Elon Musk was right about education, the car, digital payments, or space exploration?

Elon Musk quit university like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. There are many alternative schools. Nicholas Negroponte promoted the “school without teachers” with the “One Laptop per Child” project, which he experimented with in African villages, Cambodia and Peru. All courses exist online, it is important to “learn to learn”. The program allows it. We even teach this to computers, this is the principle of artificial intelligence.

In the days of Ted, Google, and Wikipedia, memorization seems like a transcendent, vague muscle exercise of the brain, because the brain is not a muscle. The interface with the computer allows the paraplegic to write. Neurological research identifies areas of the brain to determine those that light up based on the acquisition of knowledge, such as language or computing. But also this or that emotion. Will we be able to fly a helicopter by simply landing and “downloading” an instant learning program? Not instructions, of course: learning like in a video game, fifth element way? This is what Elon Musk and others dream of. Warning: they may be right. Except we don’t really understand why a helicopter still needs a pilot.

School of Management that claims to produce the next 200 biggest bosses in the world.

Jack Ma, a former English teacher turned richest man in China (Alibaba), funds rural schools. He also created his own school of management, which claims to train the next 200 biggest bosses in China, that is, in the world. According to China Daily, Hupan College is distinguished by “high social responsibility” and “high moral standards in business.” Thus the teaching of Confucian “humanities” would return to the highest Chinese aristocracy. For only $45,000 a year, cheaper than the Americans. Competition is everywhere. Joe Biden, a demagogue or clairvoyant, canceled the debts of American students. France remains at the forefront, as does a good part of Europe: education is really free. University too, or almost. Which is also its weakness, because the resources of French universities are very scarce compared to American, British or Chinese universities. Therefore, the model should be reconsidered, especially if we want to create, as it should be, French universities abroad, as we have created secondary schools.

A revolutionary world is revolutionizing education

“Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools compete! Mao said. Diversity makes it possible to compare and eliminate errors and deadlocks. One who knows what to do in matters of education is an alchemist, a magician, or a great pretentious person.

It is certain that the world in revolution is producing a revolution in education. This September, the UN is organizing a Transform Education World Summit where ministers and heads of state will respond to “education crises”.

At the moment, the educational revolution is quantitative. Schools are multiplying. In 2000, 400 million children were not in school. UNESCO estimates that 244 million children between the ages of 6 and 18 are not in school worldwide. This is two times less than twenty years ago, with a growing world population. But 84 million children will still be out of school in 2030. 9% of children do not go to primary school. In 1970 it was 28%, and in 2000 another 15%.

Public spending on education is 3.7% of global GDP (World Bank). There is a link between public investment in education and grades at the end of an educational career. China leads the OECD Pisa ranking. Estonia, Canada, Finland, Ireland and Korea are ahead. France has an average score, it remains in the top twenty countries.

For the quality of training or for contacts?

In other rankings, such as the University of New Jersey rankings, Finland and Korea are at the top. Evaluation and ranking are complex and biased. What do we classify? In general, Finland, Korea, Japan and Singapore are in the lead. Students still choose the US and the UK. For the quality of teaching or for contacts, aggregation into the “system of social reproduction of elites”? (The French university was lucky that Pierre Bourdieu and Raymond Boudon would challenge it).

Many complain about the drop in the educational level in France. Starting with teachers. This is evidenced by the lack of teachers. Thousands would be missing. The average number of pupils per teacher in public institutions is OECD average 14.5 children in primary school and 13 children in secondary school. In France, it is above average: 18.3 and 12.7. (Norway: 10.5 and 10.2. Belgium 12.1 and 9.3; Germany 15.2 and 12.8. USA, 16 and 16. United Kingdom 20.8 and 16.4.)

France is one of the few countries that is developing a global network

French-style education, with all its faults and virtues, remains attractive. France is one of the few countries that is developing a global network: 138 countries. The French network relies heavily on the public (with 500 million grants), even as the outbreak of private schools picks up pace.

The French network is experiencing undoubted success: 98.5% of students entered the bachelor’s degree, including 83% with honors. More than 14 thousand (including 8.5 thousand foreigners) will go to study at French universities. However, the French education system is no longer a model of excellence. His luck, his claims to universalism, should allow him to adapt to the various cultures of the world.

New schools with new methods

New schools with new methods cultivate difference. Perhaps this experience of another French education, adapted to foreign countries, will open the way to a new understanding of the French educational model in France, which is considered out of breath. Between those who want to return to the uniform, and Elon Musk is all fantasy in the world. And a 21st century school.

Laurent Dominati

It has. Ambassador of France

It has. MP for Paris

Chairman of the publisher of the site

  • Former General Secretary of the Liberal Democracy, he was then Ambassador to Honduras from 2007 to 2010 and Ambassador, Permanent Representative of France to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg from 2010 to 2013. Today he manages media.

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