Tyranny of numbers

Choosing a college

Posted in Education, General by Djavad on April 25, 2009

I was not able to write on this weblog last week because I was visiting colleges with my daughter to help her choose where she will enroll next year.  Having grown up in Iran, it is impossible to have your children go through the US system without thinking about how different they are, even though Iran’s is more or less modelled after the western education system.  So, it seems appropriate to write something about the big contrast in the transition from high school to college in the two countries, which happens to be on my mind this week and which is what I do in my research. (See my commentary on concour reform, on women in universities, and a longer paper on Iranian youth.)

There is no greater contrast between the two systems of education than in how they select students for college.  We know how this is done in Iran. Students work hard to get good grades, which helps them go into successively more selective schools which is all to increase the chance of getting a high score in the Big Test–Iran’s infamous concour. Iran’s system receives praise for its objectivity (computers not humans grade the test) and for its selectivity (more than a million take the test and the top universities pick from the top 1% (hear a Chronicle of Higher Education reporter visiting Iran praise the concour’s selectivity–past minute 8).  What proponents of Iran’s concour miss are the costs of objectivity and selectivity.

To understand the costs, you have to think of the system of selection as the source of incentives for students to learn–how much effort to put into studying and what skills to learn.  The contrast between the two selection systems in Iran and US helps make this aspect of selectivity clear.

Each year about two million US high school graduates prepare their college applications in which they report not only their computerized (objective) scores on their SAT tests, but also on a range of activities from sports to volunteer work.  Essays play an important role because they help admission officers make sense of the how all the materials in the application fit together.  The US system of selection into college thus provides a wider range of incentives for learning.  It tests for intelligence, ability, and knowledge of various subjects, as well as interest in extra-curricular activities.  To do a good job, all colleges have a large admission department with trained personnel who read through applications and try to pick students who bring something to their college.  In several speeches by admission deans that I heard in my travels last week, not one mentioned the SAT scores of their incoming pool, but all mentioned their achievements in other areas –high school newspaper editor, musical performer, accomplished athlete, etc.

What is the value to colleges of attracting a diverse group of students with skills that are often hard to verify or measure with objetive criteria?  The answer is that colleges like to be known for developing the whole person, to offer to employers and graduate schools graduates who can compete in the global marketplace and succeed in their jobs.  They are not interested in attracting a bunch of book worms with unusual ability to memorize and take multiple choice test.  If they do, their graduates will be shunned by employers and graduate schools, who need people with a variety of  productive traits including good character and good work habits.

So, college admission officers look for people who bring something to their campus, which helps them build the kind of reputation that, in turn, helps their graduates place into good jobs and graduate programs.  This is, after all, why people find their college attractive in the first place. Colleges invest in reputations very much as companies do; they try to define their brand that employers find attractive. For example, Princeton emphasizes its academic and elitist character while Yale prefers to be known as the place where students develop interest in public service and make connections.

Colleges announce their decisions by the end of March, at which point the tables are turned and students with more than one offer sit in judgement of colleges.  This is the time when colleges are sized up carefully for what they offer in academic and non-academic training, and how well they place their graduates in jobs and graduate schools.   It is at this time that investments colleges make in their  reputation — quality of their admission staff, faculty, and facilities — begin to pay off.

There is no better way to understand the priorities of children and their parents in organizing their time during the crucial teens years than examine how colleges select students.  In Iran, there is much emphasis on grades and test scores because that is what the system understands best, while in the US there is greater balance in the range of activities children and youth engage in.  I have argued in a paper that student and parent investments in child quality can be traced to labor market institutions.  Where employers are not  able to rely on less objective and more arbitrary criteria in  rewarding their employees, and their actions are regulated by the government, education systems seem to follow suit and rely more on objective criteria, which are  computerized test scores.

Let me leave this subject with a question for future discussion:  to what extent the problems Iranian youth face in finding a job after they graduate can be traced to Iran’s education system, and in that system to the way we test students?

