Mosquitos, malaria and education – Bill Gates

I wrote a letter last week talking about the work of the foundation sharing some of the problems and Warren Buffett had recommended I do that being honest about what was going well what wasn’t and making it kind of an annual thing a goal I had There was to draw more people in to work on those problems because I think there are some very important problems that don’t get worked on naturally that is the market does not drive the scientists the communicators the thinkers the government’s to do the right things and only by paying attention to these things and having brilliant people who care and draw their people in can we make as much progress as we need to so this morning I’m going to share two of these problems and talk about where they stand but before I dive into those I want to admit that I am an optimist any top problem I think it it can be solved and part of the reason I feel that way is looking at the past over the last century average lifespan has more than doubled another statistic perhaps my favorite is to look at childhood deaths as recently as nineteen sixty 110 million children were born and 20 million of those died before the age of five five years ago a hundred and thirty five million children were born so more and less than 10 million of them died before the age of five so that’s a factor of two reduction in the child to death rate it’s a phenomenal things I mean each one of those lives matters a lot and the key reason we were able to do it was not only rising incomes but also a few key breakthroughs vaccines that were used more widely for example measles was 4 million of the deaths back as recently as 1990 and now is under 400,000 so we really can make changes the next breakthrough is to cut that 10 mm in half again and I think that’s doable in well under 20 years why well there’s only a few diseases that account for the vast majority of those deaths diarrhea pneumonia and malaria and so that brings us to the the first problem that all all raised this morning which is how do we stop a disease a deadly disease that’s spread by mosquitoes what’s the history of this disease it’s been a severe disease for thousands of years in fact we look at the genetic code it’s the only disease we can see the people who lived in Africa actually evolved several things to avoid malarial deaths that’s actually peaked at a bit over five million in the 1930s so it was absolutely gigantic and the disease was all over the world terrible disease it was in the United States it was in Europe people didn’t know what caused it until the early 1900s when a British military man figured out that it was mosquitoes so it was everywhere and two tools helped bring the death breakdown one was killing the mosquitoes with DDT and the other was treating the patients with quinine or quinine derivatives and so that’s why the death rate did come down now ironically what happened was it was eliminated from all the temperate zones which is where all the rich countries are so we can see 1900s everywhere 1945 still most places 1970 the US and most of Europe have gotten rid of it 1990 you’ve gotten more Stu northern areas and then more recently you can see it’s just around the equator and so this leads to the paradox that because the disease is only in the poor countries it doesn’t get much investment for example there’s more money put into baldness drugs than are put into malaria now baldness is it’s terrible and rich men are afflicted and so that’s why that priority has been set but malaria they even the million deaths a year caused by malaria greatly understate its impact over 200 million people at any one time are suffering from it means that you can’t get the economies in these areas going because there’s just it holds things back so much now malaria of course transmitted by mosquitoes I brought some here so you could experience this we’ll let let those roam around the auditorium a little bit there there’s no reason only poor people should have have the experience not those mosquitoes are not not infected but so we’ve come up with a few new things we’ve got bed nets and bed nets are a great tool what it means is the mother and child stay under the bed net at night and so the mosquitoes that bite late at night I can’t get at them and when you use indoor spraying with DDT and those nets you can cut deaths by over 50% and that’s happened now in a number of countries it’s great to see but we have to be careful because malaria the parasite evolves and the mosquito evolves so every tool that we’ve ever had in the past has eventually become ineffective and so you end up with two choices if you go into a country with the right tools in the right way and you do it vigorously you can actually get a local eradication and that’s where we saw the malaria map shrinking or if you go in kind of half-heartedly for a period of time you’ll reduce the disease burden but eventually those tools will become ineffective and the death rate will soar back up again and the world has gone through this where it paid attention and then didn’t pay attention now we’re on the upswing bed net funding is up there’s new drug discovery going on our foundation is back to vaccine that’s going into phase three trial that starts in a couple months and that should save over two-thirds of lives if it’s effective and so we’re going to have these new tools but that alone doesn’t give us the roadmap because the roadmap to get rid of this disease involves many things it involves communicators to keep the funding high to keep the visibility high to tell the success stories it involves social scientists so we know how to get not just 70% of people to use the bed nets but 90% we need mathematicians to come in and simulate this to monte-carlo things to understand how these tools combine and work together of course we need drug companies to give us their expertise we need rich world governments to be very generous in in providing aid for these things and so as these elements come together I’m quite optimistic that we will be able to eradicate malaria well now let me turn to a second question a fairly different question but I’d say equally important and this is how do you make a teacher great now seems like the kind of question that people would spend a lot of time on and that we’d understand very well and the answer is really that we don’t let’s start with why this is important well all of us here all bat had some great teachers we all had a wonderful education that’s part of the reason we’re here today part of the reason we’re successful I can say that even though I’m a college dropout I had great teachers and in fact in the United States the teaching system has worked fairly well there are fairly effective teachers in a narrow set of places so the top 20 percent of students have gotten a good education and those top 20 percent have been the best in the world if you measure them against the other top twenty percent and they’ve gone on to create the revolutions in software and biotechnology and keep the u.s. at the forefront now the strength for those top 20 percent is starting to fade on a relative basis but even more concerning is the education that the balance of people are getting not only is that been weak it’s getting weaker and if you look at the economy it really is only providing opportunities now to people with a better education and so we have to change this we have to change it so that people have equal opportunity we have to change it so that the country is strong and stays in the forefront of things that are driven by advanced education like Science and Mathematics when I first learned the statistics I was pretty how bad things are over 30% of kids never finish high school and that had been covered up for a long time because they always took the dropout rate is the number who started in senior year and and then compared it to the number of the finished senior year because they were tracking where the kids were before that but most of the dropouts had taken place before that so they had to raise the state of dropout rate as soon as that tracking was done to over 30 percent for minority kids it’s over 50 percent and even if