This week I was invited to speak at The Economist’s Higher Education Forum in New York to share my thoughts on how higher education can be expanded. I believe that we need a fair and sustainable cost-recovery model at the university level using future earnings to finance current education.
Over the past two decades, there has been a tremendous increase in the number of university students and graduates worldwide, which should have led to decrease in the rate of return to investment to higher education – if supply outpaced demand, of course. While there has been some decrease in overall rates of return, investment in education is still a highly profitable investment. Global demand for high levels skills such as working with new information and problem-solving has kept the returns to schooling high in even the poorest countries of the world. In fact, the returns to higher education are higher in lower-income countries – except in the Middle East and North Africa due to rigid labor market regulations.
Every moment- but most especially today- we should celebrate young people and the great potential they have. Happy International Youth Day!
I’ve been fortunate to meet and talk to several bright young people in my work. Last May, on the sidelines of the Bologna Ministerial Conference in Armenia, I had a chance to visit the (World Bank-supported) Simulation Center at the Yerevan State Medical University. My colleagues from Armenia and I observed how mannequins connected to a computer simulated medical situations where students would work on a dummy and it would ‘respond’ to them by closely mimicking the reactions of real-life patients. The university rector, Professor Narimanyan, explained that this innovative method allows students to upgrade their practical skills and reduce the number of mistakes they could potentially make in their medical careers.
Higher education is more popular than ever in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), where gross enrollment rates have risen dramatically , according to World Bank estimates. But are these higher education students getting their money’s worth in terms of better jobs and higher incomes? To investigate this, we carried out an empirical study of two countries: Columbia and Chile. Our findings suggest that investing in higher education isn’t always profitable.
Global partnerships often inspire higher education development. Partnerships were traditionally formed between universities in developed and developing countries. Increasingly important, however, are university partnerships across emerging economies where the common challenges of increasing access and ensuring quality are shared. Tested solutions and good practices may be applicable to address similar challenges in another country. Against this backdrop, there has been a close cross-country collaboration between the Higher Education Quality and Capacity Improvement Project (HEQCIP) in Cambodia and the Higher Education Quality Enhancement Project (HEQEP) in Bangladesh since 2010. Inspired by the success stories of HEQEP in recent years, a Cambodian delegation working for HEQCIP visited Bangladesh from August 30 to September 4, 2014 to learn from the experience of the HEQEP, which has had a few years head-start on implementing a competitive research grant program for universities.
Change is what development is all about. The hard part, as the well-chosen title of a new World Bank book makes clear, is persuading the right kind of change to put down roots and flourish.
Institutions Taking Root is a collection of success stories about building state capacity in challenging contexts. The common theme of these stories is not success in itself. They move us firmly on from the old ‘cometh the hour, cometh the leader’ cliché. A good harvest takes more than one seed; years of preparation go into the fertile ground that yields it.
The book looks at the committed group of leaders in Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Finance and Economic Development who continued to perform key functions during civil conflict. It considers the pool of leaders who have filled key positions inside and outside The Gambia’s Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education, and yet have held onto a common and consistent vision of policy and implementation.
Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion.
In October 2014, the most popular blog post was "Realization of the Dream" by Leszek Sibilski.
In this post, Leszek describes the "changing faces" of his students in university courses and ponders whether terms like “minority” or “cultural differences” will one day be obsolete as his students come from increasingly diverse backgrounds.
While acknowledging that there is still plenty of space to improve, Leszek reminds us that focusing on differences can limit our ability to connect with each other. He writes, "Instead of building societal firewalls, we should expose the negative vocabulary for classroom and public discussions in order to raise public awareness supported by mutual understanding."
For the last 15 years, I have been a Sociology Professor in private and public institutions of higher education in the Metropolitan area of Washington, DC. Every year, every semester, I was able to observe the constantly changing faces of my students. At one point I asked my class: “so who is the minority in this classroom?” and, in return, I heard a choir of young voices: “You, Dr. Sibilski!” During all those years, I taught students from all the inhabited continents of all religions and orientations. Although I am still patiently waiting for a student of Eskimo heritage, I think it is only a matter of time. Most students take introductory sociology classes to fulfill their academic requirements so I am very fortunate to be exposed to the entire palette of the student body. As I teach on a daily basis about social justice and equality, I am seeing that our daily work is starting to mold a student who is well acquainted with the religious and cultural differences of his/her classmates, and race or ethnicity is not an issue anymore, especially when group projects are assigned. I am starting to believe that terms like “minority” or “cultural differences” very soon will be obsolete and will not remain in vogue. Martin Luther King Jr. in his famous “I have a dream speech” of August 28, 1963, was yearning: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” I feel very privileged to witness the realization of King’s dream.
The University of Kelaniya, my seat of higher education, sadly was never considered the ‘cream of the crop’ in Sri Lanka when I attended; certainly not the Departments of Humanities and the Social Sciences! After listening to decades of unproductive lip service on the need for marketable graduates, I encountered a remarkable transformation in higher education at my very own university.
I witnessed a complete shift in attitude, professionalism and drive, among academics and students at a launch of The Certified Professional Marketing Graduates (CPMG) Program organized by the Department of Marketing and Management. It’s one of the many projects implemented by the Ministry of Higher Education under the Higher Education for the Twentieth Century (HETC) Project, with support from the World Bank. It was not just the launch of this new degree program that moved me, but it was the total quality and professionalism in the event management. It was indeed knowledge in action.
Summer is almost over and the fall semester is about to begin for young economics students. But this semester could be the start of something much larger at University College London (UCL) and the University of Massachusetts in Boston.
These two schools are among the first to pilot a fundamentally new approach to the way economics is taught in higher education. Others including the University of Sydney, Sciences Po (Paris), and the University of Chile will follow in early 2015.
This new approach is based on the CORE project of the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) at the Oxford Martin School, part of a global call for an overhaul of the economics curriculum commonly taught to undergraduates. True to its name, the CORE project has developed a new, interactive core curriculum—all delivered through an online virtual learning environment, and completely open to the public.
The air quality of Bangladesh’s capital - Dhaka - has dipped considerably in the last 10 years or so as the economy boomed, more factories were set up and the number of cars on the roads increased day by day. Air quality in Dhaka is quickly becoming one of the major health concerns for its residents; reliable and sophisticated data are thus urgently needed to help address this.
A proposal to establish a research center with modern and reliable laboratories for monitoring atmospheric pollutants in Dhaka, submitted by the Center of Advanced Research in Science (CARS) in University of Dhaka, received a research grant of about BDT 34.5 million (about US$ 442,000) from the Higher Education Quality Enhancement Project (HEQEP). The sub-project titled: “Establishing an Air Quality Monitoring Center” is headed by Dr. Shahid Akhtar Hossain, a professor of the Department of Soil, Water and Environment.