OLPC Nigeria's Progress with XO Computers in Classrooms

   
   
   
   
   

In March 2007, the One Laptop Per Child Foundation provided L.E.A. Primary School Galadima, a public school in the outskirts of Abuja Model City, with an XO laptop for each Nigerian child in Primary 4, 5 and 6 and each school staff member. OLPC should, by now, be also providing each child in Primary 1, 2 and 3 with their own laptop.

While we can't be in the school to observe the children's reaction directly, we do have a write up on the laptop adoption progress by Carla Gomez-Monroy, a former MIT Media Lab student who studied under Walter Bender and volunteered with Schlumberger Excellence in Educational Development (SEED) Foundation. She writes:

All of a sudden, School Galadima has gone from the age-old chalk-and-board teaching technology to the avant-garde one-laptop-per-child XO technology with cutting-edge features.

Nevertheless, OLPC's mission focus is not on its state-of-the-art innovative technology, but on its educational approach that fosters discovery of knowledge by the children themselves, encouraging them to find the application of that knowledge in a practical and meaningful context.

Both, the technology of the OLPC laptop and the methodology of the Constructionist educational approach has been inspired, researched, developed, and implemented by MIT scholars.

But its not all press release talk from Carla, she also highlights a student-centric initiative that holds promise for the OLPC pilot in Nigeria, and with other participating countries.
olpc nigeria
Nigerian school OLPC XO usage
Five primary 4 children are working on a dictionary of their local languages, and working on here means constructing. The project has been modified from a list of words that Abiword (the word processing software activity) did not recognize to a formal-looking local language to English dictionary.

They split the team into two to work on two different local languages simultaneously. It is simple but outstanding work. These children work on their dictionary project during school hours in between class assignments, when otherwise they would be restless.

Now arguably, this activity could be accomplished with only pen and paper, and the Children's Machine XO only made it fun because it was a new tool to work with, but by digitizing the dictionary, the children are both localizing OLPC and creating portable culture machines for their community.

olpc nigeria
Parent + child + OLPC = ?

And while Carla goes on to mention an eToys lesson that gave rise to a whole pond of croaking frogs, after reading her update, I still felt hungry for real data, real measurable results from this OLPC Nigeria school pilot.

I'm tired of hearing that participation and attendance increased when OLPC passed out XO laptops. If OLPC passed out iPhones, Nintendo DS's, or other Potenco powered electronics, I'm sure you'd see similar child enthusiasm increasing results. What makes the OLPC XO different?

What makes one laptop per child worth its budget-breaking cost of 73% of the entire Nigerian government's national income to start and 13% of the government income per year for new cohorts every year thereafter?

OLPC, show us us the quality results from your pilots in Argentinia, Brazil, Uruguay, and Nigeria. Let us be believers armed with verified facts, not just hopefuls passing out cute images of smiling kids.

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41 Comments

"I'm tired of hearing that participation and attendance increased when OLPC passed out XO laptops. If OLPC passed out iPhones, Nintendo DS's, or other Potenco powered electronics, I'm sure you'd see similar child enthusiasm increasing results. What makes the OLPC XO different?"

Attendance is the first symptom when thing deteriorate or improve. And if you give children iPhones, Nintendo DS's, or other Potenco powered electronics, they don't have to use them in class. So it is still puzzling why they stay in school instead of at home.

"What makes the OLPC XO different?"
It is not a game?

"What makes one laptop per child worth its budget-breaking cost of 73% of the entire Nigerian government's national income to start and 13% of the government income per year for new cohorts every year thereafter?"

I repost from my comment in
http://www.olpcnews.com/countries/nigeria/olpc_in_nigeria_budget.html

The gross domestic product of Nigeria on Purchasing Power Parity in 2006: $188.5 billion
needed for XO: $2.3B ~ 1.2% GDP

http://www.airninja.com/worldfacts/countries/Nigeria/gdp.htm

Total expenditure as a % of GDP for OECD countries (2003)
http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/7/32/37344685.xls
(watch out, an Excel file)
All OECD 5.5%
Brazil 4.7%
Chile 3.7%
Israel 7.0%
Russia 3.7%

Draw your own conclusions about how much Nigeria can/should spend on education.

