India Uncut

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Friday, May 27, 2005

Outsourcing education

The next wave of outsourcing, according to James D Miller, could come in education. Miller writes in Tech Central Station:
Outsourcing hasn't gone far enough: the U.S. should start using Indian-based teachers [sic]. Smart, inexpensive, English-speaking Indians already help Americans with software design, computer support and tax preparation. Through satellites and the Internet workers in India can be connected, with mere millisecond delays, to Americans in need. Outsourcing jobs to India has saved Americans billions while actually increasing the quality and competitiveness of many of our industries. We should now apply outsourcing to education, the American industry most in need of improvement.

Like most teachers, I find grading to be the least interesting aspect of my job. I would gladly teach extra classes if I could in return be freed from the drudgery of grading. My employer, Smith College, should hire a few score smart Indians to grade for their faculty and in return Smith should expect its professors to spend more time in the classroom.

High schools should similarly outsource their grading to Indians. Because U.S. teachers find grading so mind-numbingly boring, outsourcing grading would make teaching a far more attractive profession, thereby allowing high schools to recruit better teachers without necessarily having to increase salaries.

Michael Higgins, who pointed me towards this article, had expressed similar ideas to me in the past, but I was skeptical because I thought the quality of grading would surely be hard to keep control of, and the people doing the grading wouldn't be directly accountable. In fact, wouldn't this part of an education become rather impersonal then? But I am not a teacher, of course, and don't know how the system really works. Many doubts were expressed about BPO (cultural disconnect etc) and that's doing fine.

Update: Need a tutor? Call India. (Link via email from vAgue.)
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