Advertisements

22 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Anon said, on April 30, 2009 at 12:34 am

    “American students have shunned to do medicine, law and finance, where salaries have been rising”

    I was not able to find a report on average salaries in US that I saw around a year ago, but if I remember correctly, engineering was one of the top 3, if not top 2.

  2. dsalehi said, on April 27, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    Yes, the two industries (or labor markets, as I prefer to call them) are very different. In the US employers can take risk with the quality if employees because they are free to lay them off later. In Iran, once an employer hires someone for longer than a few 3 months or a year, he cannot dismiss them. So, Iranian employers have to go with more objective signals of productivity, while US employers consider a wider range of productivity signals.

    I don’t know how you train people to bring fundamental change. I know how to train productive people. The first rule in doing that is to recognize the productivity does not always equal being smart!

  3. Purple said, on April 27, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    I think the situation is much more complex if you consider the fact that the Industry in Iran is different from American industry. All of us know that many managers are selected for things other than their abilities.
    In addition, having a weak industry, it is hard to say we need to educate people for being employed by the industry or train them for bringing about fundamental changes in this system.

  4. Behrooz said, on April 27, 2009 at 9:26 am

    Nice topic and nice discussion. A few months ago I was preparing an article about rent-seeking in Iran higher education entry. I was thinking about modelling the economic externalities of attending in a 4 hours exam which directly affects the future of many Iranian students. I have many stories about people who get sick the night before the exam because of an ice cream and they lose it. OK, we can forget the stories and ask the Sanjesh Office to change the exam time to winter when Iranians usually do not eat ice cream and ask all students not to eat boiled beetroot the night before.

    Mohammad has mentioned that concour stops corruption. I agree, it prevents a kind and extends new versions I think. Let me make it clearer. We know that this year something around 1.2 million people will attend in concour and let’s say that 50% of them will be accepted – Sanjesh says 9 out of 10 but I prefer not to consider some majors which have no fan. Most of them also attend in Azad concour for finding a place there. So we know that what the families spend for their children does not affect the final proportion of acceptance and just changes the opportunity of each student to get a better rank. Let’s say that each family spends in average 50,000 tomans (around 50 USD). Yes, you may say that where this number comes from? It is a pure guess but it is not a big number. If one million people spend nothing and 200,000 spend 300,000 tomans this number will be achieved. I am 100% sure that it is at least two or three times less than what it is really spent. OK. 50,000 toman for 1.2 million people = 60 billion tomans (60 million USD). This money is spent for competition and I am sure if it is measured correctly with considering all side-effect it will be a multi-hundred billion dollars number. I do not know how I can prove it, but I believe that if we have two models where in one people spend for the test and in the other do not and the initial capacities, competences and knowledge of students are the same, the ranking should not be very different, even the not-spending society should gain better results as there student who cannot afford private classes can have higher chances. I was trying to make and agent based model but it remained unfinished then.

    So if we have Mr. A and Mr. B and Mr. C and we know that A is cleverer than B and B more than C we expect that A will rank 1 and B will be second and C will be number 3 in concour. But if C is wealthy and is one of those who pay 300,000 tomans to attend classes then he may rank second and B will be the third. So in such a rent-seeking model in average agents spend 100,000 tomans more and the order of competency is biased.

    OK. We can imagine that this competition is not bad. We can ignore the fact that the tests are getting trickier and at least 50% of the exam is based on memorizing things as the core structure is based on having less than 2 minutes for answering a math test. The other important fact is that concour has provided employment for many people in Iran which may force us to think more carefully when we speak about its elimination.

    I think in response to your final question I can make an example. A research was done by Sharif University about taxis in Iran a few years ago. It has been mentioned there that the taxi transport system is very different in Iran when compared to other countries. In Iran both passengers and taxis are looking for each other. Where there is a taxi there is not waiting passengers and somewhere else the passengers are expecting for a taxi for a long time. I think it has happened in universities too. The economic sectors (agriculture, manufacturing and services) do not like what is delivered by universities and universities cannot match their educational and research programs with what the economy needs. So, the universities and in a more general view, higher education system is producing whatever it wants and the economy is employing whoever it wants. The roots of this problem can be traced back to the concour but I think if the educational framework and process is corrected a significant proportion of this problem will be solved.

