Thursday, January 24, 2008

QGE=A: The Foreword

How do you deliver quality generic education?

According to Win Straube, this may be the most significant question we have before us in the United States and the rest of the world. No one will argue that education is not one of the most important issues facing us today. And, no one will argue that quality education is not needed for the world of today and tomorrow. But just acknowledging that education is an important issue requiring our attention, doesn't guarantee quality education will be provided to all.

There are people who are totally involved in education at all levels, including, government, academic institution, and the acquisition of information and deployment of knowledge. Most of these are dedicated professionals serving in a variety of capacities to create, improve and deliver education. While many of these professionals feel that their contributions are significant, especially to the student population that they serve, they would readily list a number of modifications, changes and suggestions that they feel would improve their educational systems, if only they could be heard.

This book is one that needed to be written, as it lays out before us the major factors that influence education and those that hinder its improvement. Looking at the various levels of educational institutions and delivery systems, as is done in the first part of this book, will help the reader understand two things, 1) there are a variety of ways to deliver education, via established institutions, and 2) there is an inherent reluctance on any institution to adjust the educational channel to become better distributors of learning if it involves change.

The investors in the existing educational systems are, by their very nature, protective of the standards and accepted best practices that have evolved over time to support that system and generate an optimal outcome. These individuals will declare that for those who qualify and meet the minimal standards of entry, the existing system does a very good job of molding and educating the students during their passage through the well-defined educational process. While these educators will sympathize with those who are not accepted into the educational learning talent pool, or will feel badly for those in other environments that do not support or provide access to quality education, they will shake their heads and say "if only we could establish another system just like the one we belong to, we might be able to help".

For those who see the larger picture, who see more people not served properly by the existing education system, who visit communities or countries that cannot afford to invest in such a system, or for that matter sustain one even if it were created by some well-meaning government aid program ... these people shake their heads and see the need for very different strategies to meet the growing educational requirements of the rest of the country and world.

My background is that of a secondary school mathematics educator who came from a family of educators (my father was a history teacher, mother was a reading teachers, my two sisters are art teachers, one of my brothers-in-law is a science teachers, and my wife is an elementary teacher). I also spent three years on my local school board, one year as its president, so I think I have a valid perspective on what the current hard working, professional educational practitioners think. But I must tell you, for me the river of thought on education has been formed by the confluence of two separate streams. I also had the opportunity to work with emerging computer technology over the past 30 years, participating in its development and use from simple PC's to the world-wide-web. I was the major force behind the first (and most successful) comprehensive basic skills curriculum delivered entirely via computer based education terminals, and am currently the author of a published K-8 mathematics curriculum delivered daily via computers to thousands of students across the USA. So, I have a somewhat broader view of what can be accomplished within and outside of the traditional educational institutions.

For example, if you understand that the need for learning is life long and that the traditional educational resources available to adults are over booked, often inaccessible, and mostly too expensive for those who need to acquire the knowledge, then you are immediately forced to look at alternative methods for educational delivery using technology deployment. To respond to the emerging global need with the existing educational infrastructure is folly. We would not even have enough time to educate the teachers needed before they would be overwhelmed by the sheer number of learners they would need to serve. The old ways have worked well for the established social structure, but that structure is changing dramatically with the advent of the global economy. We need to find more universal methods that will still produce quality results, if we are to progress effectively and keep pace with the development of educated workers.

It is very clear to me that the issues addressed in this book need to be given careful consideration. And, having someone like Win Straube, who is a world citizen, look at the symptoms, problems and potential solutions is refreshing. Win has no hidden agenda to put forth except that he wants all individuals around the globe to have access to quality education. Win sees clearly that certain established educational systems, while quite effective within certain domains, are deficient and inappropriate responses to the larger educational crisis we are facing. Win sees that technology has advanced to the point where it might become the great equalizer by providing the opportunity to access quality education from anywhere, at any time, for any purpose. Whether you agree with Win or not, if this book gets you to think about the need for alternative educational innovations, it is worth your while to read it. I must say that I support him in this quest and hope that by raising the issues he is motivating us to consider alternative actions, while striving to maintain the best of what we current have in place.

Peter J. Rizza, Jr., Ph.D., President,
Princeton Center for Education Services, Inc.

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