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Education This Week

Higher Education for Free - Part II

By Watson Scott Swail, President & CEO, Educational Policy Institute/EPI International

Before the Christmas break, I wrote a piece called “Higher Education for Free” (December 23, 2011). This week I am providing a “Part Deux” due to emerging news and conversations on the topic.

This week, Apple announced two important announcements. First, an expansion of their iTunes U, which provides not only courses from higher education institutions around the world, but full courses. Second, the expansion of iBooks for textbooks.

These two innovations build upon our prior news of MIT opening its course content to the masses, giving people who complete MIT online courses an option of getting full course credit for their effort.

In the past few days, critics have crawled out of the woodwork to complain how Apple will be bad for higher education. As one critic noted, this is not Apple’s humanitarian interest in expanding education to the masses, but rather, to sell more iPads. Others suggest that this will only weaken the “higher education brand” for institutions and we will continue to water down the pristine ivory towers of postsecondary education.

This past week, EPI hosted its Executive Institute on Student Success in Scottsdale, Arizona. Former Congressman and CSU-Monterey Bay Founding President Peter Smith (now of Kaplan Higher Education) discussed the potential of “badging” in higher education. This is the practice where students will essentially receive a statement of competency acquired in a particular course. This is not necessarily the same as gaining course “credit,” but it begins to eat away at the necessity of certain course work and may pave the way for redefining the structure of the higher education “degree.”

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According to a survey by the US-based National Association of Colleges and Employers, the overall average salary for Class of 2011 graduates is up to $41,701, which is 2.3% higher than the Class of 2010 average of $40,766. Graduates in the fields of business, communications, computer science, education, engineering, health sciences, humanities and social sciences, and math and sciences each saw increases in average salaries of at least 1.1%. Computer science majors saw the biggest increase in their average salaries, rising 4.1% to $60,594. Engineering graduates have the highest average salary at $61,872, up 3.8% from $60,971 in 2010.

Source: NACE: Salary Survey: Starting Salaries for New College Graduates


Government of Canada Invests in Southern Ontario’s Future Scientists and Engineers
Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario
Oshawa, Ontario — Colin Carrie, Member of Parliament for Oshawa, on behalf of the Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), today announced that the Government of Canada will invest up to $1.5 million for FIRST Robotics Canada. The funding will create opportunities for students in southern Ontario to participate in robotics competitions and real-world engineering challenges, encouraging them to look at science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields as potential study and career paths. “Our government recognizes that to fuel business innovation, jobs and long term economic growth, young Canadians need to explore the benefits of pursuing an education or career in scientific fields,” said MP Carrie.

Funding for Ontario’s Catholic schools under fire in court challenge
By Kristin Rushowy, Parentcentral.ca
Ontario should claw back funding to Catholic elementary schools and eliminate all financial support for Catholic secondary schools, says a court challenge launched by a Toronto woman. Reva Landau, who filed the case in Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice in December, says in her application that she is asking for “a declaration that any aid to Ontario Catholic separate schools that was not guaranteed by the British North America Act, 1867 and the Constitution Act, 1982 and that is not equally available to any other religious or philosophical group violates” the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ equality rights. “I say we should go back to the good old days — though I don’t know if they’d look at it that way,” Landau said in a telephone interview Friday, calling the current system of funding just one religious system “blatant discrimination.”

Enlow: School Choice Week Highlights Demand for Options
By Robert Enlow, Education News
During a cold week last January, thousands of parents and grandparents throughout the country marched on state capitols and held town hall meetings, expos, movie screenings and even a grandmas’ coffeehouse – all in the name of more educational freedom. They shared one concern: with more than 1 million children dropping out of school annually, public schools were not delivering the quality education every child deserves. Now, parents and grandparents are lining up again next week to participate in National School Choice Week 2012 and further amplify the call for effective schools that motivate and challenge our students. While politicians keep talking about pouring more money into schools, citizens are getting more engaged to demand school choice.


'Modest' cuts at U of A won't affect students, president says
By Sheila Pratt, Edmonton Journal
Budget cuts at the university are "modest" and won't have a negative impact on students, says Indira Samarasekera, president of the University of Alberta. Students on campus today are reaping the benefits of generous six-per-cent increases in provincial grants in the mid-2000s, which allowed the U of A to hire more faculty after the cutbacks of the Klein era reduced the number of professors, Samarasekera told The Journal editorial board on Tuesday. With more professors, improvements to technology such as Wi-Fi and new buildings on campus, the quality of the learning experience for students is much better than it was in 2005, she said. "So I don't buy the argument that the two-per-cent cut is going to change their experience," she said. "We have not laid off profs, the number has increased over the last five or six years and now it's constant and may go down slightly.