    As Mohammad has mentioned to some obstacles the reform in Iran higher education system will be harder than it seems to be. Maybe it can be considered as another consequence of Resource Curse.

    Sorry if my comment is not well structured. I am really interested to know your idea about my “a kind of rent-seeking” model.

    • dsalehi said, on April 27, 2009 at 9:25 pm

      Interesting analysis. I agree with all the comments that reforming the system will be very difficult, especially in trading off objectivity for usefulness.

  5. Mohammad said, on April 27, 2009 at 8:38 am

    As an Iranian undergraduate student, I agree with you, as one typically expects that market forces will work better than a centralized system. But I’m not sure about all the aspects. I read several years ago somewhere (and I’m lazy to search for it now!) that many of the top US universities (e.g. the Ivy League) admit up to 60% of their incoming students based on family and personal relations and not necessarily on merit. Just imagine what would happen if the same situation is allowed in Iran! At least this is one area that we currently have negligible corruption.

    So from an economics point of view, in the short run the market will not necessarily work better. I think that before decentralizing the admission process, Iran should move towards more liberalization in high education. The strict rules against private and universities should be relaxed, state-run universities allowed to charge a small and growing proportion of students, administrations banned from meddling in university affairs too much, etc.

    Unfortunately, the society doesn’t seem prepared for that. Universities charging students or admitting them without concour is a taboo. The Khatami government experimented with such liberalizations but it backfired fiercely by the people who saw at against social justice (I think they have a similar problem in France); and it was stopped. And there’s much much pressure on Azad University as well.

    • dsalehi said, on April 27, 2009 at 9:19 pm

      Elite US universities do have higher acceptance rates for “legacies” applicants whose parents graduated from these schools. A couple of points. First, while the acceptance rate of legacies can be 3-4 higher, by no means do they form a large percentage of admissions. No one knows what that percentage is, though. Second, not all legacies are affirmative action students. Some are very good because good education of parents affects the education of children. Finally, how students are evaluated is related to how employees are evaluated by private employers. Are we not misleading young people into thinking that objective evaluations is possible in the workplace? The system of objective evaluation of workers is yet to be invented!

      • dsalehi said, on April 28, 2009 at 10:27 am

        One other thought on the size of legacies: if a top school reduced quality to enroll more legacies, its ranking would drop and it would no longer be a top school. So, they would have to limit legacies to a minimum and among them only pick applicants with high quality. Tyranny of equilibria (since numbers are lacking!).

      • Mohammad said, on April 28, 2009 at 10:45 pm

        Yes, I agree that enrolling legacies (or put harshly, corruption in the case of state-run univs) is against the long-term benefit of schools, and free market will reduce it over time.
        But the problem in short-term would be significant if the same is allowed in Iran. It would also raise ethical questions as most of Iranian universities are state-run and thus should be open to all based on their merit.

      • dsalehi said, on April 28, 2009 at 10:51 pm

        The trick is to broaden the set of subjects and skills that are tested or evaluated for selection into university without sacrificing objectivity, though in something like writing it would be hard to have a computer do the grading. And what a great change it would be if incentives for writing increased for Iranian youth!

  6. Hojat said, on April 26, 2009 at 9:59 am

    To Anon:

    Two claims of you seem strange to me,
    One: American students are not competitive.
    Two: Why in every social discussion we jump to the conclusion that the person that we disagree with does not know about Iran? What kind of constructive argument is this? If our system was so good, then why it is not working? Let’s open the discussion about our education system here without prejudgment.

