Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur were the world's tallest twin building until the end of 2004. Interestingly, one building was constructed by Japanese contractors while the other one by Korean contractors. Why, you ask? Simple. One is Government owned while the other one is privately held. PETRONAS, the acronym for Petroliam Nasional Berhad, was incorporated on 17 August 1974 under the Companies Act 1965. It is wholly-owned by the Malaysian government and is vested with the entire ownership and control of the petroleum resources in Malaysia through the Petroleum Development Act 1974, an Act of Parliament. Over the years, PETRONAS has grown to become a fully-integrated oil and gas corporation and is ranked among FORTUNE Global 500's largest corporations in the world.

The tallest building today is the 101 Building in Taipei, so named for it has 101 floors. It is also the Guinness Book of World Records holder of having the world's fastest elevator. From ground level to the observation deck takes 39 seconds (I timed it to take 41 seconds going down, proabably due to the braking when moving with gravity vs. against gravity).

Want to know which will be the world's tallest building by December 30, 2008? Click this link

We are losing to the rest of the world in many ways. The 2003 TIMSS ranking on 8th grade science are: Singapore, Taiwan, S. Korea, Hong Kong, Estonia, Japan, Hungary, Netherlands, United States... For 8th grade math, the rankings are: Singapore, S. Korea, Hong Kong, Taipei, Japan, Belgium, Netherlands, Estonia, Hungary, Malaysia, Latvia, Russian Federation, Slovak Republic, Australia, United States... . Another good source for education data is the OECD reports.,3343,en_2825_495609_39251550_1_1_1_1,00.html
Singapore, Taiwan, S. Korea - you've better keep improving if you want to keep your lead. China and India are closing in.

Should this be a surprise? NCEE published the A Nation at Risk report in April 1983. They've made a number of recommendations:

Recommendation A: Content
We recommend that State and local high school graduation requirements be strengthened and that, at a minimum, all students seeking a diploma be required to lay the foundations in the Five New Basics by taking the following curriculum during their 4 years of high school: (a) 4 years of English; (b) 3 years of mathematics; (c) 3 years of science; (d) 3 years of social studies; and (e) one-half year of computer science. For the college-bound, 2 years of foreign language in high school are strongly recommended in addition to those taken earlier.

Recommendation B: Standards and Expectations
We recommend that schools, colleges, and universities adopt more rigorous and measurable standards, and higher expectations, for academic performance and student conduct, and that 4-year colleges and universities raise their requirements for admission. This will help students do their best educationally with challenging materials in an environment that supports learning and authentic accomplishment.

Recommendation C: Time
We recommend that significantly more time be devoted to learning the New Basics. This will require more effective use of the existing school day, a longer school day, or a lengthened school year.

Recommendation D: Teaching
This recommendation consists of seven parts. Each is intended to improve the preparation of teachers or to make teaching a more rewarding and respected profession. Each of the seven stands on its own and should not be considered solely as an implementing recommendation.

Recommendation E: Leadership and Fiscal Support
We recommend that citizens across the Nation hold educators and elected officials responsible for providing the leadership necessary to achieve these reforms, and that citizens provide the fiscal support and stability required to bring about the reforms we propose.

To Parents
You know that you cannot confidently launch your children into today's world unless they are of strong character and well-educated in the use of language, science, and mathematics. They must possess a deep respect for intelligence, achievement, and learning, and the skills needed to use them; for setting goals; and for disciplined work. That respect must be accompanied by an intolerance for the shoddy and second-rate masquerading as "good enough."
You have the right to demand for your children the best our schools and colleges can provide. Your vigilance and your refusal to be satisfied with less than the best are the imperative first step. But your right to a proper education for your children carries a double responsibility. As surely as you are your child's first and most influential teacher, your child's ideas about education and its significance begin with you. You must be a living example of what you expect your children to honor and to emulate. Moreover, you bear a responsibility to participate actively in your child's education. You should encourage more diligent study and discourage satisfaction with mediocrity and the attitude that says "let it slide"; monitor your child's study; encourage good study habits; encourage your child to take more demanding rather than less demanding courses; nurture your child's curiosity, creativity, and confidence; and be an active participant in the work of the schools. Above all, exhibit a commitment to continued learning in your own life. Finally, help your children understand that excellence in education cannot be achieved without intellectual and moral integrity coupled with hard work and commitment. Children will look to their parents and teachers as models of such virtues.

To Students
You forfeit your chance for life at its fullest when you withhold your best effort in learning. When you give only the minimum to learning, you receive only the minimum in return. Even with your parents' best example and your teachers' best efforts, in the end it is your work that determines how much and how well you learn. When you work to your full capacity, you can hope to attain the knowledge and skills that will enable you to create your future and control your destiny. If you do not, you will have your future thrust upon you by others. Take hold of your life, apply your gifts and talents, work with dedication and self-discipline. Have high expectations for yourself and convert every challenge into an opportunity.


Nate Maas said...

Regarding the Nation at Risk recommendations...

A - Content: Many schools are almost there.
B - Standards and Expectations: Seems like universities have gone the opposite way on this one.
C - Time: The effective use of the day is often in place, but the tinkering with longer days or alternate calendars is not usually the case.
D - Teaching: I see this situation just getting worse.
E - Leadership and Fiscal Support: I don't see this ever happening. I think it's unrealistic to expect our current batch of citizens to hold politicians accountable for educational reform. Additionally, I don't think the schools are lacking for total dollars, money is just spent poorly.

Devon Hodgson said...

Nate and Hak, I think this is a compelling motivational technique for our symposium. Using the standards is something they can grapple with because they are tangible realities. You can't beat the innate competition that exists in Americans to succeed beyond other world powers. The stats provided would be a good start.

Hak, there is an assumption in your plea to parents that all students have parents. There is also an assumption that all students can read. We are getting comfortable talking about changes in circumstances that are malleable (i.e. schools with learners, parents, basic materials, lack of violence, etc.) I can see the leaders at our symposium laughing at us if we don't recognize there are schools that don't have books, computers, or even a daily schedule that doesn't include shootings. How do we then talk to them about technology?