“Five years from now on the web for free you’ll be able to find the best lectures in the world,” Bill Gates said at the The Techonomy Conference in Lake Tahoe. “It will be better than any single university.” He feels that the idea of going away to college will disappear relatively soon, and that universities will cease to be location based. He believes that students should get credit for their knowledge regardless of the means by which they acquired it and that the cost and difficulty of obtaining a college education will drive students towards online classes. One wonders if his opinions are not only informed by his position in the world of cutting-edge technology, but also by his own success without finishing a formal college degree.
He also critiqued our current textbooks. He found fault with their thick, heavy format and bloated content. “They’re giant, intimidating books,” Gates said. “I look at them and think: what on Earth is in there?“ He pointed out that in Asia, textbooks are a third of the size of an American book on the same subject. He said that textbook written by committee result in the addition of superfluous information.
Gates stated that he doesn’t think the current elementary and high school systems will change in the near future, particularly because schools provide children with supervision while their parents are at work. He praised charter schools where “you completely immerse the kid in the learning ethic.”