  7. Anon said, on April 25, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    I completely disagree. Nearly every north american university is crying fool of low quality of american education system. They prefer Israeli, Iranian, Indian, and Chinese students. The number of foreign students in grad school is so high that Canadian government now enforces that any university receiving funding must have less than 40% foreign students. If american under graduate education system is working properly, why American students are not competative? Those qualities that you mentioned colleges want look nice on the paper and that is the reason they are there. What is the relation of being a good football player with being a good economist?
    The problem in Iran is not the selection process, but the fact that abnormally many seek university degree, for various reasons, and it has a very high effect on their future. Applying American system in current situation will be a disaster. You look unfamiliar with problems in Iran.

    • dsalehi said, on April 26, 2009 at 9:51 am

      Thank you for your forceful reply, which makes my post seem more controversial than I thought it would be. I think we are talking about different things. When you are talking about American students not being competitive, you are talking about engineering students in US PhD programs, which American students have shunned to do medicine, law and finance, where salaries have been rising. Engineering does not have the same status in the US that it has in Iran. Furthermore, in mentioning Iranian students who do well in US engineering programs, you are talking about the top 1000 out of one million, that is 0.01% of high school graduates. No system can harm people this smart! I am much more concerned about the average student. And a fair comparison would be between average students, which PISA and TIMMS do, and in which Iran does not do well. There are no comparisons of productivity, except in international trade, which is a whole different story. Finally, playing football teaches people how to instinctively work together rather than compete, which makes for more productive individuals. In time, I will come back to explain why non-testable skills matter for productivity.

      • Anon said, on April 28, 2009 at 1:27 am

        I hope that my comment was not too forceful, I meant no disrespect.

        First, I agree that in engineering Iranian students are doing well, but also in sciences. Anyone familiar with these matters who have spoken with faculties in different universities will notice the strong satisfaction with north American (NA) undergrad programs, specially before university.
        Second, it seems to me that there are other factors which make the comparison of medical and social sciences useless. Medical sciences follow a completely different structure, receiving first degree takes much longer, and there continue to find reasonable jobs in Iran. That is why there are less *applications* for continuing study in NA. For social sciences, the problem is “language barrier”. Writing skills is very important in these fields, e.g., they pay much more attention to writing part of GRE and TOEFL tests. Obviously, it is not expected that a Persian student can write as well as an English (in English). Also, Americans have a better chance of success in these field in their own country. If you want to make a comparison, you should for example take a look at the percentage of French or Chinese in these fields.

        About the football, yes, playing football makes you a better team member, but that is not what I am saying. By playing good football, I mean being a member of football teams in schools and winning cups. It does not seem that there is a correlation between playing good football and being a good economist. Playing football can make a better team member, but playing good football doesn’t increase it much, if at all. The point here is the well known fact that colleges want to have good sport teams, win cups, … and that is why they take it important. They also want to show that they are cool, not just a bunch of nerds and book worms. It is very easy to check if there is any positive effect on their success as economists fir example. Also, I don’t think that colleges are as sensitive to job market as you say. A good degree from a good university is not as essential in NA job market as it is in Iran.

        The real problems in Iran’s education system are:
        1. It is copied from western systems. It generates people who are more fit to NA job market than Iranian one. Our system does not generate people our country needs, but people that NA needs, at least for now.
        2. There are too much importance for getting higher and higher university degrees. One should take pools to see why people want to get university degrees. Currently each year more than 1 million people enter university, and most of them graduate (contrary to NA system that most do not!), so each year we are getting more than 1 million new university graduates, where as there is no job market for them! I really think that there should be a real study about why so many people want to get higher and higher degrees. (I can guess a few of course.)

        Now, about the claim I made that applying NA system would lead to disaster, the reason that with current impotence of a good university and a good degree in Iran, it will be a den of corruption. Just take a look at the amount of money people are ready to pay to enter Sharif-Akhen or Amirkabir-Birmingham programs and compare it to the salary of members of a admission committee. It is obvious for me what will result from it.

