Education is perhaps not central to TomorrowToday’s focus on the future world of work – but tomorrow’s businesses are surely reliant on today’s students! An article by Larry Summers in the New York Times caught my eye recently. Summers served as US Secretary of the Treasury from 1999 to 2001 and followed it up as President of Harvard University until 2006. Not without controversy, he was the guy who resigned after suggesting that a lack of women at the high levels of science and engineering could be because of a “different availability of aptitude”. In any case, his article really got me thinking. Businesses have evolved almost out of recognition in the last 10-20 years, with structures, products and interactions with customers that couldn’t even have been predicted. Yet university education (and indeed much of the education system) has barely changed. Contact with students can be limited to a few hours a week, there appears to be little real effort to harness technological advance and all the while fees are rising. Why would a Gen Z student choose to spend three years of their life at university when they could achieve so much else in that time? In a time when information is widely and freely available, what can and should universities be offering that sets them apart and adds real career-enhancing value for the student, rather than mountainous debt and a great social life.

Summers identifies 6 ways in which he hopes and expects education will change:

  1. Education will be more about how to process and use information and less about imparting it.
  2. An inevitable consequence of the knowledge explosion is that tasks will be carried out with far more collaboration.
  3. New technologies will profoundly alter the way knowledge is conveyed.
  4. “Active learning” helps professors interact with their students through the use of media and collaborative experiences.
  5. Despite globalisation, mastering a foreign language will become less important (for native English speakers) as English becomes more widely used.
  6. There will be a greater focus on the analysis of data and information.

There are already some interesting innovations to be found.  The Floating University is an initiative by The Jack Parker Corporation and Big Think, that makes available videos and texts by world experts and is currently being used by Yale and Harvard to supplement their courses. Classroom time can then be focused on interaction, discussion and much-needed ‘face time’.

Even bigger than this, a fantastic TED video by Sir Ken Robinson asks whether the whole concept of education needs to be re-thought.  Why are we so set on sending all our kids to university at 18 anyway?  Take a look if you aren’t one of the 2.3m who already have – it’s hugely thought-provoking and entertaining.

TomorrowToday’s own Graeme Codrington has also recorded a 12-minute vidcast on the role of education in the new world of work, and what we need to do to change schools and universities to provide us with the type of people we need for the future world of work. You can see it here.

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