Improving Education in Developing Countries

Here is a fascinating article that comes about as the result of bringing together the minds of some of the world’s top economists to think about some of the big issues and challenges facing the world today. In this case, looking at how to improve the outcomes of school education there is a starting acknowledgement that quite significant strides have been made, though there is a long way to go and the improvements have not been consistent between countries. Tellingly, it points out that the education outcomes are worst in the worst governed countries!

Three major interventions are proposed;

  1. Improved nutritional inputs for young children (presumably both before and during schooling),
  2. Education programmes targeted at increasing parental awareness of the longer term benefits of staying longer in school, to improve drop-out ratios,
  3. Cash transfer payments to incentivize parents to keep their children in school longer.

The first and second are not only more affordable, but also appear to yield the best results.

Slate Article – Copenhagen Consensus 2012 Article – Education

For those who have the time there’s a wealth of very thoughtful and well presented articles in this ‘Copenhagen Consensus’ section of this website.

Strangely, it’s just occurred to me – nowhere did these wise economists appear to be advocating forcing private independent schools to provide free education under a vast social experiment as a solution for improved educational outcomes in developing countries – strange that!

Counting Calories for Weight Loss and getting Fit

When exercising, have you ever wondered how far you need to run or walk to burn a given number of calories, or for the distance you covered, how many calories did you burn.

Well, here’s a nice short article that sets out the figures, including how to do the calculations, the all-important after-burn from running (not from walking).

For the record, as most people here deal in kilometers, it’s about 1.6km to a mile, so you need to include that in your calculations as well:

Runners World – Walking vs Running

Motivation & Finding Work You Love

Clayton Christensen has been best known, until now for his work on ‘disruption’ in business and in other fields. He formulated ideas about hhow seemingly good companies can get blindsided and even put out of business by small upstart companies using disruptive ideas, technology etc. in ways that didn’t m,ake sense for the ‘good’ company, either because it was too small and insignificant to figure on their radar, or didn’t match the requirements of their existing customer base (listening too much to their existing customers!)

So, I was fascinated to see that Christensen has now turned his hand to new fields associated with human motivation and the wider issues of living a worthwhile life. This fast Company article does a good job of summarizing the current understanding on motivation in the workplace, including a neat summary of Herzberg’s powerful article for the Harvard Business Review (which by coincidence I just reread a few days ago!) There’s a link in the article to the Herzberg piece, which is well worth reading as well.

Fast Company – Clayton Christensen – Finding Work That You Love

What’s interesting is the way in which Christensen builds on Herzberg’s ideas to explore how people can find work they love, the benefits when they do, and the traps that some fall in to that mean they may never find themselves doing work they truly love. Money, or a perceived inadequate supply of it, may be a hygiene factor. However, the trouble is for so many in today’s consumerist society that as their money increases they rush so quickly to adjust their lifestyles

Personally, I very nearly got in to such a trap myself around 16 years ago. It took a lot of courage to get out of it (and a lot of explaining to family!) In all honesty, if I had had a family at that time it might very well not have been possible – I just would have been accused of self-indulgence and failure to acknowledge my ‘duties’. It’s not a mistake I ever intend to make again. Older and, I hope a bit wiser, I don’t intend to do work I can’t love.

IT Future – Now

After seeing this, I find myself wondering whether the current obsession with all things ‘touch screen’ – tablets, phones and other appliances, may prove to be just a temporary transitioning point to something far more radical in technology:

PhoneCracked – Leap 3D Motion

To get my head around what technology like this might imply in education will take a little longer. – Time to Stop Fuel Subsidies


A couple of years ago, some of the students teachers and I were very fortunate to have the opportunity to hear the distinguished US environmental expert, Bill McKibbin speak. Bill talks very eloquently, scientifically and logically about global warming and the need to awaken mass-awareness of the people globally to bring about meaningful change. He has been one of the most active people in developing that has sought to draw attention particularly to the ways in which government policies tend to contribute to the problems, rather than acting responsibly for the good of mankind.

With a major ‘Earth Summit’ coming up in Brazil, I wanted to pass on this powerful message from Bill to all the readers of this blog:


Dear friends,

In just a few weeks, world leaders are converging on Rio for a landmark “Earth Summit” to talk about sustainability issues — but it’s time for them to stop talking and start doing. And we know where they can begin.

This year our governments will hand nearly hundreds of billions of dollars in government subsidies to the coal, gas, and oil industries. Instead, they should cut them off. Now.

Cutting fossil fuel subsidies could actually take a giant step towards solving the climate crisis: phasing out these subsidies would prevent gigatonnes of carbon emissions and help make clean energy cheaper than fossil fuels.

And here’s the thing: this demand is completely reasonable — so reasonable that the leaders of the big countries have already agreed to it. The G20 promised in 2009 that fossil fuel subsidies would be phased out in the “medium term.” But the political power of the corporate polluters scares them, and so no nation has yet followed through.

If we want real action to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, we need to give world leaders a people-powered push as the Rio Summit approches — and that push starts today with this global call to action:

A Tidy Solution for Government Schools

When I spotted a news headline on this idea, it really struck a chord with me so I felt compelled to share it;

Manila, Philippines – News Article

The idea is beautiful in its simplicity and falls firmly in the category of “Finding Solutions”, instead of complaining about how something is and saying ‘someone should do something about it’.

Whilst the key idea in the piece is around the use of army personnel and volunteers to prepare the public schools, classrooms and premises for the start of the new academic year, the article also highlights a number of other ways in which the Philippines Government is coordinating the efforts of various government departments to send a message loud and clear that a decent public education environment is a genuine priority and the government wants to make a difference.

Imagine the impact of such a mobilization of energy and initiative here in India! Imagine the impact and beginnings of change in school atmosphere and teacher and student attitudes if, after summer break, they all returned to do their learning in premises that were clean, where the furniture was repaired, painted, with toilets. Wouldn’t a government that genuinely cared about the learning of children consider these were the least of their duties. If even 250,000 man days of army and police personnel energies were unleashed alongside an equivalent volunteer effort from citizens – wouldn’t that unleash an impact that would provide real hope for the future, a platform on which a decent future for public education could be built?

Technology in Education Moving Ahead

Here, sharing two further developments in the IT field.

I’ve shared earlier about the TED Ed videos which have started coming online. I would really encourage people to go and check them out. The animation and use of creativity to the learning material are really beautifully done and make for the very best in edu-tainment.

I’ve also included various articles in the past about the growth of the Khan Academy and the superb work of Sal Khan (who I was fortunate to meet last year). Well, Sal’s not letting the grass grow under his feet, announcing a tie-up with MIT to develop MIT+K12, that will see MIT students developing videos on science and engineering topics which will be made available free online. They often say that to truly understand something the best way is to teach it – so I see this as a big win-win, for the MIT students and the school students and teachers who will get to use the videos:

Mindshift Article – MIT+K12

A few weeks ago I also wrote about the collaboration between MIT and Harvard for creation of EdX, where they will create a platform for putting online lectures ona large scale from their top faculty.

Separately, I’ve also written about how teachers have been using TED material, Khan Academy material or their own customized video material to create a ‘flipped model’ of education, where the time in classroom is not used for ‘lectures’ or teachers teaching concepts, but rather students view material for this before coming to the classroom. Then, class time is spent practicing, working out problems together with the faculty and going deeper in to material. So, here’s an interesting article that shows how Stanford University now plans to bring those various ideas and strands together to bring about meaningful changes in the way their students learn:

Tech Crunch Article – Move Over Harvard & MIT