        About private universities some one suggested and that market is a good way to optimize. Take a look at Azad and other universities, why are they far behind MSHE’s universities? This claim that market optimizes has lots of assumption about the environment this will happen. Time and time again, people claim that markets optimize the function without even trying to check if those assumptions are correct about the system they are talking about. I also think that it is generally accepting that education is one of areas that seems to need government involvement.

        Conclusion, as I stated, one should try to understand the reasons why so many people want to enter university and get a degree, and try to fix those causes.
        Also, the percentage of graduation should drop significantly. The system that you only need to get into university to graduate with high probability is problematic.

        Best Regards

      • Mohammad said, on April 28, 2009 at 11:30 pm

        Anon,

        About Azad and other private universities, there should be noted that the context that they are working in is not a free and competitive market. The government regulates the tuitions, the curriculum and many other aspects in which universities should be allowed to compete. Also they cannot compete with state-run universities who receive subsidies more than the tuition Azad university receives per student. It’s natural that people prefer to enroll freely than to pay.

        Also in terms of number of students (which has been the main high education goal since decades ago), Azad University has indeed performed better than the state-run universities. Almost half of Iranian students are studying there. The bureaucratic nature of state-run institiutes prohibited them from fast growth.

        There’s no exception in market principles in the case of Iran. But Iranian high education doesn’t meet its criteria. Also the market is not necessarily efficient in short-term. I’d guess that if Iranian high education is liberalized right now, it would take at least 20 years to have a private engineering university comparable to Sharif or Tehran Universities.

      • Behrooz said, on April 29, 2009 at 10:55 pm

        I think that although the problem has linked interactive parts, we should break it down into different pieces to be able to analyse it better. I think the first problem is the measurement of a student ‘s competency for entrance. Is concour a correct choice for recognizing the eligibility of people who want to study? Does is allocate and rank our human capital in an efficient way? Yes, economists should not be a football player but if we have a choice among a good student with mark 19 and the other who has 19 and also is a good football player who should be preferred? And it is not all about football. No kind of social, professional, vocational and cultural skill is considered in current method and unfortunately is has been extended to next levels too. I mean even faculties and departments; academic staff and even job market do not value this kind of merits.

        The other problem is that we do not have an official ranking about Iran universities. I really believe that many Azad Universities are now performing better than state-universities due to the fact that they employ younger professors and have more flexibility in the programs. Their robotic and their sport teams gain good results each year. Their competitive advantage is the distribution of their services. Even small cities have their own branch which may not have a high quality but plays a significant role in employing young graduates and training local student specially girls who have the problem of leaving their family in Iran.

        About the content and outcome of the universities, I prepared the below charts based on recent available official data.

        Take a look. I know that it is not the all but it can mention to a problem in this market. http://tinypic.com/view.php?pic=2rgmgbn&s=5

        Thanks

      • Anon said, on April 29, 2009 at 11:44 pm

        Mohammad,

        “About Azad and other private universities, there should be noted that the context that they are working in is not a free and competitive market.”

        You should first define what you mean by free and competitive market, but anyway, privatizing MSTR’s universities will not help post secondary education. We also have private universities and there is a competition between MSTR, Azad, Payam Noor, and private universities. Privatizing MSTR’s universities will end up as a second Azad.

        “The government regulates the tuitions, the curriculum and many other aspects in which universities should be allowed to compete.”

        They don’t! MSTR has no control over them.

        “Also they cannot compete with state-run universities who receive subsidies more than the tuition Azad university receives per student.”

        This what happens in everywhere, Europe is famous, but even in US and Canada. For example, each Canadian university receive around $10,000 per Canadian graduate student per year. Similar in US, e.g., University of California (Berkeley, San Diego, …)

        “It’s natural that people prefer to enroll freely than to pay.”

        Of course, and it is natural for them to want to select the best. It is the same everywhere. Take a look at the amount that people without paying in US for say MIT and compare it with Berkley. There is large gap. If private universities are good enough, they can compete. If they want good students, they should pay scholarships, wave tuition, get good professor, … .