$25M plan seeks to make Concordia a top-tier school: University looks to improve reputation by investing in library and research
By Karen Seidman, The Gazette
After 2½ years of consulting and revising, Concordia University finally has a new academic plan that the university hopes will improve its reputation over the next five years. Looking to become a top tier university and a high quality research institution, Concordia will invest $25 million over the next five years to boost its standing in the academic world. No, Concordia doesn't want to become the next McGill University - it just wants to be a better Concordia. Adopted unanimously by the board on Thursday, after getting senate approval in the fall, the plan is much more than a framework - it is a real action plan to make a lot of changes at the university. "There are 82 actions to get us where we want to go," said Concordia Provost David Graham, who said he was "beaming" now that the university can finally move forward and make the changes it believes will enhance its academic mission.

Why job growth may favour college grads, apprentices over university students
By Dana Flavelle, the star.com
The Ontario economy was expected to create more jobs for college graduates and apprentices than for university students during and after the 2008 recession, according to a study. College graduates and apprentices were expected to snare 35 per cent of all new jobs, compared with just 26 per cent for university students, the report done for the Ontario ministry of training, colleges and universities predicted. High school graduates would qualify for 22 per cent of all jobs while high school dropouts would get just 8 per cent, according to the report called “Where are job trends headed in the future?”
About 9 per cent of new jobs would be management positions, which are typically not filled by recent graduates, the report said. The study looked at a five-year period that will end in 2013. At first blush, the forecast appears to defy conventional wisdom that students with the highest level of post-secondary education are most likely to land work.


Matching Up States, Countries Offers Fresh Perspective
By Sarah D. Sparks, Education Week
Comparing Finland and Minnesota may be more apt than looking nation to nation, testing experts say, but the analysis needs to go beyond just scores. As concern over America's competitiveness abroad intensifies, education officials in the U.S. are beginning to consider using individual states and districts—not just the nation as a whole—as the units against which to measure their international peers. In everything from population demographics to curriculum adoption, a country like Finland may be more comparable to an individual state like Minnesota than it is to the heterogeneous expanse of the United States—leading some policymakers and researchers to reason that such state-to-country comparisons can better highlight educational practices. Yet education and testing experts warn that if such comparisons are to be useful, educators must go beyond basic test rankings to understand how countries' specific policies and practices can make U.S. students more competitive.

Top 10 local authorities for schools include nine London boroughs
By Jeevan Vasagar, the guardian
Nine London boroughs have been ranked among the 10 best local authorities in England for the quality of their state schools. Kensington and Chelsea was the highest performing local authority in a study by the thinktank CentreForum. The study sought to highlight school quality by adjusting for factors including poverty, ethnicity, a child's first language and gender, which tend to skew exam performance. The report says: "Once these important differences are taken into account, pupils in London appear to perform significantly better than one might expect. Indeed, pupils of all types – including the poorest pupils and those from typically underperforming ethnic groups – perform better in London than in all other regions." The research looked at GCSE results for more than 600,000 pupils who sat exams in summer 2010, combining this with data about the children's achievement in earlier years.

The Global Search for Education: More from Norway
By C.M Rubin, Global Education News
In July of 2011, Dr. Kristin Sivesind, distinguished professor in the University of Oslo Faculty of Education, shared her education perspectives with us in The Global Search for Education: A View from Norway.  Today, with the help of Kristin Sivesind, and Principal Bjorn Bolstad, the faculty and students of the Ringstabekk Skole in Barum, a suburb of Oslo (http://www.ringstabekk.net), we are able to share with you some additional education insights into how a model Norwegian public school is addressing skills needed in the 21st century. Principal Bolstad, what are the backgrounds of the pupils in your public school?  What is the diversity (racial and socio-economic) within the student body? Our school draws pupils from our local community.  They are teenagers living near the school. Our community is not very diversified as it is in a suburb that has a high socio-economic level with few inhabitants of other nationalities.  A lot of the parents have advanced education and a lot of them have leading jobs.

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