Friday, August 29, 2014

Bill Gates on Common Core, College and Students Today

In March 2014, I saw a lecture by Bill Gates where he presented his views on the state of education in the United States. Some insights here:-

Common Core Stance Criticism

I differ with him on his stance with the Common Core Standards Initiative. I do not believe more rigorous testing and standardization is the answer to the crisis of education in the US and around the world. It will only put more pressure on the students and teachers to meet these standards. This policy stance by him has met with criticism across the nation by both teachers and students.

Setting standards for students without getting the students interested in the subject will only encourage the students to study the subject for the grades and not for exploring its possibilities. Very few will really try to understand the subject and use it to add value to the world. Rather students must be judged by their portfolio or by work they create in relation to the subject.

But I appreciate the work he has been doing with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to give students that have given up education completely, a second chance.

Support for an Innovative School

His foundation supported Denis Littky’s Met School project. The first question the school asks a student that takes admission there is this, ‘What are you passionate about?’. Then the whole curriculum is designed around this passion of the student and they are graded based on their self designed projects in it.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation helped them setup 10 schools across the United States of America. Since then model has been gaining popularity and it has been adopted by 70 schools in the US and 40 more in Australia and Netherlands.


There is something you can learn from everyone and here are certain lessons from talk I saw. It helped me understand Bill’s perspective better. But I still do not believe the common core standard initiative is the right way forward.

1.  We need Skilled People - The economy was pushing them to get more employable people. Improvements in teacher personnel system, curriculum and technology were things all education institutes had to consider.

2. Choose a Major you really like - College students barely spend 10-12 hours in college every week in most institutes. Many of them are not interested in the courses they have opted for. He described how students that go to colleges have a unique amount of free time. If they really liked the course they could channelize this extra time and energy to creative projects related to the course.

3.  Extra Courses outside the Institute - Taking courses outside college is a great way to improve your skill set. Automation will get rid of certain jobs that can be automated.

4.  Lack of Awareness - He described how there were was wide scale lack of awareness among high school students, regarding the variety of courses available in colleges across the country. Most student did not research the course they opt for in college enough before actually opting for it.

5.  Excellent State Schools - I think the state school systems in the US is one of their best kept secrets. Bill mentioned how certain state schools, were doing an excellent job. He mentioned the example of Berkeley as a great state school. He also discussed the top universities like Harvard, Stanford, MIT were not in any danger with the advent of MOOC’s and other technological trends in education. They had world class facilities and faculty that online courses could not replicate well. But the other broader schools were in danger with new technology  changing the way education is done everyday.

Work with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Find out more about the work being done by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation here. This is the mission statement of their education program in the US.

'In the United States, our primary focus is on ensuring that all students graduate from high school prepared for college and have an opportunity to earn a postsecondary degree with labor-market value. Our approach is to play a catalytic role—to support the development of innovative solutions in education that are unlikely to be generated by institutions working alone and that can trigger change on a broader scale. We also work to address issues of social inequity and poverty in Washington State, where the Gates family has lived for generations and the foundation makes its permanent home.'  From the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Website. Read more here - 'What we do'

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