China shows that more people with degrees is not always good thing

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by Shivetya, Nov 4, 2009.

  1. Shivetya macrumors 65816

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    #1
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China_Business/KJ22Cb03.html


    The reason I have for highlighting this story is that there has been a big push in Washington to get more people into degree programs. The real underlying cause is that colleges are big money makers and the recent take over of the Federal Student loan program facilitates even higher tuition costs further bolstering the bankrolls of colleges.

    The key point to this story is, degrees are useless unless there is some way to use them. I know more than a few people with soft degrees who are upset they don't get paid more for their degree and a few with "real" degrees not working in the field their degree applies to.

    Improving education is a laudable goal, but doing it just for numbers as China did shows the perils of doing it wrong.
     
  2. Zombie Acorn macrumors 65816

    Zombie Acorn

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    #2
    Your assessment of the issue on "soft" degrees isn't logical. If everyone went for "real" degrees by your definition the pay for them would be plunged well below "soft" degrees, this has been shown in the article you posted. :)

    As for China, the worst case scenario is they are overeducated, have excess productivity, and have plenty of room for economic growth. This is assuming that lower wage doesn't dissuade students from going to higher education.
     
  3. Burnsey macrumors 6502a

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    If you want a degree to be useful, you have to work hard for one that is, like engineering, medicine, pharmacy etc... because those degrees teach skills that generate wealth and/or health.
     
  4. Zombie Acorn macrumors 65816

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    China graduates around 600,000 engineers a year, about 10x more than we do.
     
  5. barkomatic macrumors 68040

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    A 4 year degree is pretty much standard these days and for the most part you can't expect to earn even a lower middle class living without one. I can see perhaps 10 years down the road that a Masters will be the new standard. I'm not saying that's a good thing, but there are more and more people crammed into this little world and they are all competing for the same resources.

    I wonder what the economy will be like when almost everyone starts off life with 6 figure student debts?

    After Healthcare, I think education costs are the next biggest demon our country will face.
     
  6. CalBoy macrumors 604

    CalBoy

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    You "use" your degree all the time by virtue of being a better informed, better equipped thinker. When you stop viewing education as exclusively economic, its value becomes far more apparent.

    In fact, education is one of the hallmarks of an advanced society not because it leads to economic productivity or new innovations, but because it demonstrates the value the society places on advancing its citizens' minds.

    Well now it depends on what these "soft" degree individuals are doing. Many go into teaching, which quite frankly is a horribly underpaid profession.


    Something will have to change at some point; we simply cannot expect individuals to be in school until the age of 24 and have 6-figure debts just to earn an average salary.

    I'm a champion of education (I've worked in the field for nearly 4 years in some capacity or another), but quite frankly, our current approach is wrong. We haven't made any attempts to make education more efficient, which results in enormous costs.

    An example of this is how we place such a high emphasis on computers in the classroom. Yes, they're nice and students should learn how to use them at some point in their educational career, but that doesn't mean we need to have laptops for every 6th grader (these programs are more popular than ever right now). What's worse, these programs don't seem to teach any actual computer skills to students. Instead, students complete projects that be done quite readily with a pen and paper and miss out on valuable computer skills (I've been shocked recently to discover that most of my tutees can't type, use basic shortcuts, or even have a basic understanding of how computer files are organized despite belonging to a generation which was born into a world full of computers).

    Other gadgets like Smartboards, while very neat and good for the occasional demonstration that can't be done on a regular board, offer very little in educational value to the classroom relative to their cost (Smartboards run into the several thousands of dollars-not exactly a cheap investment when you consider that they only add a little bit of functionality to a traditional white/chalkboard).
     
  7. Zombie Acorn macrumors 65816

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    Giving every student a laptop is a waste of money, their uses in high school are not high enough to warrant the cost, they can simply go to a lab and finish their papers for English. The only way I could see the laptops being useful is if the student is enrolled in tech courses such as computer science where they would need to bring a computer home to work with.
     
  8. .Andy macrumors 68030

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    As Calboy pointed out there's more to a degree than money. To label attaining a degree a "bad thing" solely due to a lack of remuneration shows a very narrow worldview.
     
  9. DoNoHarm macrumors 65816

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    #9
    It's also about quality, not just quantity.
     
  10. Eraserhead macrumors G4

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    And also the level of development in your economy. The Chinese economy has far less jobs that require degrees (at the moment) than the west.

    Additionally Chinese Universities are at a much lower standard than those in the west at the moment.

    These will both change with time.
     
  11. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus

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    I certainly agree with this, but a situation like China's is still problematic because it isn't economical, and so it isn't likely to be sustainable. It either results in brain drain, with the best educated minds leaving, which may have some long term benefit to the Chinese indirectly but makes them waste their money training scientists, engineers, etc, who work somewhere else for non-Chinese companies. or else ultimately it will get corrected with a shift of people away from education, which in the long run is also problematic.

    The latter arguably happened already in the US to some extent with male students entering into higher education leveling off. Now there's a long tradition of higher paying skilled labor jobs (plumbers, electricians, mechanics, etc) and lower paying professional jobs (social workers and non-profit sector jobs, pink collar type jobs). A long enough tradition that it's not unreasonable to expect this kind of pattern to be sustainable at some level. But it's also not representative of the averages of post-college professions and jobs that involve a high school diploma and perhaps vocational training. That is, it's nowhere near the degree of the inversion seen in China.

    I think in the US, the problem isn't purely that there aren't enough people going into science and "high-tech" kinds of jobs. Our problem is not exactly the same problem China has, and even if we did what China did we might not end up in the same place.