you graduate from high school if you’re low income you have less than a 25% chance of ever completing a college degree if you’re low income in the United States you have a higher chance of going to jail than you do of getting a four-year degree and that you know doesn’t seem entirely fair so how do you make education better our foundation for the last nine years is invested in this there’s many people working on it we’ve worked on small schools we funded scholarships we’ve done things in libraries a lot of these things had a good effect but the more we looked at it the more we realized that having great teachers was the very key thing and so we hooked up with some people studying how much variation is there between teachers between say the top quartile the very best and the bottom quartile how much variation is there within a school or between schools and the answer is that these variations are absolutely unbelievable a top quartile teacher will increase the performance of their class based on test scores by over 10% in a single year what does that mean well that means that the entire us for two years had top quartile teachers the entire difference between US and Asia would go away and within four years we would be blowing everyone in the world away so it’s simple all you need is those top quartile teachers and so you’d say well wow that’s good we should reward those people we should retain those people we should find out what they’re doing and transfer that skill to other people but I can tell you that absolutely is not happening today what are the characteristics of this top quartile what do they they look like you might think well these must be very senior teachers and the answer is no once somebody is taught for three years their teaching quality does not change thereafter the variation is very very small you might think well these are people with master’s degrees they’ve gone back and they’ve gotten their masters education this chart takes four different factors and says how much do they explain teaching quality that bottom thing which says there’s no effect at all is a master’s degree now the way the P system works is there’s two things are rewarded one is seniority because your pay goes up and you vest in your pension and the second is giving extra money to people who get their master’s degree but in no ways associated with being a better teacher Teach for America slight effect for math teachers majoring in math is a measurable effect but overwhelmingly it’s your past performance there are some people who are very good at this and we’ve done almost nothing to study what that is and to draw it in to to replicate it to raise the average capability or to encourage the people with it to stay in the system you might say we’ll do the good teachers stay in the bad teachers leave the answer is on average the slightly better teachers leave the system and it’s a system with very high turnover now there are a few places very few where great teachers are being made a good example of one is a set of charter schools called Kip Kip means knowledge is power it’s an unbelievable thing they have 66 schools mostly middle schools seven high schools and what goes on is great teaching they take the poorest kids and over 96% of their high school graduates go to four-year colleges and the whole spirit and attitude in those schools is very different than in the normal public school they’re team-teaching they’re constantly improving their teachers they’re taking data the test scores and saying to a teacher hey you caused this amount of increase and so they’re deeply engaged in making teaching better when you actually go in and sit in one of these classrooms at first it’s very bizarre i sat down and I thought what is going on the teacher was running around and the entered light energy levels high I thought well I’m in the prep the the sports rally or something what’s going on and the teacher was constantly scanning to see which kids weren’t paying attention which kids were bored and calling on kids rapidly putting things up on the board it was a very dynamic environment because particularly in those middle school years two through eighth grade keeping people engaged and setting the tone that everybody in the classroom needs to pay attention nobody gets make fun of it or have the position of you know the kid who who doesn’t want to be there everybody needs to be involved and so Kipp is doing it how does that compare to a normal school within a normal school teachers aren’t told how good they are the data isn’t gathered in the teachers contract it will limit the number of times the principal can come into the classroom sometimes two once per year and they need advance notice to do that so imagine running a factory we’ve got these workers some of them just making crap and the management is told hey you can only come down here once a year but you need to let us know because we might actually do fool you and try and do a good job in that one brief moment even a teacher wants to improve doesn’t have the tools to do it they don’t have the test scores and there’s a whole thing of trying to block the data for example New York passed a law that said that the teacher improvement data could not be made available and used in the tenure to say for the teachers and so that’s sort of working in the opposite directions but I’m optimistic about this I think there’s some clear things we can do first of all there’s a lot more testing going on and that’s given us the picture of where we are and that allows us to understand who’s doing it well and call them out and find out what those techniques are of course digital video is cheap now putting a few cameras in the classroom and saying that things are are being recorded on an ongoing basis it is very practical in all public schools and so every few weeks teachers could sit down and say okay here’s a little clip of something I thought I did well here’s a little clip of something I think I did poorly advise me when this kid acted up how should I have dealt with that and they can all sit and work together on those problems you can take the very best teachers and kind of annotate it have it so everyone sees who is the very best teaching the stuff you can take those great courses and make them available so that a kid could go out and watch the physics course learn from that if you have a kid who’s behind you would know you could assign them that video to watch and review the concept and in fact these three courses could not only be available just on the internet but you could make it so that DVDs were always available and so anybody who has access to a DVD player can have the very best teachers and so by thinking of this is a a personnel system we can do it much better there’s a book actually about hip the place that this is going on the Jay Matthews a news reporter wrote called work hard be nice and I thought it was so fantastic give you a sense of what a good teacher does I’m going to send everyone here a free copy of this book now we put a lot of money into education and I really think that education is the most important thing to get right for the country to have as strong a futurist should have fact we have in the stimulus bill it’s interesting the House version actually had money in it for these data systems and was taken out in the Senate because they’re there people are threatened by these things but I am optimistic I think people are beginning to recognize how important this is and it really can make a difference for millions of lives if we get it right well I only had time to pray those two problems there’s a lot more problems like that aids pneumonia and just see you’re getting excited just at the very name of these things and the skill sets required to tackle these things are very broad you know the system doesn’t naturally make it happen governments don’t naturally pick these things in the right way the private sector doesn’t naturally put its resources into these things so it’s going to take brilliant people like you to study these things get other people involved and you’re helping to come up with solutions and with that I think there’s some great things will come out of it thank you you

