2011 August 02 Tuesday
VC: Education Completely Screwed Up

Chi-Hua Chien of legendary Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins (e.g. they funded Amazon, Sun Microsystems, Google, Genentech) thinks the educational market is in need of massive restructuring.

Secondly, education is a trillion dollar market ďthatís completely screwed upĒ, because it involves millions of children going to sit in a classroom for 7 hours, and it combines three different businesses for the state: the real estate business, the union labor management business, and certification business.

When, in reality, education should be delivered in a realtime basis to students who are learning at their own pace, who donít have to sit in a room full of 30 people in an antiquated environment ó a realtime, mobile solution thatís learning based as opposed to curriculum based. This second idea is a bit more nebulous, but Chien is hitting on an important theme here: How badly American education is in need of disruption and innovation, especially as that would relate to mobile.

He's not slicing up education into enough pieces. The real estate and labor management pieces should disappear as online course delivery makes unions powerless and building usage minimal.

Certification should be broken up into course delivery, tutoring of groups and individuals, and testing. But testing really has two distinct uses in education: testing for learning (frequent testing enhances learning) and testing for certification of knowledge and skills acquired.

Each of these pieces could be delivered by different organizations for the same topic area. So you could get video lectures from one source, tutoring from another source, learning tests from yet another source, and certification testing from still another source.

A big need: certification standards for assorted fields of expertise. Many fields have certification tests. But too many also require bricks-and-mortar education and accredited institutions before becoming eligible to take the tests. For example, with one exception I'm aware of (Virginia) one can't pass the bar to become a lawyer without first going to law school.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2011 August 02 09:01 PM  Education Revolution

bmack500 said at August 3, 2011 2:01 AM:

With all due respect sir, you are just amazingly elitist sometimes. I believe you think incredibly highly of yourself. I do enjoy your blogs when you try to stay somewhat impartial on the politics, but frequently your right-wing leanings come through so loud and clear i.e., "Unions are evil" types of statements. Higher education has an "Ideological Message". What message - value human life?

vnlxj499 said at August 3, 2011 2:48 AM:

@ bmack500

U mad bro?

Joe said at August 3, 2011 10:17 AM:

bmack500, you're dumb. This article is incredibly anti-elitist. Did you read it carefully or just skim for key words?

AJ said at August 3, 2011 12:28 PM:

Mr. Parker,
Most of this gnashing about education is veiled frustration over persistent racial differences in educational outcomes. The thinking is, "if only we arm these kids with iPads and Yale graduates of Teach for America, racial inequities will disappear. We can do it America!"

Reform is valuable for the reasons you state, but they aren't the impetus. And if reform is ineffective at erasing the gap, it might be ditched for the next shiny solution.

Randall Parker said at August 3, 2011 5:29 PM:


Unions: In NYC and many other areas they protect incompetent teachers. Naturally, I'm opposed. I think the purpose of schools is to educate kids as the absolute highest priority. Unions think the purpose of schools is to pay more to their members and insulate their members from accountability. There's a clear and obvious conflict between these goals.

I'm for empowering individuals to have far more control of their own education and the education of their children. Is that elitist? I do not see how. I do see that unions, teachers, tenured professors, and administrators of schools and colleges all have a vested interest in the current system. They are holding back progress as the cost of education continues to go up faster than living standards.

I am more friendly toward unions for dangerous occupations. Good if coal miners have unions for example. Management isn't going to put worker safety in first place.

Impartial about politics: I do not even try to stay apolitical in ParaPundit. It is a blog that covers politics and society and the economy. I'm unorthodox in many of my views. I cover a lot of ground and so sometimes I write about stuff that isn't obviously an issue for Republicans or Democrats. But I'm rightward leaning in many ways.


Understood that the priorities motivating policy makers are not my own. Sigh.

My own gnashing of teeth about education is that it has become too expensive and drain on living standards of the middle class. Plus, it is too slow and way too inconvenient.

Education is also stuck in old ways of doing things. I keep pointing at Henry Roediger's research on testing to accelerate learning and see legions of supposedly expert teaching professionals ignore what Roediger's found. We could learn more quickly, easily, and thoroughly if the best memory science would be incorporated into how education gets done.

We could learn when and where we wanted to rather than when and where class is held. We could go fast or slow. We could learn more easily. We could do all this far more cheaply with far greater choice.

solaris said at August 3, 2011 5:30 PM:

>"with one exception I'm aware of (Virginia) one can't pass the bar to become a lawyer without first going to law school."

I believe the same is mostly true for teaching. Not by coincidence, teaching and law are both tightly tied to the government.

Engineer_Dad said at August 3, 2011 9:41 PM:

A good analogy illustrating the ridiculousness of formal education today is for Hollywood to require movies be watched in theaters and composers require music be heard in concert halls.

Wolf-Dog said at August 3, 2011 10:01 PM:

Interestingly enough there are many thousands of manufacturing jobs in the United States but there are not enough qualified applicants. These days the new manufacturing jobs require a lot of skills, including science skills, and serious machine shop operating skills. But these skills are lacking because we do not have enough technical high schools and two year colleges that train people from a young age to do these high skill jobs. Germany and Japan do a VERY good job of preparing kids in technical high schools and special blue collar colleges where state of the art skills can be acquired at a young age, so that by the age of 20 an applicant is ready for a good job that will be very productive.

But now that the American people got sufficiently impoverished, there is a new movement to train kids for competitive blue collar jobs,and within a few years this can start bearing fruit.


bmack500 said at August 3, 2011 11:18 PM:


Thank you for the clarification and reasoned response.

Mercer said at August 4, 2011 9:37 AM:

The research shows that it is families, not the schools, that matter in educational outcomes.

If Chien does not like the way colleges certify people he should try to change the hiring practices of the companies he funded.

solaris said at August 4, 2011 12:42 PM:

>"The research shows that it is families, not the schools, that matter in educational outcomes"

"Educational outcomes" are not the issue. Education is. Families matter in "educational outcomes" because only well-off families can afford certain outcomes, such as graduating from Harvard with a law degree.

>"If Chien does not like the way colleges certify people he should try to change the hiring practices of the companies he funded"

That makes no sense. Change the hiring practices to what?

Check it Out said at August 5, 2011 6:16 PM:

All these new and "avant garde" systems and "theories" in basic and middle education ultimately lead to dumbing down students, to turn adults into children and children into babies.

Education will continue to go down in quality all over the world -even Finland- simply because there seems to be a deliberate project for turning education into idiocy. Just take a look at the latest educational "reforms" in many countries and the contents in them.

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