A guest blogger warns about imitating Korea's education model

I’d like to welcome another guest blogger today (and I’d love to welcome more — contact me at MMcconnell@desnews.com).

Here’s how Doug Livingston describes himself: “With the endorsement of an exceptionally tolerant wife, Doug Livingston left a productive career as a designer in the composites industry, completed graduate school, and become a teacher. He teaches pre-engineering courses (Physics, Electronics, and Drafting) at a local high school and enjoys every minute of being in the classroom.

Doug has sent me several very insightful emails, and I’m delighted that he’s agreed to blog.

Here’s his post:

“Several weeks ago, I listened to a report on the radio (NPR’s “The World”) about South Korea. The report mentioned some stunning statistics. Well over 90% of the students there are graduating high school AND go on to a tertiary level of education. Their university graduation rate is somewhere north of 70%. I mean, wow, that’s a serious improvement over what was going on there as late as the 1980′s. Achieving that required some serious planning and resolve.

I contrast that with the initiative that has begun here in Utah: HigherEdUtah2020. As you are likely aware, it’s “Big Goal” is to have 66% of Utahns – men and women 25 to 64 – with a postsecondary degree or certificate by the year 2020; specifically, to have 55% of Utah’s workforce with and associate’s degree or higher and 11% with a postsecondary certificate that leads to a livable wage.

Okay, I think they have the balance of those percentages wrong (the 55% and 11%), but I have other criticisms.

If you follow the Korean story further, all kinds of problems arise. First and foremost, they have a serious problem with “educational inflation”. Their graduation rate (supply) is outpacing their job market (demand) by a significant margin. The unemployed university graduates are responding by,…

…wait for it,…

…attending “tech schools”.

The pendulum you and I have talked about in the past has swung back for them. Based on what I am reading in the HigherEdUtah2020 material, it looks like it will be a few years before it does for us.

Here’s a link to the original story (and one similar to it) that got me thinking about this.

There are other issues. If you are interested, here are some links that you can follow:
http://www.atimes.com and
http://www.atimes.com

While I salute their intentions, I don’t think initiatives like this are going to change the job market (i.e., Utah’s economy) for the better. History seems to suggest that the market determines for itself what jobs are needed. South Korea provides us with an interesting case study. They achieved their goal (incredibly), but it hasn’t paid off. Shouldn’t we learn from their experience?”

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