Sunday, June 23, 2013

Misguided policies: Education, Skills, and Creativity.

Many economists and educators dismiss as odd cases when college dropouts like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and others create incredibly successful businesses.

Nevertheless, a theory that accounts for the difference between education and skills would explain such successes. In fact, it appears that economists deliberately substitute education for skill because they can't measure the latter. Here's what Prof. Martha L. Olney says in her UC Berkeley lectures on US Economic History.
We can't measure (easily) skill, but we can measure educational attainment. [UC Berkeley. Economics 113, Spring 2013, Lecture 26. 8m 25s].

You can see from her slide that to improve the competitiveness of the US workers we need them to develop new skills (bullet 2), but since they cannot measure skill, economists advise for more education (bullet 3). That's how we get huge inflation in the education system.

How do things work out in education? Below are the results of a Gallup poll about skill attainment through education. The poll shows that the gap between education and real-life problem-solving skills gets closed substantially (65%) only by the time one gets a post graduate degree.

Such gap in skills would explain the growing income gap between top and bottom earners.

To summarize, while the US spends massively on education, its workforce remains non-competitive because our policies deliberately confuse education with skills. By contrast, Germany spends a lot of effort in developing skilled workers, who remain globally competitive despite their high wages.

A similar process takes place in creativity-related education. If students don't develop skills, they remain stuck in the left side of the skill-challenge space and, unlike Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg, can't take on important challenges.

tags: education, creativity, system, control

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