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Education – Are We Making Progress?

By: Rosemary Smith, Managing Director of Getting Better Foudnation

(Literacy, Intelligence, Technology, Gender, Curriculum)

Literacy – One of the moments I’d like to take back was a teenaged argument with my Dad, when I’d called him ignorant and illiterate.  Today, with changed perspective, I regard my Father as one of the smartest, self-made men I’ve ever met.

Whether an accurate title or not, Illiterate may be one of the most hurtful words in any language. Due to advances in education around the world, the word applies less than ever.  The following chart reflects people with no education around the world. These figures, from The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA),  and www.OurWorldInData.org suggest that education rates are increasing over time. By 2050, only five countries are projected to have a lack of education above 20%.  The conclusion?  We have hope most gaps in literacy will be closed.

Intelligence – We measure intelligence by “IQ” or “Intelligence Quotient”.  Over time, IQ scores have been increasing by about three points per decade… that means, our really smart great-grandparents may have had an IQ of only 70 by 2019’s standards – considered intellectually disabled. Thanks to advances in education, technology and nutrition — if we were to take a time machine back 100 years and   possessed today’s average IQ — we’d be considered more intelligent than 98% of the population at that time.   Our kids?  The “Millennials” and “X-Gens” will be thinking of us as ignorant.  With their access to explosive technological growth we’ll probably see IQs continuing to climb.   In fact the U.S. National Assessment of Education Progress, projects potential growth of 6+ points per decade.  Add increasing graduation rates, college diplomas and graduate degrees — our kids will be the most intelligent generation yet.

Technology – Speaking with a retired teacher, we agreed that curriculums took a huge leap once tech began invading classrooms.  “We went from chalk and poster boards — to overheads, , interactive white boards, laptops and smart phones.  Technology allows a change in pedagogy — focusing less on students memorizing facts (they can look them up online) and more on core reasoning concepts that they can build upon to solve problems. The objective is to bring school systems and children to par – so they have access to the same tools, regardless of income levels.”  Advances in technology allows parents’ participation in tracking grades, homework assignments and even home-schooling. The teacher went on to say “The reinforcement from home certainly helps. We see a direct correlation of success when parents are involved.”     And my gut tells me that parents today, on average, spend more time involved with their children’s education than previous generations.

Imagine carrying one of these around in your backpack!
(Original computer lab, circa 1978)

Gender Equality – There have been no shortages of studies on how the education of girls directly corelates to a country’s alleviation of poverty, violence, disease and overpopulation.  Recent gains in the education of girls, inspired by people like Malala Yousafzai, foundations like Bill & Melinda Gates’ and “STEM” (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), has helped raise awareness that in order to continue the trend of global prosperity, we need to foster equality, not only in glass ceilings but in educational opportunities.

Curriculum – The fact that literacy, intelligence and technology have all increased globally, allows for education to begin earlier and progress more quickly.  Online curriculums make access to lesson plans easier for teachers, and bring higher degrees and continuing ed to those needing to work during the school day.  As students are exposed to better and more individualized learning methods, a higher percent will graduate and pursue college or technical degrees, which earn them higher paying jobs.  The greater a country’s affluence, the more they spend on education and the upward cycle continues.   Thus, prosperity fosters education and vice-versa. While we recognize there are issues of disparity among school district curriculums, states and countries, the gaps are closing.

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