Got education?

As promised, I am going into a little bit of detail in terms of this student movement in Montreal. The gist of the matter is that the Quebec Education body decided to double the tuition for all universities in the province, from ~$1500 to ~$3000, roughly. Before we debate the numbers, which is triflingly low if you apply the US standards; the heart of the matter is what we should consider a society’s responsibility to its citizens. Should we, as denizens of a particular city/state/country, support free and accessible education to our young?

I happen to believe the key to a society’s success in modern world is a well educated and adequately informed population. Maybe I am just a nerd, maybe I belong to the minority, but I firmly believe education should be high on the list of priorities for any governing body. The US boasts the largest and most influential economy in the world, and it is, as US self-proclaimed, largely driven by innovation and its high tech industry. However, 39% of the US science and engineering PhDs are foreign born (2000 data, compiled 2004 by National Bureau of Economic Research), up from 23% in 1966. I would venture a guess that the number may be higher now. Is this a testament to the quality of US higher education, or the failure of its college education? I would leave that debate to you.  But more importantly, with the advancement of world’s economy and increasingly competitive environments, would US be able to maintain its attraction for foreign brain power?

This debate can go on and on, when you look into total expenditure on education as % of GDP, public vs private, developed countries vs developing ones. I don’t know if there is a clear indicator(s) to use, but I am just going to park my thoughts here and see what you guys think.

Montreal awakes from hibernation

Throughout the months of January and February, the temperature hovered around -10C during the day and went as low as -30C at night (14F to -22F, that is, for you Ferenheitly inclined). My neighborhood, near the west end of downtown, cleared out after work hours. Streets were deserted at night with icy sidewalks glistening in the neon lights. Weekends came and went, the quiet inactivity lingered. I started to wonder why people rave about Montreal’s charm, the city that’s supposedly full of liveliness.

Then came March, unseasonably warm, and piles of snow started to melt. St. Patrick’s day arrived on a weekend of 20Cs. It is like dropping water into a hot oil pan, the streets came to life. I missed the St. Patty’s parade, which was supposed to be quite a scene. But I did witness the aftermath: a full street block carpeted with crushed beer cans;  never seen anything like it.

The week after, came the student protest. 150000 students took to the street to voice their opposition to the tuition hike (more on that later). For someone without a daytime job, I was happy to be an aimless gawker. It was a well organized event with police cars blocking off streets for the protesters to march. Dozens of city blocks filled with costumes and effigies, almost like a sober Halloween parade.