Turning around Education

In my previous blog ‘Education – a boon or a curse’, I laid out a premise on which to move forward in creating an education system that can respond organically and with agility.

Often we talk about paradigm shift and the mental image of that is always a square or a rectangle shaped perspective defining the paradigms we live under. A shift would then mean to redefine those boundaries or shift those boundaries. At the pace with which 21st century world is moving, mainly fueled by technology aiding every other engineering disciplines, we do not have such luxuries anymore.

A paradigm shift will happen as one discovers or feels a need for either a new way of doing things or a new way of presenting things. Goods that were once constructed as a one big whole are now being deconstructed and presented in smaller chunks. Goods that were linked together by technologies are now being integrated into one offering saving all the issues of such linking to make big chunks smaller. The question I am asking now is: How often or how speedily we see such a thing happening in the world of delivering education.

Delivery is now being reconstituted by automating it through self-learning DIY (do-it-yourself) books, videos and tips. Having internet as both a storing mechanism and a delivery mechanism from anyone to anyone from anywhere to anywhere and at any time, we have seen learning in 21st century taking on a whole new meaning. What we once presumed that learning mostly happens within the walls of a classroom has changed to make us aware that learning is happening at a faster rate outside the classrooms than within – for bad or good we don’t know that yet. In the midst of this we see our 2000 year old education systems still struggling to cope. Yes, they are struggling. They are struggling because they are not organic and agile by staying within the boundaries of the classroom walls.

As soon as we start defining a certification or a degree program to have pre-requisites of certain types of schooling and certain types of assessment, we introduce linearity. Linearity is still necessary, but in small bursts. A small burst of linearity to teach numeracy or literacy or operacy. 21st century world needs technocracy as a form of literacy that should be taught in parallel with scientific literacy. These are small bursts of linearity with shoots that can network across any field of learning or research. The current form of primary, middle and high school structures do not work well to administer such linear bursts.

Let me now attack the myths about being certified or achieving a mastery by completing a degree of some sort. The curriculum set is removed so far away from the real world, in spite of readjusting the curriculum and delivery within the education system, the mastery achieved or the certification achieved still lags behind the skills and knowledge needed to perform the work from day one. We have seen and continually see many organizations resorting to orientation programs that I now will call them as ‘linear burst of literacy of some sort’ that the educational system failed to provide.

I can be certified to carry a firearm, but carrying just the certification will not help when we do not have the firearm when we need it. I could potentially learn to use a firearm without having a certification to carry it and may be saving many from harm when they are carrying either just the license or just the knowledge of using it.

Through this analogy I try to differentiate a report card a student receives from knowing whether the student is confident with the skills and knowledge to deliver what has been asked for with what he has been equipped with.

This brings two important points to the forefronts that are to be explored here. One is about the need for certification and the other is about the length of linearity to have an assurance that a student has been equipped with the right firearm to use it when asked for.

Need for a certification cannot go away. However, how it is administered needs revamping. Certification should not be deemed as a must to secure a job or a contract or consulting offer. It must be evaluated from the perspective of what that certification might have achieved and use it as a benchmark to examine the candidacy. If the skills are exhibited without the certification, the organization can look into some sort of certifying process after hiring. The education thus received becomes aligned, necessary and contributory. No needs for any one single person to parade the certifications received and yet not land a job. The wastage of time and effort from both sides of delivery and receipt can be avoided.

Linear learning that was instituted back in 20th century is still applicable, but will be effective only if the linearity is kept short and administered in bursts. Let us not think of keeping the linearity bursts still at Primary, middle and high schools burst levels as they are becoming archaic in nature. They have to be revamped to redefine them as Introductory and Stages of Mastery. Introductory period opens up the young minds to whatever they want learn with stages of mastery kept small and short to make them agile and organic and ready. Introductory linearity is severe enough to fail the students until such time they reach adequate levels of literacy, numeracy, operacy and technocracy. The pedagogy will be limited to the matured methods to make learning a joyful experience by avoiding any assessment based punishments. Only formative assessment is to be employed leaving the summative assessment as a tool to propel the students to the any stage of mastery that they desire to pursue.

Behavioral issues are dealt with expert behavioral scientists and experts rather than teachers. Teachers would know that each and every student inside their classes are already motivated to learn, rather eager to learn making it enjoyable for teachers to an engaging teaching sessions with students to manage their learning.

Assessment by teachers will be purely qualitative to send their students to an external assessment regime as required for a certification or a degree to meet an award requirement or recognize the knowledge and skill levels are indeed attained by the students. Since the stages of mastery define what is being achieved at each level, the progressions into higher levels are always dependent on the prior specific knowledge or skills gained by any student, than the requirement of certification of completing the prior levels. Whether a student can jump  a level or not is entirely dependent on the knowledge or skill gained which is not associated to where or how it was gained.

What I have proposed is that the efforts will be efficiently directed organically and with agility towards speedily maturing methods and the trusted professionalism of teachers serve as the backbone to create innovative mindset within each student to equip them to be life-long learners that would pay huge dividends to organizations  when these students become employees. Organizations will benefit from such a learning advantage that they never had before to keep them organic and agile contributing just not to the economy but to a bigger agenda that includes social and environmental needs.

A word of caution on a much abused word – innovation. I talk about innovation mindset per se than innovation in terms of producing goods or services.