31 thoughts on “Mosquitos, malaria and education – Bill Gates”

  1. Mr Gates's enthusiasm, humility, intellectual curiosity about solving these problems leaves me optimistic for a very bright future.

  2. Billionaires have the time, power and most important, the money. Yet, it would seem as if close to none help. Way to go Bill, I'm an optimist too

  3. Sadly kids of Today prefer to go to a Justin Bieber Or Nicki Minaj concert than to go to an educational lecture … we hope billionaires would be like Bill Gates at least donating for schools for better education ..

  4. A lot of you guys are sadly misinformed about Bill Gates. You do not know the truth about him being a CEO for Monsanto and other corporations. You do not know about his eugenics. You do not know about his involvement in population control and government involvement. People lets wake up. Do some research. Don't read a book by its cover.

  5. I think that intellectual curiosity is native (we all know how many questions kids ask), so I'd rather say that teachers should just keep that curiosity alive. It seems a little pessimistic to me when you say that they shouldn't expect children to be interested…

  6. It's good to see this kind of optimism in a world which often seems hopelessly petty and driven only by violence and lust for power.

  7. Bill gates: 'any problem can be solved', but he just prefers killing people so that way he fulfill his one and only dream which is to control the population. fascinating. 

  8. Vaccines and DDT, DDT is banned in the USA, what sort of person would use DDT.  These people need clean water and fresh food not DDT and vaccines. 

  9. I feel that teaching should be a human interaction activity not a watching a DVD thing. It is about activities not inactivity. Hands on is the way of effective learning. Just an opinion.

  10. I'm just here because someone told me Gates says he's trying to control the human population with malaria mosquitoes.

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