Winter

Winter,

Its nice that Nigeria has $188.5 billion in PPP, but OLPC XO's will not be funded from PPP. By design, XO laptop purchases will be funded by the government, which had revenues of $12.86 billion in 2005.

So the question remains: Why should Nigeria's government spend at least 13% of its income on -just- OLPC XO's?

Where is the empirical data that would convince politicians, educators, parents that national resources should be diverted from other uses, educational or not, and applied to computer hardware for children?

"So the question remains: Why should Nigeria's government spend at least 13% of its income on -just- OLPC XO's?"

If Nigeria wants to develop, it needs better education. The consensus is that you should spend on the order of 4-5% of GDP on education.

Lower, and the economy deteriorates (see Russia). If you can spend more effectively, your economy will improve (see Israel, Singapur, and Finland). But you can waste it, of course (Saoudi Arabia?).

Btw, Mexico and NZ spend more than 20% of their public income on education. The OECD average is 14% of total public expenditure. So 13% in itself is not really remarkable.

For Nigeria, the question is not how much they should spend on education. 4-5% of GDP would be normal. I think the important question is, is there anything we can spend that much money on?

Educating teachers and building schools is all nice, but very long time (~10 years). So I think it is VERY wise of them to look for transitional ways to improve education.

Nigeria currently has an increased income due to the world oil shortage. I think they can find no better way to spend this money than on education and health care.

Winter

So you believe that Nigeria should spend more on education. Understandable. Probably many Nigerians agree, maybe even a few politicians too.

But why should the government spend any increase on the OLPC XO when so far, there isn't proof it works better than motivated & trained teachers in well-equipped schools?

Now, part of a "well-equipped school" can be XO laptops for the kids, but so far we've not seen proof of educational success with only computers.

Some additions:

"Nigeria currently has an increased income due to the world oil shortage. I think they can find no better way to spend this money than on education and health care."

Which, of course, doesn't mean that the OLPC XO would be the best investment. It might be, if combined with Nigeria's previous president's plans to increase spending on R&D.

Still, the _amount_ of money is not so much the problem if you compare it with countries like Mexico and Brazil.

I should have made that more clear.

Winter

The amount of money is a huge part of the problem. To make One Laptop Per Nigerian Child, is $9.36 billion at the minimum, and that was based on the $140 per laptop costs - who knows what it is now - because Nigeria is not Brazil or Mexico, its Nigeria.

"No teacher = no solution
No school = no solution

It doesn't take 10 years to build a school."

Not a school building, but it does to build a functioning school.

First you have to build a school to train teachers, then train those who are going to teach teaching. Then teach the teachers. Then write, print, and distribute the books.

If you can do it in less than 10 years, I think you will never be unemployed again.

Meanwhile, half a generation of children will get even worse education because so many teachers will have been recruited to train new teachers.

The other option is to just give up.

This argumentation goes like:
(I am exagerating here, so don't be offended)
- If we can't have more teachers, improvements are not possible.
- We can't have more teachers, so there can never be an improvement.
- No use discussing alternatives, please close down the OLPC and OLPCnews.

Winter

A little housekeeping note. I welcome a lively and educated debate on OLPC News - its what makes this site so informative and influential.

Unfortunately, not everyone can discuss OLPC without resorting into personal attacks, which I do not tolerate. And after repeated warnings, the commenter once known as "troy" has gone too far, too often.

He will have his comments deleted until he can re-establish his ability to respectfully and constructively participate in the OLPC debate.

Actually, Winter, I hope the argument would go like this:

Negroponte: You should spend $ on OLPC XO's
Nigeria: Why?
Negroponte: Here's documented proof that $ spent on OLPC XO's is Y times more effective in educating primary students than other options & happens Z years quicker. As a bonus, here are Z voters who are so convinced from this documentation they will volunteer to help you get re-elected if you make OLPC happen nationwide.
Nigeria: Wow! How can I get some? How do I replicate those results?

"The amount of money is a huge part of the problem. To make One Laptop Per Nigerian Child, is $9.36 billion at the minimum, and that was based on the $140 per laptop costs - who knows what it is now - because Nigeria is not Brazil or Mexico, its Nigeria."

