The future of learning is something critical to each and every one of us. Whether you are a child, a new graduate or a seasoned professional well along in your personal development, learning and education is a core component of life. Ultimately, it’s our most fundamental life skill: learning. And learning how to learn better is a key to life mastery.
But I was recently reminded how true this is when I stumbled across an older (and excellent) post by Seth Godin. The article lays bare a fundamental flaw of the US educational system and that of many other first world nations. In doing so, it underscores the urgent need for education innovation in both the classroom and workplace.
Obvious Problems, Elusive Answers
It goes beyond the contentious debate regarding teachers unions and merit based advancement and cuts deeper, even, than the bigger, looming question of how useful a “higher education” degree really is. Numerous influencers, agitators and thought leaders have taken on this mountain-size problem. And, if you ask students (which we should), they will have their own opinions about what is wrong with education.
But Seth Godin draws attention to the historical underpinnings of our current educational model. He also points to the perilous position they put us in going forward, in a world increasingly defined by two contrasting hyper trends.
The premise is simple: our educational system is based on a century-old paradigm built around low-value assembly line and service sector work. As such, it is designed to produce workers that serve the first trend but not the second.
The first of those is economy, and the drive to produce more at ever-lower cost. And the second trend is innovation and the ability to create better or differently, as well as to demonstrate vision and agility. The premise is simple: our educational system is based on a century-old paradigm built around low-value assembly line and service sector work. As such, it is designed to produce workers that serve the first trend but not the second.
Innovation in Education
In a world of increasing mobility, a job premised on prescribed and repeatable behaviors (think factory work) will always seek the cheapest labor. For a whole host of structural and macro-economic reasons, the US workforce is unprepared to compete in that world for those jobs. But the size and severity of the problem has been obvious to many for a long time.
There are some exciting, progressive things happening in the education space starting with early learning, primary and secondary schools. Bank Street/child centered methods, vocation-focused and charter schools all come to mind. Even more innovation is happening in the post graduate and adult learning space. And experimentation is happening across all these segments from traditional, public schools to independent, non-certificate platforms.
The future of online learning intersects with every segment of the population, from early childhood through post-professional adult education, and everyone in between. New products and services abound and innovation in education technology offers advantages to students and teachers alike.
Education For All Benefits All
But the long-term strength of our society and companies alike depends on how we rethink and retool our educational institutions and objectives, for children and adults both. And such developments in the learning space don’t just benefit us at a societal level over the long-term. Since we are all life long learners these new learning platforms can help every one of us, individually and at all ages.
And if this is true then we should also put higher value on the process of education, as individuals, people managers and community leaders. Believing, as I do, that education not only begins before school but continues well after it, I contend that Godon’s closing question extends beyond just our kids. Read it and consider well. It can be asked in many contexts, not least of which to our own team members and employees.
So, do you care enough to help prepare your employees to take advantage of the post industrial revolution? Doing so will ensure your company is built on firm ground and ready to withstand the seismic changes that every industry is currently undergoing.