Recently, I read the post on Dr. Chandler’s blog about “3 Reasons United States Higher Education is Falling Behind Saudi Arabia”. He brought up several examples of how Saudi Arabia is doing a better job of supporting those that seek a higher education than the United States is doing.
I think all of his points are valid and interesting and while it is important for us to consider the way education is supported, it also brought to my mind 3 points I believe we need to address to correct America’s approach to education overall:
The Existing System is Based on Old Economy
We have an education system that was built at a time when what we needed in the way of the workers it produced was very different from what the new world economy needs today.
The days of 9 to 5 jobs and an assembly line mentality are over. The education system is antiquated in that it was created out of the necessity to produce workers that could support a low tech, mass production world. In this old economy, employees were needed to do work that is most likely now handled by machines or has disappeared because so much information, products, services and experiences are delivered across electronic mediums.
We need to completely rethink our education system and determine how to create a workforce that focuses instead on project-based, high level thinking.
The New Economy Requires Higher Level Work
Technology advances to include smartphones and tablets, these amazing black bricks we carry with us everywhere, and the introduction of social media, has forever changed the workforce and the economy. The educational system needs to catch up – and quickly.
In the new economy, the knowledge to solve complex problems and create informative content is paramount. A return to storytelling and the ability to write are skills that all students need to possess, but I continue to hear how these skills are de-emphasized as the educational system focuses on assuring that students can pass tests.
In their spare time, students use this same technology to avoid thinking and prefer to look up the information they need. The next generation is being coined as the “always on” generation. They will always have access to the rudimentary information they need to know. The ability to take this base knowledge and make new connections – to “think” – will be the way forward.
Models for Success do Exist
That’s why I feel fortunate that we have had the opportunity to send our daughter to one of the best charter schools in the United States – Walton High School. Most of my daughter’s work is based on projects, not rote learning. She has the opportunity to flex her schedule just as she will when she gets into the workforce. This model needs to be implemented and encouraged at earlier stages in education and throughout every student’s educational career.
Let’s work to not only better support the education system as Saudi Arabia has done, but let’s also rethink the way education is being delivered such that we give our next generation an education they can benefit from and use. One that prepares them for how the world really works. As an employer, I want employees who can think and create, not employees who were educated to work on an assembly line or in a nine to five job based on existing knowledge.