Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Steve Jobs - Thoughts on Education

"I'm a very big believer in equal opportunity as opposed to equal outcome. Equal opportunity to me, more than anything, means a great education. Maybe even more important than a great family life. We could make sure that every young child in this country got a great education. We fall far short of that. I know from my own education that if I hadn't encountered two or three individuals that spent extra time with me, I'm sure I would have been in jail."

Clearly, good teachers are vital. But why are they so rare? "The problem there, of course, is the teachers' unions. The unions are the worst thing that ever happened to education because it's not a meritocracy. It turns into a bureaucracy, which is exactly what has happened. Nobody can be fired. It's terrible."

Can the problem be sidestepped by using computers and electronic teaching aids? No, says Jobs. "I've helped with more computers in more schools than anybody else in the world, and I am absolutely convinced that is by no means the most important thing. The most important thing is a person. Computers are very reactive but they're not proactive; they are not agents."

How do we create a system with good, motivated teachers? Jobs has a clear answer: we need competition between schools in attracting students and teachers, not unaccountable government schools with a lockhold on government funding.

Jobs says, "What we need in education is to go to the full voucher system. The customers (in education) are the parents, and the customers went away. Mothers started working and they didn't have time to spend at PTAmeetings and watching their kids' school. Schools became much more institutionalised and parents spent less and less and less time involved in their kids' education.

What happens when a customer goes away and a monopoly gets control, which is what happened in our country, is that the service level almost always goes down. I remember seeing a bumper sticker when the telephone company was all one. I remember seeing a bumper sticker with the Bell Logo on it and it said, "We don't care. We don't have to." And that's what a monopoly is. And that's certainly what the government school system is. They don't have to care."

The economics of state education is crazy, says Jobs. The US government spends lots on education: around $4,400 per child per year. This is double the cost of buying a small car in instalments. But such educational spending isdone by the government, and is not within the power of the household.

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