As has been made clear in recent months, distance learning and learning at for-profit institutions are on the rise. In and of themselves, neither bothers me much; I’m a firm believer that being a Harvard graduate only means you are a Harvard graduate, not that you learned or know anything or even that you are particularly well educated. We make assumptions that are not necessarily true when spread over the whole.
Yet what does dismay me is what I read in a recent article in The Economist regarding student tutoring. Apparently, tutoring in mathematics of elementary and secondary school students is now being outsourced and offshored, just like editorial work and manufacturing work. Again, India appears to be the winner.
Students in Britain and the United States aren’t doing well in math (along with any number of other academic subjects). This doesn’t say much for either our educators or our educational systems. To combat this struggle with math, which many community activists think is one root or many that causes an increase in social disorder, tutoring is being tried — and with apparently great success.
The tutoring is done long distance — very long distance, in fact — via the Internet with the students in Britain and the United States and the tutor being in India. The tutoring is one-on-one and the tutors are college professors from Indian universities who are paid $19 an hour for the tutoring services. Can you imagine a professor/instructor at an American university being willing to work for that price!
It wasn’t so long ago that Britain and the United States had a learn-to-get-ahead ethic that compelled students, especially middle class students, to work hard at their academics. But that ethic has changed and moved; that is now the ethic we find in developing countries rather than in developed countries. I often think that this attitudinal change was a by-product of the cultural revolution of the 1960s as I noted the decline beginning then.
Of course, the outsourcing and offshoring of our education shouldn’t be much of a surprise. We see declining standards and abilities in our educators who are responsible for imparting skills and knowledge to upcoming generations on a regular basis. The question really is, When will we learn that reversing this trend of declining work ethic is necessary to ensuring our societal survival? And, once we have recognized the need to reverse the trend, What will we do to accomplish that reversal?
As tough as times are now, they will only get worse if we do not address declining education.