Government, energy & environment

Are parents the new teachers?

Twenty years ago school gates marked a clear separation between the influence of teachers and parents. Trust was implicit and transparency unnecessary. Moreover, the values and influence of business hardly got a look in. Not any more. Due to increased competition for university places and jobs (influence of globalisation) and demographics (more pressure on individual children due to smaller family sizes) parents are getting more involved in their children's education. In some cases this has led to a renaissance of private education (also due to an increase in disposable incomes), but even in state-funded schools parents are putting on the pressure to be let inside schools and have a say in what's being taught and how. For example, at one school in Australia, classrooms are open to parental inspection and parents can email teachers with questions about teaching. Within the private sector there is widespread pressure for a back-to-basics education and for subjects to be linked to the 'real world' and even coaching is commonplace for children as young as five.
Ref: Sydney Morning Herald (Aus) 13-14 August 2005 ' Do it our way',
L. Doherty and J. Norrie.
Links: open-source innovation, customer made and co-creation trends.

Out of the closet

Private tuition is something that many parents do but most keep quiet about. A recent survey by the Sutton Trust in the UK says that 6% of children aged 11-16 received private tuition over the last twelve months, while an earlier study puts the figure closer to 25% if you include all schoolchildren at some point in their school career. Statistics are hard to come by, but the market is probably worth GB £200 million and growing. Leading 'brands' include Kaplan (US), Kumon (Japan) and Kip McGrath (Aus). Part of this market is remedial teaching but the real growth is elsewhere. Many parents feel that their children are falling behind at school and will fail their exams (thereby ruining their life prospects). Moreover many parents are distrustful of teaching methods and values and are taking matters into their own hands.
Ref: The Economist (UK) 'Schools out', 25 June 2005.

The rise of the parochial politician

It is somewhat ironic that while Europeans complain about President George W. Bush, they usually want to be governed by his local equivalent. As a result, global provincialism has taken over from global co-operation as the dominant theme in modern politics. This is happening because globalisation requires presidents and prime ministers to allow wide-ranging socio-economic reforms if a country is to compete internationally. However, ordinary voters are usually rather attached to the old ways, especially when the old ways were the cause of international prestige. This instinct for identifying and preserving what makes a country special is a prerequisite for high office and popular support. This may appear ridiculously parochial or superficial to some, but it is increasingly what voters want. This not only explains the success of George W. Bush and his particular form of  'Muscular Christianity', but it also explains why Gerhard Schroder is such an enthusiastic defender of the German lifestyle and German interests. Other examples of this parochial trend include Peter Balkenende in the Netherlands, Recep Tayyip Erogan in Turkey and Junichiro Koizumi in Japan. The trick, it seems, is to know what to sacrifice and what to defend.
Ref: Financial Times (Asia) 13-14 August 2005. ' Why big leaders still think small', C. Caldwell,

Age discrimination

According to a study of 1,843 people conducted by the University of Kent (UK), people are more likely to suffer from age discrimination than any other form of discrimination including racism and sexism. However, government legislation almost totally neglects ageism in favour of other forms of inequality and human rights.  Apparently, the only period during which people do not suffer any form of ageist discrimination is between the ages of 35 and 44.  Given the rapid ageing of many developed nations this is an issue that perhaps deserves to be taken a bit more seriously by government, business and the media.
Ref: The Independent (UK) 7 September 2005, 'Ageism 'bigger problem than racism or sexism', S. Connor.

Future thinking

Future Brief is a website devoted to change, particularly how science and technology and 'convergence' are influencing society and politics. Required reading apparently for the folks on Capitol Hill in Washington DC.
Ref: (US)