Hilbert V’s Blog

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LEADER ARTICLE: Education For The Future ( 3 Apr 2008, 0018 hrs IST,Bill Gates )

Posted by hilbertv on January 4, 2009

Historically, if we wanted to understand what someone’s income level was, all we had to do was ask what country they were from.

In the future, this will no longer be true. Instead, we’ll ask what level of education they have achieved. This is because information and communications technology is opening up enormous opportunities for many more people to participate in the global economy, no matter where they may live. Soon, the prospects of a highly educated young person in India or almost any other emerging economy will match those of a young person in Europe or the United States, and opportunity will depend not on where you live, but what you know.

This change means education is the most important investment that governments make. To thrive in this new world, developed and developing countries alike need to focus on building the creative and productive capacities of their workforce. In an increasingly globalised economy, knowledge and skills are the key differentiators of nations as well as individuals. India is a great example of the power of this approach. An emphasis on education has been the catalyst for the rise of an information technology industry that has created new opportunities for hundreds of thousands of people and established India as an important global centre for innovation.

Today, powerful new tools are making it easier than ever to disseminate knowledge and expand educational opportunities. I applied to study at Harvard University nearly 35 years ago. I was attracted partly by the chance to hear great lectures from Harvard’s brilliant faculty. Now, universities offer online lectures, discussion groups, examinations, and degrees to students all over the world. Technology is making higher education – and economic opportunity – available to more people, regard-less of their location.

Likewise in primary and secondary schools, educators are integrating technology tools into the curriculum so they can access classroom materials that will enable them to improve educational quality and teach the relevant skills that are the foundation for success in today’s world.

I have seen how software can help millions of people be more productive and creative. I believe that software can also play a critical role in helping societies address their most difficult challenges. Software and technology innovation can help strengthen healthcare, protect the environment, improve education, and extend social and economic opportunities. Because information technology and education are so critical to creating economic opportunities, Microsoft is deeply committed to improving technology access and fostering innovative teaching and learning methods. In developing countries and in less prosperous communities where we do business, we believe in equipping students with the practical skills they need to thrive in today’s knowledge economy.

To achieve these goals, in 2003 we launched a five-year, $250 million initiative called Microsoft Partners in Learning. Since then, we’ve worked closely with educators, government policymakers and community leaders in more than 100 countries. To date, Partners in Learning programmes have reached more than 3.6 million teachers and school leaders, and more than 76 million students.

In India, Partners in Learning has supported Project Shiksha, a programme designed to increase computer literacy by providing training for students and teachers, supporting the development of IT curriculum, and offering scholarships to top teachers and students.

Working with government officials and educators across India, we have helped provide training for more than 200,000 teachers and over 10 million students since Project Shiksha was launched in 2003.

Currently, an information technology curri-culum developed by us is being introduced in teacher training colleges across the state of Maharashtra with a goal of providing technology skills training to more than 100,000 student teachers. In the next three years or so they’ll have the skills and knowledge to incorporate technology into their classrooms in meaningful ways after they graduate.

We are deeply committed to supporting programmes like Project Shiksha that can help deliver the benefits and opportunities that technology and quality education can provide to ever-greater numbers of young people. As a result, in late January, we have renewed Partners in Learning by making a second five-year investment that will bring total spending in the programme to nearly $500 million globally. Our plan is to intensify our focus on the needs, interests and dreams of young people, who hold the keys to the economic and social future of every nation. Our goal is to expand programmes to help transform education in order to reach more than 250 million students and teachers across the world during the next five years.

Computers and the internet have changed our world, but their ultimate impact will be far greater than anything we have seen so far. In the future, as technology continues to advance, it will play even more important roles in education, business, government, the economy and society. By working with educators to help improve student learning, we seek to make sure that more of the world’s people have opportunities to enjoy the full benefits of technology, regardless of where they were born.

(This article is by the Chairman, Microsoft Corporation.)

( Courtesy : The Times of India, dated 3 Apr 2008)

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