Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Mandarin Madness: Self-Fulfilling Prophesy

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As is the case in many trends and their ultimate outcomes, a strong perception of the "inevitable future" becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. Put succinctly, the belief becomes the truth because our actions in response to that belief make it so. The anticipated domination of  China in both the consumer and producer sectors has led to an increase in the number of students in industrialized nations who are learning to speak Mandarin. This is being encouraged by adding this language to the elective studies in high schools and colleges, and further fed by employment statisticians, economists and even professional and industry management recruiters who are preparing the next class of graduates for jobs where speaking Mandarin will give them the "edge."

It is also interesting that this phenomenon once applied to learning to speak Japanese in the late 1970s and in the 1980s in the United States, but to a smaller extent in terms of schools offering the elective and the number of students (as a percentage of total students) choosing to study.

The likely reasons that this newer wave of linguistic leaning is so much greater in proliferation and participation that the earlier one (i.e., learning to speak Japanese) are listed below:

1) The media are constantly speaking of China's inevitable rise to dominance, and the viralized potency of the new social media echoing this point did not exist during the "Japanese Period.";

2) There is less resistance to the idea than previously because their has been an increasing contingent of Asian-Americans and Asian-Europeans during the most recent 20-year span of time. This has had the secondary effect of infusing Chinese culture (and partially-Chinese offspring) into these countries with far more pervasive immigration than ever in history;

3) Unemployment is so intimidatingly high in the Western countries, that learning Mandarin is seen as a survival skill as well as a competitive advantage in accessing employment at the increased number of large firms which are multinationals and internationals. The increase in the number of major firms which are multicultural is simply the result of an increasingly globalized economy brought about through improved efficiencies in communications technology, an ever-increasing number of multi-national co-ventures;

4) University tuition has become so expensive (relative to the rise in cost of many other traditional family staples), that colleges and universities are trying to cater to the increasing market for students who want to be International Business majors. Colleges need tuition revenues from enrolled and matriculating students in order to survive in a very "dry" economy;

5) Referring back to point number 1), above, even articles like this one, with its catchy title (I am rather proud of it), are being amplified and reverberated throughout cyberspace by social media. In merely writing this article, I am contributing an increment of increased momentum and credibility to this Mandarin Madness.

An excerpt from an article which discusses this new international trendency (not a misspelling, but a Lingovation). It further validates the emerging interest in the perceived opportunities in the business of Planetary Geographical Arbitrage as it applies to both education and employment.

Remember this: "We shape the future by our reactions to anticipated visions of the future." 

Douglas E Castle

Learning Mandarin gains momentum in European, US classrooms
Gains in China's economic standing also have brought about a greater desire for children in the United States and Europe to speak Mandarin, which is supplanting Spanish and German as the second tongue of choice in some schools. More than 3% of American elementary schools offer the language, a large increase considering less than 1% did during the 1990s. "One way or another, China is the future," said Olaf Mertens, a school headmaster in Belgium. The Globe and Mail (Toronto)/Financial Times (17 Oct.)


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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

College Education? Inevitable "Trend-ency".

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An excellent presentation regarding the current status of college and post-collegiate education and an emerging trend which portends a very sensible paradigm shift. This information appears courtesy of BigThink. But first, I'll give you the Douglas E. Castle perspective regarding The Future Of College Education.

Higher education (particularly in the United States) has gotten increasingly expensive -- to the extent that the average college graduate will emerge with from the endeavor saddled with hundreds of thousands of dollars of inescapable debt, no assurance of employment (or of any type of employment which could possibly generate an annual income as great as a single year's college tuition and expenses), and a very limited practical skill set. The question being asked by many is "What is my ROI on my bachelors or masters degree?" The answer, generally speaking, is far too little.

Several variables combine to produce an alternative trend in education which shows some promise for the future - at least for the students as prospective graduates and members of the workforce.

The variables are: increased cost, decreased utility and improved computer/educational technology. Welcome to the growing possibility of telecommuting your way to an advanced degree.

As a trend-spotter and a Global Futurist, I anticipate the precipitous decline of many universities with extensive physical infrastructure and burdensome fixed costs, a decline in physical college attendance, and an increase in online degrees. I don't believe that this will necessarily lead to a decline in the quality or availability of education (in fact, it will be a positive game-changer for both), but I do believe it will completely change the nature of the educational experience. Dormitory life, frat parties and the social and emotional growth and development which accompanied the traditional full-time, away from home collegiate 'rites of passage' will be gone.

Sadly, I believe that this will impair the development of self-disciplinary, decision making and social adaptation and integration skills which are created as ancillary benefits of the "going away to school" adventure. This may well leave future generations of telecommuted graduates less able to be self-directed and to socialize effectively in their working environments. In a society that is becoming de-socialized and de-personalized, this sea change in the delivery of education will accelerate these negative processes, leaving graduates with "sterile degrees" and a lack of crucial personal and interpersonal survival skills. This would seem to be a tragic loss.

But then, education, and the degrees conferred, will be more accessible to a greater percentage of the qualified prospective student situation. In the simplest terms, there will be more "geeks" and theorists (without any life experience) being produced, and fewer prospective marketers, strategists, leaders and other technical professionals produced.

We will feel this shift in the change of the character of the entrants to the workforce within the next year, with the trend to increase significantly during the course of the next ten years at very least. Many non-telecommuting US students will leave the US to study abroad (another cost-saving alternative), and they will be in great demand. Employers in the United States and, to a lesser extent, the other industrialized nations, will find it very difficult to find viable, socially-adept employees to help them build and sustain their companies.

Enjoy the presentation from BigThink which follows.

Rethinking Higher Education
Rethinking Higher Education
Adam Glick
A new online course that is currently being offered at Harvard, Yale and Bard is threatening to disrupt higher education as we know it. As tuition costs continue to skyrocket, parents and students are demanding answers to this question: what am I getting as the return on my $50 thousand annual investment that is college tuition today? Floating Univeristy offers an alternative. The best professors in the country present online lectures that students can access from anywhere. Watch » 
Douglas E Castle

p.s. "Trend-ency" or its variant, "Trendency" is indeed a Lingovation

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