Tom Friedman, in his recent book The World is Flat, persuasively argues that the next phase of globalization is advancing, and the United States is being left behind.
Today's New York Times has a fascinating article that describes American students being tutored over the internet by tutors in India.
COCHIN, India - A few minutes before 7 on a recent morning, Greeshma Salin swiveled her chair to face the computer, slipped on her headset and said in faintly accented English, "Hello, Daniela." Seconds later she heard the response, "Hello, Greeshma."
The two chatted excitedly before Ms. Salin said, "We'll work on pronouns today." Then she typed in, "Daniela thinks that Daniela should give Daniela's horse Scarlett to Daniela's sister."
"Is this an awkward sentence?" she asked. "How can you make it better?"
Nothing unusual about this exchange except that Ms. Salin, 22, was in Cochin, a city in coastal southern India, and her student, Daniela Marinaro, 13, was at her home in Malibu, Calif.
Ms. Salin is part of a new wave of outsourcing to India: the tutoring of American students. Twice a week for a month now, Ms. Salin, who grew up speaking the Indian language Malayalam at home, has been tutoring Daniela in English grammar, comprehension and writing.
Using a simulated whiteboard on their computers, connected by the Internet, and a copy of Daniela's textbook in front of her, she guides the teenager through the intricacies of nouns, adjectives and verbs.
Daniela, an eighth grader at Malibu Middle School, said, "I get C's in English and I want to score A's," and added that she had given no thought to her tutor being 20,000 miles away, other than the situation feeling "a bit strange in the beginning."
She and her sister, Serena, 10, a fourth grader at Malibu Elementary, are just 2 of the 350 Americans enrolled in Growing Stars, an online tutoring service that is based in Fremont, Calif., but whose 38 teachers are all in Cochin. They offer tutoring in mathematics and science, and recently in English, to students in grades 3 to 12.
Five days each week, at 4:30 a.m. in Cochin, the teachers log on to their computers just as students in the United States settle down to their books and homework in the early evening.
Growing Stars is one of at least a half-dozen companies across India that are helping American children complete their homework and prepare for tests.
As in other types of outsourcing, the driving factor in "homework outsourcing," as the practice is known, is the cost. Companies like Growing Stars and Career Launcher India in New Delhi charge American students $20 an hour for personal tutoring, compared with $50 or more charged by their American counterparts.
Growing Stars pays its teachers a monthly salary of 10,000 rupees ($230), twice what they would earn in entry-level jobs at local schools.
Critics have raised concern about the quality of the instruction.
"Online tutoring is not closely regulated or monitored; there are few industry standards," said Rob Weil, deputy director at the educational issues department at the American Federation of Teachers. Quality becomes a trickier issue with overseas tutoring because monitoring is harder, said Boria Sax, director of research, development and training for the online offerings of Mercy College, based in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.
Growing Stars is rapidly expanding to accommodate students from the East Coast, Canada, Great Britain and Australia.
Its recruits, mostly with recent postgraduate and teaching degrees, already have deep subject knowledge. They must go through two weeks of technical, accent and cultural training that includes familiarization with the differences between British English, widely used in India, and American English.
"They learn to use 'eraser' instead of its Indian equivalent, 'rubber,' and understand that 'I need a pit stop' could mean 'I need to go to the loo,' " said Saji Philip, a software entrepreneur of Indian origin and the company's chairman and co-founder who works in New Jersey.
Still, the cultural divide is real. In Cochin, Leela Bai Nair, 48, a former teacher who has 23 years of experience and is an academic trainer for Growing Stars, said she was "floored at first when 10-year old American students addressed me as Leela. All my teaching life in India, my students addressed me as Ma'am," she said.
For the entire article, click here.