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Designing a Modern Education System From a Clean Slate

What if we were to start off with a clean slate and design a modern education system that produces the talent and economic competitiveness to succeed in a global economy?

How would we go about designing it? I think we would start with the result we’re aiming for and “back-engineer” a system from that point. Desired outcomes for learners would be:

  • successful completion / graduation, leading to

  • employability / career, leading to

  • health, happiness … and a flourishing economy.

Preparing Today’s Learners for Tomorrow’s Workforce

To help learners achieve these outcomes, we need to take into consideration the present state of the working world. The pace of innovation keeps accelerating and prompting entire industries to transform themselves in shorter and shorter cycles. To cope with this rapid change, we need to provide learners as well as educators with an "agile" education system that does not only prepare them for today's workforce and skills, but even more importantly, for tomorrow's.

So how do we build the curriculum that aligns with the fast changing needs of the industry? Who can show us the way? The employers themselves of course.

Employers Should Guide Degree Programs and More

Employers know their industries and the changes impacting them best. So employers have the closest insights on how those changes inform future workforce needs. It is for the employers to anticipate and communicate these trends/needs down into the education system early on and update them often. This way educators can make the necessary adjustments to the education system, including degree programs, the curriculum, course topics, all the way down to the the courseware.

Think of how much closer our learners would be to completion, employability and happiness if they were confident that their coursework would lead them to good jobs. If we back-engineer a modern education system this way, learners will have a clearer sense of purpose leading to greater motivation and engagement. This will reduce dropout rates too. This new modern education system would very tightly intertwine the professional and the academic worlds. No more “bridging” would be required.

And, by the way, who says that the jobs in the future require a 4 year college degree at all? I believe it would be reasonable to believe that by back-engineering education we would develop alternative education pathways that bypass traditional degree programs entirely. Why not?

Applying some of these concepts could mean the following:

Employers should (1) identify the types of jobs they need to fill in the future based upon where they believe their respective industries are moving to (2) extract the required skills and workforce competencies from these future jobs and (3) communicate them down into the education system (both secondary and post secondary, career and technical too).

Educators should (1) “translate” workforce skills and professional competencies into academic learning objectives and outcomes, (2) create new curriculums and potentially new degree programs or (3) for certain future jobs create entirely new alternative education pathways that enable learners to bypass the college system entirely.

This is in essence what I mean by back-engineering education - starting with our end goal in mind. It's nothing new. Competency based Education (CBE), among other concepts, has been trying to address these issues for some time, with unfortunately little impact so far. However, I am confident that this will change.

Some Organizations Starting Down the Right Path

I’d like to highlight a few companies that are making a meaningful impact in tearing down the traditional walls between employers, educators and students:

Pragya Systems (a GHP client) is a college platform that helps students navigate their journey through college and align their academic pathway to careers. Pragya unlocks meaningful insights that help the institution improve the efficiency and efficacy of academic advising and student engagement.

Meteor Learning addresses the workforce skills gaps by enabling post-secondary institutions to deliver high-quality, workforce aligned degrees for professionals to support their career progression.

Revature creates a pathway where university graduates with diverse backgrounds can build the knowledge, skills and abilities to reach their potential as technology professionals and leverage those talents to contribute to the growth and success of their future employers.

AspireAbility takes competency based learning to the next level and partners with organizations to find, develop, and onboard the talent they need by beginning with the end in mind. By starting with clearly articulated, validated competency-maps for targeted roles, the company brings an entirely different approach to high tech talent.

Credly empowers organizations to officially recognize individuals for demonstrated competencies and skills. Their mission is to connect people to opportunity based on their talent and capabilities.

Whom am I missing? Feel free to comment on other companies that you feel are relevant in this discussion.

Love to hear your thoughts.



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