        “Also in terms of number of students (which has been the main high education goal since decades ago), Azad University has indeed performed better than the state-run universities. Almost half of Iranian students are studying there.”

        Now you are starting to claim strange things. If this is what you want to maximize, Iran’s system is already doing it very well. No point in continuing this discussion. Otherwise, please state what it the objectives (functions) of your optimization.

        “The bureaucratic nature of state-run institutes prohibited them from fast growth.”

        Increasing the number if students without having even professors to teach them is called growth. I am learning new things these days.
        This actually shows that MSTR’s universities have to some degree reasonable managements, as they are not trying to get people with masters to teach PhD students, in houses! (I am not joking!) I also want to note that Azad is paying much more to its faculty members, that is why many professors try to teach there part-time. What they need to get prestige is to show that people graduating from their universities are successful, e.g., can find good work in Iran, can continue to their studies in good universities (this is what has made Sharif the top university in Iran and very famous outside Iran).

        “There’s no exception in market principles in the case of Iran. But Iranian high education doesn’t meet its criteria.”

        I don’t understand what you mean. If you are saying that mathematical market models are *correct* independent of countries, I can argue against both of their correctness and independence, but I will let it go and assume this is true. But so what? There are “assumptions” for every model. You are saying that Iran does not meet these assumptions. So I am confused what you want to say? What is the point of trying to force privatization when market model’s assumptions are not true?

        “Also the market is not necessarily efficient in short-term. I’d guess that if Iranian high education is liberalized right now, it would take at least 20 years to have a private engineering university comparable to Sharif or Tehran Universities.”

        First, you mean privatize MSTR’s universities, not liberalize. We already have private universities! You just want to destroy MSTR’s universities so that private universities will become comparable to them. I don’t think that the private universities will be comparable to Sharif in 20 years.

        Sorry for being harsh, but you have started to make meaningless claims just to defend your previous ones.

      • Anon said, on April 30, 2009 at 12:24 am

        Behrooz,

        “Is concour a correct choice for recognizing the eligibility of people who want to study? Does is allocate and rank our human capital in an efficient way?”

        First, government’s job is *NOT* “maximizing capital”!
        By the way, have you read Obama’s talk at NSF this week?

        “Yes, economists should not be a football player but if we have a choice among a good student with mark 19 and the other who has 19 and also is a good football player who should be preferred? And it is not all about football. No kind of social, professional, vocational and cultural skill is considered in current method and unfortunately is has been extended to next levels too.”

        Actually, they are! E.g. Basij, … of course not in the way you would like it! And current policy allows universities to select students based on social justifications, but again not in the way you like it! E.g. Hafezing Quran, …
        And I would like to note that the current plan for reforming conour includes these social matters in deciding entering universities.

        I completely agree that current system based only on say math and science is not good, neither the education in primary and secondary education. I would like students to learn skills which will help them as individuals in the society, good writing, … . But things like playing football the way they are considered in US colleges are just advertisements. You get good basketball team to win the college basketball cup for advertising your school.
        I really want to see some statics about the correlation of any skill you have in mind tested before entering colleges and the success (lets say average salary) after graduation. Otherwise, I don’t think that this discussion will go anywhere. I respect your feelings, but where is the data?
        And also, I want a relatively objective method for evaluating these skills, so it will not become subjective and corrupt.

        “I mean even faculties and departments; academic staff and even job market do not value this kind of merits.”

        Well, if they don’t, it is contrary to previous claims that they are related to job success.

        “The other problem is that we do not have an official ranking about Iran universities. I really believe that many Azad Universities are now performing better than state-universities due to the fact that they employ younger professors and have more flexibility in the programs. Their robotic and their sport teams gain good results each year.”

        Check the factors that are considered for rankings. Some of them are educational space, faculty/student, number of awards, papers/year/faculty, % of full profs, grant/faculty, citation/faculty, Nobel winners, … and you will see they are not performing well at all.