Agreed completely. And it is very much likely that Nigeria might find itself incapable of spending a billion dollar effectively on _anything_.

Still, I think your arguments are misdirected. If we think of a country that _could_ increase its spending on education by 2% of its GDP effectively. For Nigeria this would mean they would not even come close to what Brazil, Mexico, and Chile are spending in % GDP. And any country can indeed decide that education _is_ the bottleneck.

Then there would be a huge problem. There would not be enough teachers and support for education to effectively spend this money for the first 5 years or so. Meanwhile, many children will get even worse education than they would have. Then it makes perfect sense to look for remediative investments. Hiring foreign teachers is a possibility. But spending on automatisation is another one.

If Nigeria, eg, would be able to half their loss on corruption in the oil industry, they could supply every Nigerian child with a laptop. I don't think they will succeed in that, but it puts the money in perspective.

Winter

"Actually, Winter, I hope the argument would go like this:

Negroponte: You should spend $ on OLPC XO's
Nigeria: Why?"

I am afraid I disagree. Personally, I hope the argument goes like this:

Negroponte: I can improve your education
Nigeria: How?
Negroponte: By using ITC in schools
Nigeria: What can it do for our schools, and what does it cost?

After which the ministeries start calculating the relative benefits of options and opportunity costs.

Winter

It should be noted that, economically, the OECD countries are hardly comparable to Nigeria and both of the examples you called out, Brazil and Mexico, spend less then average for OECD countries.

Since Nigeria isn't an OECD country and thus doesn't show up on the table you might want to supply a reason for the choice of the OECD for comparison.

A more worthwhile measure might be education spending as a percentage of per capita income.

I went and found this chart from the Worldbank that portrays a pretty bleak picture of the Nigerian economy even with the oil revenue. Here it is:

http://tinyurl.com/2mjqv6

And really, what does that have to do with anything? As a means of convincing the Nigerian minister of education of the value of the OLPC it's more likely to draw a shrug then attentiveness. What difference does it make to a Nigerian official how much money Denmark chooses to spend on education?

We agreed on Negroponte's best argument then, Winter.

Negroponte should be showing what OLPC can do for Nigerian schools, (in well documented pilots) and explaining what it costs (with real & comprehensive numbers), because we both have the same dream - to see OLPC succeed.

OK Winter, what's Negroponte's answer to "What can it do for our schools, and what does it cost?"

Negroponte's the guy doing the selling so he'd better have an answer to this question. He won't be able to depend on the ministry to do a cost/benefit analysis since that's *his* job as part of selling the idea. The ministry will certainly do its own cost/benefit analysis if there's any possibility of going forward with the purchase and then the two analysis will be compared and there better be some pretty good answers to the inevitable discrepencies.

"And really, what does that have to do with anything? "

If you want to compare educational investments between countries, it is common to use the %GDP as a measuring stick. If a country spends more on education in terms of %GDP, then it generally gets more out of it. Using GDP accounts for differences in salaries etc., as education is almost all labor.

So, even knowing nothing about two countries, we can immediately say that if A spends 7% on education, and B only 4%, then A will have a much better educated population than B. Of course, this doesn't really work linearly if I try to compare Israel with Guatemala. But on the other hand, Guatemala's population IS educated much worse.

I don't understand your use for per capita income. %GDP is also %PCI. Or am I missing something? It is of course clear that in absolute terms 1% of Nigeria's GDP is only a fraction of a percent of the GDP of say, Switserland. But that is why we cannot use real dollars or euros.

Now Wayan says spending 1% of GDP on an educational project is too much. I answered that given that Nigeria spend only 1-2% of GDP on education, this would not even bring it to the bottom of the league. And 13% of public expenditure is dwarved by Mexico and NZ who spend 20-25% of public expenditure on education.

This is all completely independend from the question whether spending so much money on the OLPC would be a wise decision.

Winter

"Negroponte should be showing what OLPC can do for Nigerian schools, (in well documented pilots) and explaining what it costs (with real & comprehensive numbers), because we both have the same dream - to see OLPC succeed."

"OK Winter, what's Negroponte's answer to "What can it do for our schools, and what does it cost?""

If I could sell the OLPC to Nigeria, I wouldn't be here, but there :-)

The OLPC team will have to convince the Nigerian government. But I have no idea what will convince them. I could be quite ignorant on this matter compared you two. I have no clue whatsoever what they told the Nigerian ministers.

I hope that the Nigerians will go for an informed decision. Eg, using the pilots running there.

But if the Nigerian governement don't require a full scale pilot with good metrics, I cannot blame the OLPC for not doing them. This kind of studies is rather expensive.

Winter

I can guarantee you that any Minister who likes his job & is somewhat accountable for his decisions will want to make an informed decision with a full scale pilot using good metrics before agreeing to spend even .01% of a country's GDP on anything.

"I can guarantee you that any Minister who likes his job & is somewhat accountable for his decisions will want to make an informed decision with a full scale pilot using good metrics before agreeing to spend even .01% of a country's GDP on anything."

Ahh, the marvels of democracy

Winter

I think Nigeria, where democracy is fluid at best, would be a harder sell than Brazil or Argentina. In the latter countries there is a level of trust in the government to run a clean buy.

In Nigeria there is often an expectation of self & friend enrichment on any government purchase. With OLPC, the options for such are limited to skimming computers off delivery as the hardware is 100% imported and the price relatively transparent. That would make it a tough sell to Ministers and their friends who expect a take if Bitfrost works as expected.

Too late, Wayan!

Nigeria becomes first nation to officially join the OLPC project!!!!

Letter just received by OLPC Officers:

***************************************

Lagos, Nigeria.
June 28, 2007


Attention:
Mr. Nicholas Negroponte
President/CEO
One Laptop Per Child Project


Dear Sir,

Confidential Business Proposal

Having consulted with my colleagues and based on the information gathered from the Nigerian Chambers Of Commerce And Industry, I have the privilege to request your assistance to transfer the sum of $47,500,000.00 (forty seven million, five hundred thousand United States dollars) into your OLPC accounts. The above sum resulted from an over-invoiced contract, executed, commissioned and paid for about five years (5) ago by a foreign laptop contractor. This action was however intentional and since then the fund has been in a suspense account at The Central Bank Of Nigeria Apex Bank.

We are now ready to transfer the fund overseas and that is where you come in. It is important to inform you that as civil servants, we are forbidden to operate a foreign account; that is why we require your assistance.

The total sum will be shared as follows: 70% for us, 25% for you and 5% for the development of a classroom integration plan for the XO laptop.

The transfer is risk free on both sides. I am a Constructivism Application Officer with the Nigerian National Education Ministry (NNEM). If you find this proposal acceptable, we shall require the following documents:

(a) your banker's name, telephone, account and fax numbers.
(b) your private telephone and fax numbers — for confidentiality and easy communication.
(c) your letter-headed paper stamped and signed.
(d) an advance sample of the XO machine

Alternatively we will furnish you with the text of what to type into your letter-headed paper, along with a breakdown explaining, comprehensively what we require of you. The business will take us thirty (30) working days to accomplish.

Please reply urgently.

Best regards

General Mugabi Ubuntu,
Head Of School Assistance Enforcement (SAE)

Nice post on the Nigerian pilot project.

Negroponte says there are about 4000 laptops out there being tested in the field.

http://www.olpctalks.com/nicholas_negroponte/negroponte_world_bank_group.html

>That would make it a tough sell to Ministers and their
>friends who expect a take if Bitfrost works as expected.

It would also give authoritarian governments quite a bit less to worry about since withholding the leases effectively kills the machine. No clandestine information networks. No high quality encryption to frustrate the Great Leader's secret police. No surveillance of the secret police by their intended victims. No uncontrolled, and uncontrollable, broadcast facilities.

The irony is that to get that degree of control over the OLPCs, which are by the nature of mesh networks independent entities, an artificial centralization is introduced via the "lease" system.

You know something else that bothers me? Who are those MIT people? Why are they so much unconnected?

Who's Carla Gomez-Monroy? Doesn't she have a flickr feed with weekly updates? Doesn't she blog about her everyday life in nigeria? Doesn't at least twitter a 140 character line saying "doing fun stuff with laptop today!"

Those people in MIT never show up in google. To get a direct connection with people, that's why this whole internet stuff was built!

As much as I enjoy the to-and-fro between Wayan and Winter I thought I might butt in and have a say.

Wayan and others have asked for concrete proof that XO laptop educations will make a difference to students. I doubt that information will be available in the short term as education itself is a long term event and not something that can easily be measured in weeks or months.

While students can be tested or sit exams they are not exactly a true measure of how well a child is learning. Perhaps its a little like believing in God? One just has to go on faith,

"One just has to go on faith,"

If you want to say that at some point trying to obtain more information is not cost effective anymore, I agree. But for 1% of GDP I could understand doubts by the clients.

On the other hand, if you think back. You all know some people who went to high school before the arrival of the Mac.

Ask them what their parents would have been willing to do to get them an OLPC with internet connection then for school? Well knowing what we know now.

That is the position of the parents in the developing world. They know about computers and the internet. They know about the importance of good education for their children. Personally, I think the parents would buy them rather now than later without asking for any proof at all.

And that might not always be the best value for money.

The curious thing is, that the voters, (grand-)parents, might very well hail any politician that gives their children a computer in school. Whether it works or not. I am sorry to say, but it might be be much more difficult to convince fellow politicians that spending money on poor people is a good idea.

Winter

>If Nigeria wants to develop, it needs better education.
>The consensus is that you should spend on the order
>of 4-5% of GDP on education.

Do you have any examples, and a reason to believe, that the increases in education funding *leads* to economic expansion and one of the outcomes of economic expansion? If that were true then those funding increases must have occurred in China and India to name two. And, those funding increases would have had to have been quite a while ago since China's economic expansion coincides with the abandonment of communism (1988?) as an economic policy, and with India's less dramatic reduction in trade barriers and government regulation (1993?).

The funding increases would have had to precede the economic expansion, probably on the order of ten years or more, since the increased number and quality of the graduates *won't* coincide with the funding increase. Even if the funding increase is instantaneously effective the only kids who'll have an effect on the economy are the graduates.

No, the funding increases are the result of the economic expansion. A richer populace can afford to spend more money on education and most people, like you in this instance, assume that there's a direction relationship between funding and quality. You even have some cognizance of the rubbery relationship between funding and quality with your introduction of the importance of the effectiveness of the spending.

But it isn't just effectiveness that determines the inputs, money, and the outputs, well-educated graduates. The education ministries are all political entities so their funding is determined by their political influence, not the results of the spending.

You may believe, as the minister of education, that spending on education must increase in order for the economy to prosper but the minister of the interior would probably think roads and other infrastructure is more important. How important to the minister of the interior is the shamefully low level of education funding compared to Mexico and New Zealand? Is the sad condition of the roads, sewer systems and water supply systems going to be less important because of the percentage of GDP apportioned to education in other nations? I hardly think so. The funding issue then is resolved as a matter of political influence not educational outcomes.

And now to respond to this newer posting.

> I think the parents would buy them rather now than later without asking for any proof at all.

Maybe so although I'm pretty sure that the poorer the parents the more proof they'll need of value. But they're not going to get that option though, are they? Or if they do it won't be an XO. And that's the really sad part of the project. A parent purchasing an XO is interested in a better education for their child but a politician is more concerned with getting the spending increase through the parliament.

"Do you have any examples, and a reason to believe, that the increases in education funding *leads* to economic expansion and one of the outcomes of economic expansion?"

Education is a limiting factor in economic development. A necessary but not sufficient factor. It has been said before, no education, no economic growth. And nitpicking about the %GDP not being a perfect measure of educational quality is always nice. But it IS the international yardstick used by IMF, Worldbank, Unesco and everyone else.

The major factor, by a very wide margin, that explains most of the differences in childrens health and life expectancy in the developing world is the education level of the mother. The same holds for family size.

The factor that can explain most of the differences in income within and between countries is education. That is why parents won't require proof for educational improvement. In general, they will do everything that has even a small chance of success.

