Archive for the 'Education' Category

Apr 25 2008

“Two Million Minutes”

Published by under Education

Order the DVD – Two Million Minutes

Just how flat is the world? I was chatting with a friend from my youth via Facebook’s new chat feature last night. We went to Carmel High School together in the upscale suburbs of Indianapolis, Indiana, until I moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia during my sophomore year. It has been 12 years since I had chatted with this friend. It turns out she’s become an elementary school teacher herself in Indianapolis, and she was surprised and excited to hear that I’d become a teacher and was working here in Shanghai.

Sarah directed my attention to a film she had just seen that she thought I might be interested in. I am posting the trailer here, because I’m dying to know if anyone out there has seen this film. I am particularly interested in it because it features students from both Carmel High School, where I did my first year and a half of my own “2 million minutes” (the name of the film refers to the number of minutes in the four years it takes to get through high school) before moving overseas as a 10th grader, as well as students here in Shanghai and Bangalore, India. The theme appears to be the vast divide in the content covered in the US vs. in developing countries with whom tomorrow’s graduates will be competing in the global economy.

Here’s the trailer. If anyone’s seen this film, please leave your comments here. I am ordering the DVD myself as I write this!

Two Million Minutes Trailer

24 responses so far

Apr 24 2008

Dominican Republic struggles to find its “comparative advantage” as it faces new competition from Asia / World / Americas – US economy threatens Dominican Republic

Trade based on comparative advantage… the theory originally articulated by Adam Smith, later fine-tuned by David Ricardo, the theory that suggests that if each nation specializes its economic activity on the products for which it faces the lowest opportunity cost, then trades with its neighbors, total world output and efficiency can be maximized: today this theory represents the philosophical underpinning of all free trade agreements signed between and among the nations of the world.

Through trade, countries can exchange their extra output with other nations for the goods specialized in by others, enabling all nations to enjoy a level of consumption beyond what they’d be able to achieve if they tried to produce all goods domestically.

For many developing countries, with their abundance of either land or labor, comparative advantages tend to lie in either agricultural goods or low-skilled manufactured goods. Since global prices for food are highly unstable and dependency on healthy harvests, good weather, and stable rainfall are all highly risky endeavors for a poor country, developing nations prefer to foster the growth of manufacturing sectors in their path towards economic development.

Strategies for economic growth available to developing nations include export-oriented and inward-oriented growth. A country like the Dominican Republic, the largest economy in the Caribbean, has pursued a predominantly export-oriented growth strategy, promoting through “free zones” the growth of a textile industry aimed at producing goods for consumers in developed countries, primarily the US.

To the Domincans, producing textiles for export to America has successfully given the people of this poor nation a grip on a rung of the ladder towards economic development. The import of capital has taken previously unproductive workers out of agriculture and put them into an industry where productivity, thus income, has risen, leading to improvements in living standards. Export-led growth, however, runs some serious risks of its own, as is being realized by the people of the Dominican Republic today.

It had been clear for some time that Luis Caraballo’s textile factory, in one of the Dominican Republic’s largest “free zones”, was struggling.

Finally, last December, he closed the factory gates for the last time: cut-throat competition from China and Vietnam, a weakening US dollar and unsustainable costs had become too much.

Once a hot destination for American companies looking for a cheap place to “off-shore” production of labor intensive textiles, the Dominican Republic today faces new competition, and is finding its comparative advantage slip slowly away from textiles…

The Dominican Republic depends heavily on the US, which is the destination of more than 85 per cent of exports. But textile exports – these days accounting for less than a third of total exports – fell by 32 per cent over 2007.

Although other countries in the Caribbean are also suffering from Asian competition – with Chinese textile exports to the US tripling between 2000 and 2005, while Vietnam’s multiplied almost 117 times – the Dominican Republic has been worst hit.

Here’s the thing: a nation’s comparative advantage may shift over time (from land to labor to capital intensive goods) as the structure of the global economy evolves. Once an economy like the Dominican Republic’s has undergone a period of structural adjustment, away from agriculture and towards industry, the flow of low wage workers from farm to factory begins to slow to a trickle, leading to rising wages and increased competition from countries with more abundant supplies of cheap labor.

The challenge for policy makers is to manage the structural changes as they come, minimizing the deleterious impact such global shifts of productive resources has on the citizens of a country like the D.R. Clearly, it is in the country’s interest to prepare its citizens for a “new economy”, one in which skilled labor will play a larger role. The problem is, this requires a solid education system, which the D.R., it turns out, does not yet have:

There is widespread acceptance of the need to develop a better-educated workforce, but so far education spending has been inadequate.

“The government simply doesn’t have enough resources,” said Mr Montás. About 40 per cent of its budget goes on debt obligations and another 15 per cent is dished out through subsidies. Just 1.5 per cent goes towards education.

It also turns out that this is a balance of payments story:

Mr Montás calculated that for every percentage point the US economy contracted, the Dominican Republic’s GDP would shrink by 0.4 per cent.

Not only will exporters be hit, but also the huge tourism sector and remittance flows…

One possible result of the decline in exports and flows of remittances from the US will be a depreciation of the D.R. peso, as demand for pesos by Americans falls. A weaker peso might make the country’s exports attractive once again, assuming the exchange rate is allowed to adjust on foreign exchange markets. A weaker peso should help slow the decline in the D.R.’s exports to the US, at least until new competition emerges, perhaps elsewhere in Asia, maybe even from Africa or other Latin American countries.