        “Their competitive advantage is the distribution of their services. Even small cities have their own branch which may not have a high quality but plays a significant role in employing young graduates and training local student specially girls who have the problem of leaving their family in Iran. About the content and outcome of the universities, I prepared the below charts based on recent available official data.”

        They are just generating degrees, that is all. These are completely *unimportant* factors about how good a university is. By these standards, Payam Noor is even better because they have branches in many villages!

      • Behrooz said, on April 30, 2009 at 1:17 am

        Nice discussion again. First of all we should consider the fact that Education Sector is not physical capital intensive. So if you replace the professors and student s between Sharif Uni to Azad Uni tonight it will take a year or two to construct the labs and buy the facilities and then outcomes will be replaced too. What makes Sharif Uni the “Sharif Uni” is pure point human capital. Unfortunately, I think that our universities do not perform based on accumulation of their human capital. There is a point variable which ranks them good or bad. If a small university in a small city can employ 20 recently graduated students from top US universities and can register 100 people who are ranked less than 1000 in Concour, it can compete with Sharif easily (I think!).

        The higher education system in Iran is a fixed lazy solid system which has had almost no reaction to what happens outside. Reviewing the extension of majors in last 10 years shows that adding a new major has been usually a cost-benefit analysis instead of a market analysis. All universities have science departments when majority of their graduates are unemployed. It is interesting that unauthorized private education centres have understood this fact and I know many of them which offer courses based on the chance of employment in manufacturing sector and they are really successful. On the other hand many factories and organizations are establishing their own specialized education centres which I think will play a significant role in Iran’s higher education system in coming years.

        The other fact is that competition among universities in Iran is almost meaningless. According to economic theories, competition happens when there are scarce resources and so agents try to gain more to increase their utility. The demand for higher education in Iran is still high enough to fill any empty place at any university. So, there is no motivation for universities to compete in such an environment. They will publish their capacity every year and it will be full very fast. While there in no student-based or state-based inquiry for quality, why should they employ more expensive staff, buy more expensive equipments and establish more expensive courses? It seems to be very rational when we look from a marketing self-interest point of view but is a big mistake when we consider social welfare and development issues.

        I don’t know but maybe a social reaction to unemployment and decrease in the prestige of university certificates on one side and establishment of new private education centres (not universities) on the other and increase in the price of learning can change the current paradigm.

        I think the problem is about a trade-off between efficiency and effectiveness.

      • Behrooz said, on April 30, 2009 at 8:42 pm

        Sorry Anon. When I made the above comment your comment was not published yet. I will read your new comment about mine carefully and I will try to write about it as soon as possible. Thanks for sending a reply.

      • Anon said, on May 5, 2009 at 7:44 pm

        Behrooz,

        Sharif has a good reputation which is partially based on its ability to graduate good students for at least last 15 years, who have continued their studies in top north American universities and have found good jobs. It is not just based on quality of students and/or faculty. I think you will agree that University of Tehran is comparable in both of these factors, but we don’t see the same phenomenon.

        My main point is simple. Everyone is trying to blame the post-secondary education system and concoor for many problems that they have relatively small effect on. No change in them (even in 20 years) will solve these problems. The stress, the young employment problem, … are not created by concoor, nor by the current education system. We are graduating a lot more than we have jobs in Iran. Where can you employ so many graduates from EE, CE, ME, … when our economy is not a technology driven one. Take a look at the percent of our economy in these area. There are no jobs in these areas! Earning a CE degree and selling computers in store has no relation. So why are people insisting in studying in these areas? Why are people trying to get higher and higher degrees when what they learn are almost useless?

        My guess is the following factors are playing essential role (among other factors): 1. entering university to avoid military service 2. government’s policy to pay based on the degree people have, not the work they do 3. higher social level of having a good degree

        I believe that we need a good poll to understand why people feel that they have to get a post-secondary degree.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: