This is an outstanding, must-read, article from the Economist. Check it out!
The article focus on the declining quality of US education. Interestingly, although not featured in the article, the cited evidence for the UK in relation to maths was even worse.
However, I was truly shocked by the cited research evidence of recruiting patterns of 120 recruiters from American law firms, management consultancies and investment banks. Let me summarize the results:
- The principal recruitment filter was the applicant’s university, effectively cherry-picking people from top institutions, like the ‘Ivy League‘;
- Next preference was given to ‘extracurricular activities, preferring the team sports — lacrosse, field-hockey and rowing—favored by well-off white men’; and
- Grades were subordinated below the above in the weeding out process.
Although many of the problems in the US are home-grown and cultural, there are important parallels in other countries. For example, there is evidence of a polarized education system in both France and the UK. In France, the top-jobs go to the privileged graduates of the elite ‘grand ecoles’, and recruiters know that the quality of education from the state-system is an ‘also-ran’. Similarly, in the UK, there is a major divide between the older universities and the ‘red-brick’ institutions that were formerly polytechnics and renamed by a former opportunist government – typically a private education gives a far higher chance of securing a place at a top university, and from their a top-job.
In my earlier career, I was a part-time tutor at one of France’s ‘grandes ecoles ‘. I witnessed first hand very high standards of academic screening. An important part of the program was helping students gain work experience, often in top investment banks or management consultancies. The students often literally worked around the clock to impress their employers, and some were indeed offered jobs after completing their course.
Sadly, the competition for jobs at top employers from these students from privileged backgrounds is often taken to the extreme, including death. See ‘Bank of America Merrill Lynch intern Moritz Erhardt found dead after working long hours‘; this is one of my most popular blogs.
As the Economist article mentioned, the funding at top US universities is often ten times greater than a poor state institution. But surely it’s not just funding that differentiates state-funded education? State-funded education is more bureaucratic and process oriented, with the staff generally heavily unionized – also the politicians meddle more in the state-funded model of education.
Thoughts on either education or recruitment?