28 April 2005

PRTEC Forum: Education--Part II

At the end of Dr. Jorge Vélez Arocho's presentation at the recent PRTEC Forum, Mr. Elvis Grafals, General Manager of Tyco, asked what could be done to make a difference in students before they reached the university level (Dr. Vélez Arocho is Chancellor of the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus.) As Mr. Grafals pointed out, by the time they get to college, students have had 12-14 years of what can be called "wasted education."

The Jenius later asked Dr. Vélez if the University, aimed at preparing students to meet the challenges of the Knowledge Economy, could reach "down" to grade school education and guide the process. The Chancellor indicated that was almost impossible, as the Government sets the standards for education, that all the University could do was focus on the end result: preparing students for their immediate future.

The Jenius agrees that the Chancellor is correct in his assessment of the University's role. But the fact is that We can do something about Education's overall lack of effort, muddle-headed "standards," uninspired personnel and retrograde curriculum. We have already started. It's called "Education as Business" and it is a thriving, but currently short-sighted solution.

The current private school system is a "cherry-picking" process where the schools try to find the most tractable, "normal" children to make the educational process "easier." (Translation: cheaper.) Parents who try to shelter their children from the many (and often exaggerated) evils of the public school system practically tie themselves in knots in order to find "the right school" which is often based on cost, school hours and access ease. Very few seek educational criteria because all schools pretty much have the same basis, as the Government dictates "standards." (The Jenius asks: If Government dictates what is to be taught and how, what difference is there between "education" such as this and propaganda?)

What is needed are new schools aimed at developing the skills that truly matter in the New Economy. Forget the current system of "memorize and repeat," which is nothing more than a gorging and vomiting of data, with the same end result: a smelly mess. The Jenius is talking about schools with a targeted curriculum in sciences, arts, thinking and business skills and real-world problem-solving. To avoid running the demented gauntlet of accreditation the Government has dumped on us, they can be established as "academies" similar to martial arts and dance studios, where the emphasis is on developing skills, not catering to sub-standard and pig-headed educational requirements.

Would parents support them? Why not? Many are already paying twice for educating their children, once in taxes that go to line pockets and again for private schooling. If martial arts dojos and dance studios can attract students because there is a perceived benefit in their teaching, how much more attractive would be academies that actually prepare children for true daily living and career progress?

As my good friend Roberto says: It is always good business to replace the government. Academies that teach the knowledge and skills that the government cannot, will not and should not teach is a business bonanza waiting to happen. It won't be an easy development path, but unless We start down the Road to Progress, We will end up hitchhiking on the Road to Irrelevance.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

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