One of the reasons Latin America is doing better this decade is because a lot of its elite has been educated at the best universities in the world, mostly in the US. One example is Marcos Galperin who built Mercado Libre into a multibillion dollar market cap Nasdaq giant, something that I think would have been hard for him to do without a US education. And there are many, many others. For decades now the Latin American elites were educated in the US and now they are finally in charge of the most productive sectors of the local economies.

Maybe Spain should do the same. The Spanish education system kills the imagination of the best and brightest students. I know this because we have had to re educate many of these students at the companies I started in this country including Jazztel, and Fon. We have companies that are also universities in a sense, whose graduates go and build other companies that are more in tune with the digital era.  There are some exceptions, especially in business studies with IE and IESE ranking very well globally but the average education available to Spaniards is very mediocre with no Spanish Universities in global rankings.

Now it so happens that it is not that expensive to send Spanish students to study abroad. Some Spanish corporations already give grants for this. Indeed just today I signed a recommendation letter for a Fon employee to study at Stanford partly financed by Caja Madrid and I hope they take him. But this could happen at a much more massive scale if the focus was Northern Europe. Studying in the UK with a pound at 1.19 is not as expensive as it used to be. Tuition is low for the quality of education they give. Indeed you can get a whole education in the UK for the cost of a year of studying in the US. Sending thousands of Spanish students to study in the UK, in the Netherlands, Germany and other Northern European countries who are doing better than Spain, could be a way to leapfrog many of the antiquated and dated Spanish professor body who with some notable exception is destroying a generation of Spaniards.  It is also a good investment since education runs a big deficit and an 18 year old who studies abroad gains this education.  Yes, there is a risk that they may stay but if they do it is not brain drain which is what happens when a country invests in a university education, as India many times does, for the graduates to end up in the US or other nations.

We live in an era in which industrialization is being superseded by digitalization, and Spain is not ready to educate its population for this change. The result is the highest unemployment rate in the OECD: 22%. A structural unemployment that is based on a misfit between the skills of the population and the jobs available in the marketplace. There is no unemployment in the tech sector in Spain, but there are not enough highly educated candidates for those jobs. We have to fix that and fix it before this country falls apart. Sending our best and brightest abroad could be part of the solution. We can’t wait for the education system to be fixed. Not with the lifetime jobs that we have provided to the mostly incompetent and untrained professors who populate it. And this is not true of Spain alone but of a lot of Southern Europe.

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Sil on January 27, 2012  · 

Si no tengo la posibilidad económica de estudiar en US, siendo graduada en la U. de Buenos Aires, dónde más podría seguir estudiando entonces? perdón por mi ignorancia pero si las U. españolas no son consideradas “adecuadas” dónde más podría estudiar sin recursos?? saludos.

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larissa on January 27, 2012  · 

Para que se vayan a estudiar al extranjero tendrán primero que dominar los idiomas del sitio al que vayan, no?
Y ahí está la madre del cordero…

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Sil on January 27, 2012  · 

Aún conociendo el idioma de destino, qué sugieres hacer si no te puedes costear una carrera en US?

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Eduardo Lina on January 28, 2012  · 

Well, I must start with pointing out the fact that, generally speaking, I do not know much about education in Spain, let alone Higher Education. It seems to me (and you have pointed this out quite a number of times), that the teaching and learning of English in Spain is something of a problem. I wonder how that may have an impact on your proposal.

On this question of English, it seems to me that it is not enough to have a working knowledge of it (say, in the sense that, unless I am wrong, scores of Spanish high school graduates may do well in terms of reading comprehension, and perhaps even in writing, though that is a bit more difficult, but may hardly speak the language. Again, you have made this point in the past), well, I was going to write that it seems to me that that is not enough to be able to do well when studying abroad in English.

I have not had a look at what the two schools you speak so well of offer in terms of granting a higher education that meets the needs of a competitive economy such as we have now. I have read a bit about that (being myself just an eager to learn high school teacher, I can’t speak with experience from the field), so I would like to know what it is you think Universities should teach to get their graduates to be somewhat ready for the future, which I guess is today. You have written about what high schools should teach, so this time I would find it interesting to read what you think on this area.
I have done a BA and an MA at one university in Israel (that was ages ago, I am affraid), have taken courses and / or studied with teachers from another university, and am finishing a second MA degree in yet a third University here. Again, from my limited point of view, and speaking with my eldest daugter who is a University student, and having spoken with former pupils of mine who have graduated from different Universities or Colleges, I feel I still can’t give a well-infrmed opinion on what Universities should offer (and by whom), even concerning my country, Israel. However, since you rise points that I find interesting, I’d appreciate hearing a bit more from you on this topic.
Incidentally, I am reading a book I have heard mentioned (A Start Up Nation) just to see if I can get a better idea on, for example, what helps in this competitive world, and also to understand Innovation a bit more (I have read names of people you have met personally, as i recall reading on some of your posts)
Ah! I noticed you gotten back to writing more often on your blog. I appreciate that.
Shalom from Israel

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Adan on January 28, 2012  · 

Let’s say a Spaniard gets into Harvard, Yale, MIT, UChicago… The cost of tuition alone is $40k a year. Then room and board, food, books, travel, and miscellaneous come out to another $15k a year. You’re looking at roughly $250k for a top American education. Do you think they would want to go back to Spain to make 30k-40k euro a year? Maybe 55k-60k with a bit of experience. Salaries in Spain are a slap in the face to any educated person. Seems to me that the only people that make money in Spain are business owners, footballers, and bullfighters…

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