Experimenting with education

In December, Forbes published a story about the growing presence of Indian-educated CEOs in large American corporations. There are currently eight of them at places like PepsiCo, Citigroup, and Adobe Systems, to name a few.

In a nutshell, this shows that American companies felt safer hiring someone who went to school in India rather than someone who was educated in America.

So the question is: What is wrong with the product that American schools are churning out? I can’t really say, but it seems like this trend should be addressed by increasing the value of our own homegrown citizens.

One way to find out how to do that is through classroom experimentation.

Time Magazine published an article that examined the effects of using monetary incentives in order to motivate elementary school and high school students. The article discussed four experiments, headed by Harvard economist Roland Fryer Jr., that took place in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Dallas and New York, with each location using a different system for incentivizing students.

In New York, fourth- and seventh-graders were studied. Fourth-grade students could earn up to $25 per test, while seventh-graders could earn $50.

In Chicago, ninth-grade students could earn $50 for each A, $35 for each B, and $20 for each C.

Middle school students in Washington, D.C. were paid up to $100 every two weeks, not for grades but for things like attendance and good behavior.

In Dallas, second-graders earned $2 every time they read a book and completed a computerized exam on the book. The average kid earned $14 for the whole year.

To objectively measure results, researchers looked at standardized test scores at the end of the year. Washington, D.C.’s and Dallas’ systems were the only ones to produce any real results.

Personally, I think research like this is what our school systems need. Traditionalists might say the idea of paying students is ludicrous and that they should already be making good grades because of a “love of learning.”

While I don’t disagree, I’m not going to hold my breath waiting on millions of kids to suddenly have the drive to become the next Einstein. Look at it this way: we either implement a system that works but costs more money, or we continue to lag behind the rest of the world.

Richard Herman, the author of “Immigrant, Inc.” said that Indians’ success can be attributed to the advanced degrees they are bringing with them to the States, combined with their grasp of the English language.

And therein lies the reason why Americans are becomingly decreasingly valuable in the corporate world. While giant American corporations are becoming more globalized American students are not. Americans as a whole are simply too ethnocentric. There doesn’t seem to be an urgency in American students to learn another language, but it’s clear that there needs to be. And if paying students to learn Hindi or Mandarin might work, I don’t see why we shouldn’t at least explore the option.

Cullen is a journalism junior. He can be reached at cmwheatl@asu.edu

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