Bill Gates says high school degree no longer enough

BOSTON Thu Jul 28, 2011 5:18pm EDT

Bill Gates, Microsoft Corp co-founder and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, attends a podium discussion at the 61st Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings in Lindau at Lake Constance June 26, 2011. REUTERS/Miro Kuzmanovic

Bill Gates, Microsoft Corp co-founder and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, attends a podium discussion at the 61st Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings in Lindau at Lake Constance June 26, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Miro Kuzmanovic

BOSTON (Reuters Life!) - A high school diploma is not enough to secure the best paying and most interesting jobs, said Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, who dropped out of Harvard University to build his computer company.

"Every student needs a meaningful credential beyond high school," said Gates, who spoke at an education and employment conference sponsored by the civil rights group the National Urban League.

"Higher education is crucial for jobs," he said, adding that education is an equalizer in society and is the key to getting urban America back to work and fighting poverty.

Gates said he believes college should be "for almost everyone," but that parents, teachers and entire communities need to help make those opportunities available.

Despite dropping out of college in his third year, Gates credited his own education, supportive parents and great teachers with his success.

"Our public schools range from outstanding to outrageous and where a child's school is located on that spectrum is a matter of luck," he said. "When it comes to education, we should replace luck with equity."

Getting the most effective teachers into the classrooms and using their best practices to help other teachers improve is critical to making that happen, he said.

Teacher improvement should include feedback from peers and students, to some degree test scores, and even video analysis from the classroom, according to Gates.

Gates, who said there can be good schools in even the poorest neighborhoods, pointed to some charter schools forging a path with less money and better results.

"It's not about throwing money at the problem," said Gates.

"It's about the way the teachers are picked. It's about the way the teachers are encouraged. It's about the culture of the school, the high expectations," he added.

(Reporting by Lauren Keiper; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Greg McCune)