    I think at least a significant portion of this has to do with the mentality of many companies in these fields. These are the companies that higher a thousand Java programmers and then lay them all off and want H1B visas to hire C# programmers, instead of helping their employers stay versatile. Likewise it's the overspecialization that is encouraged from all sides that leads to the preposterous situation of that Java programmer (or whatever) expending three or four years training for a subspecialization that has a lifetime itself of maybe five or six years. The same thing happens throughout engineering -- a person goes through a proper, broad engineering program, and their first job happens to be designing fuel pumps, and suddenly they're qualified out of being appropriate as a body panel engineer or an engine designer when, a year ago, when they were still graduating from college, they would have been considered appropriate for these jobs.

    When sci/tech/engineering jobs function like this, and many people in tech end up going through a tumultuous path of inconsistent employment because, while smart enough to function well at their level of employment, they're not prescient enough to jump from sinking ship to sinking ship quickly enough, why would young people want to move into these jobs?
     
  12. barkomatic macrumors 68040

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    Certainly. However, when a degree costs so much that a person will be in debt for 10 years or more there is no way money can't be taken into consideration.

    My Niece was going to attend a design school until her financial aid package included over $40,000 in loans--per year. If she had attended for two years and washed out---like a lot of students do--she would still be on the hook for $80K.
     
  13. CalBoy macrumors 604

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    Indeed. The sheer cost of these programs is astounding as well. In order to give an entire class laptops (and the teacher as well), the program must expend between $20,000 and $30,000 for the laptops, an additional $3,000 to $4,500 for software (at the very minimum), and the resources of IT labor (for setup, maintenance, etc). You can hire an entire teacher, several part-time tutors, or enhance math and science programs for that much money and get much better returns.

    Unfortunately, education has become a quasi-business for the government workers who make up school district administrations. They pitch ideas like this and attract grants and district resources because it's what makes them look good now. Meanwhile, math, science, and English test scores suffer or remain stagnant .

    It's more about supply and demand in the Chinese economy. China can't utilize these educated workers yet. When they are needed, however, their salaries will rise and the economy will grow more rapidly as productivity increases.
     
  14. NT1440 macrumors G4

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    They are useless because all we've done is thrown computers at kids while not reworking teaching methods to actually use them. There are some great schools that really integrate them into the curriculum very well.

    I still think our entire education system needs a MAJOR overhaul, just like so many important things in this country. We are continually becoming more of a laughing stock to the world because we stagnate with our "good enough" thinking while still screaming from the rooftops that this is the "greatest country on earth". If anything it just screams of our ignorance in relation to the rest of the world.
     
  15. .Andy macrumors 68030

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    Of course money can and should be taken into consideration when choosing a degree. As can having a family, travelling, or doing a non-degree course. There are a lot of considerations that one should think through and weigh up before undergoing a degree. However if your only measure of the worth of that degree is you remuneration after graduation to me that's a bad thing.
     
  16. zap2 macrumors 604

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    Got some cost studies you've done on a large test group?


    Heck, if text book publishers cuts their costs for digital books, that alone could warrant the savings. Not to mention using the vast amount of info on the web could save dollars. If you go to a full digital schools, you're increasing the amount of info people can get to, and you can cut costs in many places.

    I'm not saying laptops always equal savings on supplies...I'm saying the educational benefits along with possible savings make its something we should without question be looking into.( and don't forget the fact that low cost laptops are more common then ever_
     
  17. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus

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    Were the laptops ever replacing print textbooks in these trials? Maybe we should be giving kids Kindles -- at least there there's a likelihood of a business case and also a carbon offset if the Kindle replaces enough books....
     
  18. MacNut macrumors Core

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    The problem with that is kids will forget how to write with paper. If we become so dependent on computers our minds will relax to much and the day technology crashes we are screwed. Kids should learn the old way first before learning the digital way.
     
  19. NT1440 macrumors G4

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    A bigtime college just did that, and the limitations on the Kindle device itself annoyed so many that they are abandoning the device next year. I'll try to find the link
     
  20. NT1440 macrumors G4

    NT1440

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    Why not both side by side instead of one exclusively then the other exclusively?

    And if there is some sort of good pen device input, why does it have to actually be on paper?

    Of course, there aren't any products out right now that fit the bill, though if the MS's courrier turns out to be more than just vaporware, id deffinatly put my money down on it.
     
  21. MacNut macrumors Core

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    We should always look to expand but we can't get overly dependent on it. I do think that kids are getting dumber because they rely so much on the computer that they don't think for themselves anymore.

    At least k-4 should be the old fashion way of learning, if you want to bring computers in later fine.
     
  22. NT1440 macrumors G4

    NT1440

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    #22
    I think the access to so much different information is a good thing. The problem of this generation is that kids aren't using time productively (which they certainly shouldnt have to all the time) and when they do its often half assed.

    We should be teaching the importance of knowledge and education, not just "apply it here, get this result". I feel like we just teach the test, rather than teaching the importance of understanding how to approach a problem such as a test. Sorry if that doesn't make much sense, I can't word it as well as I'd like.
     
  23. Zombie Acorn macrumors 65816

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    #23
    Have you ever tried reading digital books without e-ink? It sucks pretty hardcore if you have more than 20 pages to read or so. Im already on the computer most of the day anyways so I don't need the additional eye strain.
     
  24. MacNut macrumors Core

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    It is true that we teach for the test not how to apply what was learned. The almighty test score is worth more then actually learning something.
     
  25. rdowns macrumors Penryn

    rdowns

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    No *****. I've said this for a long time, if charter schools are so great, why aren't all our schools charter schools?
     

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