And both China and India had terrific educational systems even in historical times. They both had a culture of reverence to learning. Their economies shoot off the moment the political reigns were loosened.

If Nigeria wants to develop economically, it needs to invest in education. If it then decides to strangle economic growth in other ways, then there is no education that can help out. Except by electing better politicians.

"A parent purchasing an XO is interested in a better education for their child but a politician is more concerned with getting the spending increase through the parliament."

I can understand people can become cynical when viewing politics in the developing world. But often that is just another way of giving up on poor people.

Winter

One problem is that when the MIT people make a sales pitch, the first thing that crosses people's minds is: "if this stuff is so great, then why don't you Americans have it?"

There many extremely poor places in the USA such as rural Mississippi, the Ozarks, the Allegany Mtns, and reservations. They can setup programs there, and after it has been shown to work in America the other nations willing to invest. They should also work more with NGOs. The NGOs are closer to the people.

I have Squeak 3.9 and Scratch 1.1, and I have some of the Squeak eToys. However, they always assume that you going to make something yourself. If you want to see what finished classroom exercises would like:

There is a Swedish visual-spatial reading software for children named "MagicWorlds". It definitely gets an A+ for looking very cute.

http://www.comikit.se/index.en.html

There is another Visual-Spatial reading software in new england called Lexia Cross-Trainer Visual-Spatial. Lexia also maked Visual-Spatial math software.

http://www.lexialearning.com/products/cognitive_skills/vs.cfm

> Education is a limiting factor in economic development.

So you keep repeating. I think it's exactly the reverse: Economic development is the limiting factor on education. The resources to pay for an education have to precede the acquisition of the education. You've got to be rich enough to buy an education before you can buy an education.

Besides, the makings of economic development are pretty straight forward. Reduce government interference in the market and establish rule of law with enforceable contracts and an effective real property ownership recording system. It doesn't require a highly educated populace to realize that the fruit of their labor is no longer being taken by force of law or the absence of law. There's your economic expansion and without a broadly accessible, good quality public education system.

> And both China and India had terrific educational systems even in historical times.

Yeah, too bad they were limited to the wealthy, i.e. not anywhere near enough educated people to account for the economic expansion of such epic proportions.

> If it then decides to strangle economic growth in other ways, then there is
> no education that can help out. Except by electing better politicians.

Uh, Winter, that's about what I've been claiming. The political reform precedes and makes possible the educational reform by removing artificial constraints on the economy, allowing wealth to be generated and spent, in part on education.

Somewhere down the line as the economy increases per capita income the skill requirements change to match. You don't need many engineers if you can't afford to build bridges. But many of the economic opportunities that open up with a reduction in government interference aren't particularly skill-intensive. How well educated do you have to be to figure out that buying a tractor will enable you to cultivate more land and make more money then cultivating with animals? Not very and there are all sorts of such relatively undemanding, in terms of formal education, opportunities that appear when allowed too.

Allen wrote:
'"Education is a limiting factor in economic development."

So you keep repeating. I think it's exactly the reverse: Economic development is the limiting factor on education. The resources to pay for an education have to precede the acquisition of the education. You've got to be rich enough to buy an education before you can buy an education.'

Actually you need very little as a country to borrow money. The capacity to repay, say, 50 Million dollars is within the capability of almost any poor country. Although I'd recommend making sure your population isnt starving first.

What they get for the 50 megadollars is a more educated batch of children and, most possibly, smarter parents. By educating your population and giving them access to learning you improve their future. Farmers learn how to manage their farm better. The quality of food at the market is better. Businesses start to flourish. People have a wider view of the World (remember the uneducated person is very secular and know little of even other countries).

With a more educated population comes investment from other sources. A population willing to work for a few dollars a week each are perfect workers for industrialisation plans.

Before long (I'd expect results in as little as five years - a common time period for economic reform) the economic outlook has improved greatly.

We're not talking about tens of millions, are we? 250,000 OLPCs will set you back at least $43,750,000 and there aren't many countries with that small a number of school age children so you have to spend a great deal more. Like billions. You think Nigeria's credit rating would stand another couple of billion dollars worth of loans?

