池田信夫氏が大学教育の意義に批判的なブログ記事を書き、それを世界銀行Junior Profesional Associateの畠山勝太氏がツイッター批判したことが一部で話題を呼んだ。

Q. ...I’m interested in your view about what policies might speed up innovation and thus economic growth. For instance, ...Should financial aid for colleges and graduate programs be increased? Should government agencies hold colleges more accountable for results — as is, ever so slowly, starting to happen with high schools? ...

Mr. Cowen: ...The U.S. system of higher education is working very well and it remains a clear global leader. Most of all it is based on ideas of competition and meritocracy. I think it needs better treatment from the immigration authorities, most of all, for both undergraduate and graduate students. It should not be an ordeal for the world’s smartest people to come study in the United States. In general, I do not think that our federal government is well suited to lead educational innovation, with or without funding as a carrot or stick.

Q. At the top levels, the U.S. higher education system is clearly the world’s leader. But is it really functioning well on the whole? As you write, a large and growing number if students drop out of college. Reversing this trend might not lead to many breakthrough innovations — they tend to come from a small slice of the population — but it could still lead to faster growth through a more skilled work force. I’m curious if you agree that better-performing colleges could meaningfully help the economy.

Mr. Cowen: The United States is no longer a world leader in graduation rates and in this regard our system of higher education has some major problems. But I don’t think we can fix those problems by tackling higher education per se. The real problems start much earlier, namely at the K-12 level and possibly also in the earlier family environment. Too many students simply aren’t prepared to finish a decent community college. Most of all, we need to make it easier to fire bad teachers in this country, but we should start at the lowest grades possible. Only then will the lower tiers of our higher education system have a chance to improve.

In general, I would also like to see more of our elite institutions of higher education take the explicitly meritocratic and indeed arguably anti-egalitarian approaches of Caltech and also University of Chicago. Those two institutions are big successes — M.I.T. too — yet they are not always so easy to copy. We should be trying harder. In terms of respect for intelligence, achievement, and science, we should be more like Singapore.


・・・どのような政策が技術革新、ひいては経済成長を加速するかについてご意見をお伺いしたいのですが、例えば、・・・大学や大学院教育への財政援助は増額すべきでしょうか? 政府機関は大学に結果責任を問うべきでしょうか? 高校については、徐々にではありますが、そうなりつつあるわけですが?・・・
トップレベルの大学では、米国の高等教育は確かに世界をリードしています。しかし、全体として見た場合、本当にうまく機能しているのでしょうか? あなたが書いたように、大学からの中退者は多く、しかも増え続けています。この傾向を逆転させることは、ブレークスルーを伴う技術革新を量産することにはつながらないでしょう――そうした技術革新は全体の人口のごく一部から生み出されるものなので――が、とは言え、技術を身に付けた労働者を増やすことにより成長速度を上げることにはつながるでしょう*2。大学の効率を改善することは経済にとって意味があることだと思われますか?



*2:ちなみに畠山氏がその研究をPritchettと対比させて称揚したHanushekは、この論文で「several recent studies suggest that education is important both as an investment in human capital and in facilitating research and development and the diffusion of technologies, with initial phases of education more important for imitation and higher education for innovation (Vandenbussche, Aghion, and Meghir (2006) ).」と述べている。池田氏と畠山氏のやり取りがいまひとつ噛み合わなかったのは、その区別(並びに、教育の個人にとっての収益率と社会にとっての収益率の区別)を曖昧にしたまま畠山氏が批判を展開し、さらには池田氏への個人攻撃に走ったせいもあるように思われる(本来そうした手法はむしろ池田氏の十八番だったはずだが…)