In all likelihood, given the increased competition from Asian textile manufacturers, continued economic growth in the Dominican Republic will depend on the country’s ability to educate and train its workforce to adapt to a more capital, technology and information-based economy, which, if successful, will eventually lead to rising incomes and higher standards of living for the people of the this rising Caribbean nation.

Comparative advantages evolve with the emergence of new competition among developing and developed countries. The negative impacts this evolution has on a particular economy can be managed if wise policy actions are taken to assure a country’s workforce is educated and trained to participate in tomorrow’s economy, rather than yesterday’s or today’s.

30 responses so far

Apr 05 2008

Live blogging from the Global Issues Network Conference for students in Beijing, China

Published by under Education

EARCOS Global Issues Network Conference

I’m sitting in the theater at the Western Academy of Beijing about to listen to Jane Goodall address about 400 students from 35 schools around the EARCOS (East Asian Regional Council of Overseas Schools). The purpose of this conference is to bring young people together to learn from experts and from each other about the major global issues faced by the world today and begin brainstorming action plans needed to make the world a better place.

I just wanted to post a quick message here about this amazing weekend event. It kicked off last night with keynotes by the following global leaders:

Maurice Strong has a long history working for the United Nations. He has acted as the Secretary General of the UN Earth Summit, the Conference on the Human Environment. He represented UN General Secretary Kofi Annan as an envoy to North Korea on human rights in the early part of this decade, and currently advised the Chinese government on human rights and environmental issues. Strong’s keynote to the GIN Conference brought into perspective the broad scope of the challenge currently faced by today’s society in the realm of environment, economy, human welfare, and development.

Jean-Francois Rischard is a former vice-president of the World Bank and the author of an influential book, “20 Global Problems and 20 Years to Solve Them”, in which he proposes creating networks of experts from around the world whose task it is to address the world’s most dire social, environmental, economic and human welfare issues.

The most amazing keynote on day 1 was, however, Hafsat Abiola, daughter of Nigeria’s first democratically elected president, human rights and democracy activist, and inspirational speaker. While she was a student at Harvard, her father was thrown in prison by a military coup, and she became involved in activism after stumbling upon a group of students from Amnesty International petitioning for her own father’s release on Harvard’s campus.

On her way to New York to speak to some city officials about divesting from firms doing business with Nigeria’s military government, Hafsat received word that her mother had been gunned down in the streets back home. From that day forward Hafsat devoted her life to the struggle for womens’ and human rights in Africa.

**interjection: a Shanghai American School freshman, Hae Ju Kang, just asked Jane Goodall a question about water conservation over video conference. Way to go Hae Ju!!

The conference will continue over the next two days, with keynontes from other global activists like Jane Goodall, who is speaking to us at this very moment over video from Washington D.C.

I am finding myself incredibly inspired by not just the global leaders here this weekend, but the students themselves, who are fully embracing the movement for change in the 21st century. Check back here later for another update from the Global Issues Network Conference here in Beijing.

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Jan 17 2008

Our Wiki – SAS Econ students help Mozambiquean Econ students learn!

Check this out guys! Tonight I got a message on our Wiki from Antonio, an Econ professor from Africa. Here’s what he had to say:

Hi Jason,Professor Antonio
I am Lecturer at the Economics Faculty in Maputo, Mozambique. I have recently come across your wiki and am really enjoying and learning a lot with it. I am creating my own wiki for my class, and your wiki provides a lot of insight. If you do not know Portuguese my wiki will not be of any use for you. In any case, I am the one who needs to learn with you. Thanks for the insights!
Best regards

There’s globalization and education in the era of Web 2.0 at its best! International, teenage, Econ students living and going to school in Shanghai are helping African university professors and students learn economics. If you’re not convinced that the wiki’s effective, have a look at this. Here’s a map showing the last 100 visitors at Welker’s Wikinomics Wiki:

Wiki map

That’s right, guys, your wiki work is being seen, read, studied, and learned from all over the world! How amazing! Congratulations on all the great contributions you guys have made to the world on online economics education! You truly are teaching the world economics! 

10 responses so far

Oct 06 2007

Habitat for Humanity, Philippines: a Reflection

Shanghai American School Habitat for Humanity – Lucena City, Philippines. October 2007

This afternoon my wife and I returned to Shanghai after an amazing week in the Philippinese where we led 16 students on a Habitat for Humanity house building project on the island of Luzon (see map here). While this experience is still fresh in my mind, I wanted to share a few comments about how my thinking about Habitat for Humanity evolved over the last eight days.A warm welcome on our first day

A week ago right now, the 18 of us from SAS were bouncing scarily southward along Luzon’s main north-south highway, which is only a highway in the western sense for about 30 km outside of Manila, beyond which it turns to a two-lane, pot-holed, multi-use thoroughfare shared by buses, three-wheeled motorcycle taxis, lorries, a handful of personal automobiles and thousands of jeepneys. Three hours of nerve and bone rattling travel brought us to our lovely guest house near the southern Luzon city of Lucena, where we would spend five days building a house in a community on the outskirts of the city. Continue Reading »

4 responses so far

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