Education for the 21st century: Bill Gates
Throughout history, a person's prospects in life were largely
determined by where he or she was born. An average child in a rich, advanced
society would likely live far better and significantly longer than the brightest, most talented child in a poor country.
That's probably still true today. But it's less true than ever before.
What's changing is that information and communications technology is making it
easier for people and businesses in far-flung locations to communicate and do business with each other.
Enormous opportunities are opening up for many more people to participate in the
global economy, wherever they may live. Soon the prospects of a highly educated young person in China, India or almost
any other emerging economy will exceed those of an unskilled young person in Europe or the United States.
This trend could help raise billions of people out of poverty and create a more
stable, peaceful and just world. To thrive in this new world, developed and
developing countries need to focus on building the productive capacities of
their workforce. One way to boost productivity is through investments in information and communications technology. Even greater competitive advantage can come from
strengthening workforce skills through investments in education. In an
increasingly globalised economy, knowledge and skills are the key differentiators of nations as well as individuals.
Fortunately, powerful new tools are available to help disseminate knowledge.
Nearly 35 years ago, when I applied to study at Harvard University, I was
attracted partly by the chance to hear great lectures from Nobel laureates and other members of Harvard's brilliant faculty.
Today, universities are offering online lectures, discussion groups,
examinations and degrees to students all over the world. Technology is making higher education, and economic opportunity, available to
more people, regardless of their location.
At Microsoft, I have seen how software helps millions of people be more
productive and creative. I believe software can also play a critical role in helping societies address
their most difficult challenges. Because information technology and education are so critical to creating
economic opportunities, Microsoft is deeply committed to improving technology
access and fostering innovative teaching and learning methods.
To achieve these goals, in 2003 we launched a five-year, US$250 million
initiative called Microsoft Partners in Learning. Since then, we've worked
closely with educators, government policy-makers and community leaders in more
than 100 countries. Partners in Learning programmes have reached more than 3.6
million teachers and more than 76 million students.