Also, the benefits you're so certain of could hardly appear in five years. Beyond the fact that the only kids who could have an effect on the economy are the graduates of the system, where are they going to go to work to utilize their new educations?

Remember, it's a poor country. Not much call for radiologists, civil engineers, MBAs since there's nothing for them to do and nowhere to do it. The businesses that'll employ them don't exist yet. That's supposed to occur as a *result* of the much better educated graduates.

But why should it? Businesses don't come into existence to soak up the talent pouring from the education system. They come into existence to make a profit and that won't happen, according to you, until those graduates show up.

"So you keep repeating. I think it's exactly the reverse: Economic development is the limiting factor on education. The resources to pay for an education have to precede the acquisition of the education. You've got to be rich enough to buy an education before you can buy an education."

That is completely new to me.

The earning capacity of a population (~ average income) is completely determined by their productivity. And NOTHING else.

And productivity has only two components: Capital and Skills. You might do without the capital, but never without the skills.

Everything in a country depends on the average educational level, from basic health and family size to GDP.

What happened in countries like China and India, who did have universal schooling for children, was that politics prevented people from using their skills.

Winter

>You might do without the capital, but never without the skills.

Really? How's that going to work? Without capital all your highly skilled, well educated employees are standing around doing nothing because the capital to build infrastructure and businesses won't be available until there's some reason to think the investments will be sound.

The promise of a slowly increasing number of educated potential employees is hardly a reason to believe an investment will be sound. It would be a positive but the lack of infrastructure and the political climate would weigh more heavily. If there are no roads too and from your factory how do you propose to make that factory run? If any day your factory might become the "people's" factory why would you want to build the factory?

China's literacy rate is is 85% and India's 76%. Doesn't sound like nations in which education is revered. That sounds like nations that are too poor, due government interference in the economy, to afford the school system that would result in higher literacy rates and well-educated graduates. Yet both nation's economy's are booming to say the least.

"Really? How's that going to work? Without capital all your highly skilled, well educated employees are standing around doing nothing because the capital to build infrastructure and businesses won't be available until there's some reason to think the investments will be sound."

Nowadays, capital is plentiful, but labour is scarce. And without skills, there will never be any capital.

After WWII, there was hardly any capital left in Europe. Korea had no capital. Both had a skilled population. Both were able to grow at a tremendous rate.

And 85% litteracy? Have you seen the US numbers?

Winter

China literacy rate: 90.9%

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/print/ch.html

No wonder they are not interested in oplc


India literacy rate: 61%

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/print/in.html

They should look at oplc.

> Nowadays, capital is plentiful, but labour is scarce.

Whether it's plentiful or scarce capital is still not going to be available where it can't be put to use. Nigeria is one of those places. It's a chicken-and-egg situation and it only gets resolved when there's a reasonable likelihood of profit.

Labor is hardly scarce in Nigeria it just doesn't have all that much value. Therefore the only uses to which that labor can be put are jobs with the least skill requirements. That works out OK because there can't be much demand for skilled labor without somewhere for that skilled labor to work.

Oh, and how do you think the OLPC could have much effect on the economy in anything less then ten or so years?

Even if you got an XO in the hands of every kid in Nigeria tomorrow and they all had the kind of education software that still hasn't shown up but damn near everybody is sure will, some day, and the communication infrastructure popped into existence at the same time as the OLPCs and the effect was instantaneous, how many graduates does that constitute? When we get back to reality, it's pretty clear that the computer won't have any noticeable effect for several years and even then any economic progress that results will be at the mercy of the political winds.

> And 85% litteracy? Have you seen the US numbers?

And your point would be?

"Oh, and how do you think the OLPC could have much effect on the economy in anything less then ten or so years?"

But my point was that when you are going for more teachers, you could add another 10 years to that.

I also see some confusions. The amount of capital and skilled labour limit the earning _capacity_, that is the _potential_ income. Any real income is realized using infrastructure (a form of capital) and institutions (a form of skills).

If you have the skills, you can get enormous economic growth essentially on loans, as did Western Europe after WWII. If Nigeria had the skilled workforce and political will, it could easily collect any investments it needed.

However, without the skills or political will, no amount of capital will cause economic growth. See, eg, the arab oil countries, which swim in capital, but are unable to produce anything of substance.

China and India each have a hundred million highly educated workers. They essentially can get any money they want. As long as there is a political will to let these people earn money, there will be no lack of capital.

Winter

"> And 85% litteracy? Have you seen the US numbers?

And your point would be?"

Officially the US has 99% literacy, but upto a quarter of the adults are functionally iliterate. Which means they cannot follow a written instruction. The point being, that above 2/3 of the population, these numbers are not very meaningful. If most women can read, you have a "skilled work force".

http://warriorlibrarian.com/CURRICULUM/global_literacy.html

"Largely ignored was the fact that nearly a quarter of 16 to 65-year-olds in the world's richest countries are functionally illiterate. However, the NIL proclaimed² “there is virtually no adult illiteracy in the USA”. Yet, the most recent National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS) found that four percent of [American] adults could not perform even the simplest literacy tasks on the survey; a contention that is supported by the Central Intelligence Agency³ in their online World Fact Book."

The rest of the article is nice too.

Winter

"> And both China and India had terrific educational systems even in historical times.

Yeah, too bad they were limited to the wealthy, i.e. not anywhere near enough educated people to account for the economic expansion of such epic proportions."

This puzzling remark suggest that you did not read up on 20th century history of both China and India.

"
> If it then decides to strangle economic growth in other ways, then there is
> no education that can help out. Except by electing better politicians.

Uh, Winter, that's about what I've been claiming. The political reform precedes and makes possible the educational reform by removing artificial constraints on the economy, allowing wealth to be generated and spent, in part on education.
"

No skilled labor, no development. There have been political reforms in more countries than just China and India. But only the countries that hosted well educated populations got their economic growth.

"Somewhere down the line as the economy increases per capita income the skill requirements change to match. You don't need many engineers if you can't afford to build bridges."

This, and other arguments seem to center on the assumption that a skilled workforce is made up of engineers and doctors. But a skilled work force is made up of mechanics, plumbers, construction workers and nurses (and many more). Most development projects failed because there was nobody who could mend a tractor or install electricity. Nigeria is seriously lacking people who can build houses, service power plants, and drill wells.

And please, the US "anti governement" rethoric doesn't even apply to the US. Least of all to the developing world. All the large and small tigers developed as a RESULT of governement actions.

And finally, bussiness do come to places with high skills and low capital. Bangalore and Hong Kong are two historical examples. They also show that skills might be limiting, but there must indeed be a political will to use them.

Winter

Roland,

There is a great book from Oxford Press called: "Montessori:the science behind the genius" by Angeline Stoll Lillard. In the book, the author writes that the two main reasons that things like Constructivism have not been implemented widely:

1. People like Jean Piaget and Seymour Papert were good at theory, but made no lesson plans or teaching materials for teachers. So, teachers were given good ideas without even a hint on how to implement them. The places that do have Constructivism have it because of the great willpower and effort from the teachers. They have to make everything from scratch.

2. The traditional system was created by a man named Edward Lee Thorndike. He designed the system from the perspective of "adult's convenience" and not the student's welfare. Thorndike also said that the job of the teacher is to "Change" the student. His designs are to make schools look like factories and to program children's minds or reprogram those with prior knowledge. It is almost like brainwashing. This would explain why teacher's manuals focus on discipline and control. The fact that the traditional Thorndike model we currently have prizes adult convenience is very alluring to parents and teachers. So, things never change.

The book argues that other countries have achieved the same results as Constructivism with their own versions of Constructivism. In other nations Constructivism is called "Student-Centered Learing", which why Google searches on "Constructivism" don't pull up very much. If you search "Student-Centered Learning", more will be pulled up. What we call "Constructivism", the other nations call "Jean Piaget style". The "Student-Centered Learning" that have already been implemented are: Montessori style(authentic european Montessori), Reggio Emilia style learning, and Waldorf style learning. If you look up Montessori, Reggio Emilia, and Waldorf you will see that designing class lessons and materials is extremely complicated. I hope this helps in your investigations on education.

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