What do these three things have in common, and why on earth would I waste your time asking you that question?
If you’re of a certain vintage you’ll be aware of just how amazing Nokia phones were.
What’s that? You can’t remember? Check this out.
Of course, Sony Walkmans were so popular even competitor’s offerings were referred to as Walkmans, and how many times have you thanked your lucky stars that your Kodak Moments weren’t captured in the era of Facebook or Instagram?
Nowadays, a straw poll of any group I speak with shows that very few have a Nokia phone, Sony Walkman (yes they still make and sell Walkmans) or have a Kodak anything…
Why? We haven’t stopped communicating, listening to music or taking pictures – in fact we’re probably doing all three more than any generation before us – and yet all three companies have had to diversify to survive.
How did Sony in particular, given they owned a heck of a lot of music and the most widely used personal music device, miss the boat?
Is it possible they were so confident in what they were offering, they didn’t need to consider an alternative scenario?
Maybe. Lot’s of analysts have… erm… analysed the ups and downs of these companies in more detail than I have here, but that’s what I see they have in common.
Ok… so why waste your time with that?
What if education institutions as we know them are the Nokia, Sony and Kodak of Learning. We all know people – lots of them – who attend them, work in them and/or are generally in favour of them. They are the market leaders in Learning so to speak, with a captive audience.
Most would agree that education institutions offer two things – amongst a raft of other opportunities of course.
- A forum to enhance your knowledge, understanding, and skills in order to engage with the world.
- Access to qualifications/accreditation that further your education or employment options.
How has technology and changes in society and the economy disrupted this? Well the truth is, they haven’t – not much – really – yet.
But what about when they do? What will happen when society realises some of the short comings of its education system?
At one end of the academic spectrum, the majority of the long-term unemployed are young people who left school in the last ten years, whilst at the other, hundreds of medical graduates can’t find internships.
I wrote a fair bit about the fact we’re educating our kids into unemployment for the Sydney Morning Herald.
Anyhoo… I noticed of late there seems to be some fairly distinctive lines being drawn in the sand with regard to the whole “Is School Fit for Purpose?” debate…
And these lines are not really furthering the debate. Too many are picking sides, picking names (progressive, traditionalist, 21C, anythingpreneur etc.) and picking fights.
A case in point:
This is a tweet from Britain’s School Behaviour Tzar Tom Bennett:
Oh God, the future’s run by an idiot pic.twitter.com/rbhMVDbvak
— Tom Bennett (@tombennett71) September 11, 2015
Now to be fair to Tom – he is an incredibly well-respected (by the profession & the government) commentator – some of the language in the graphic that he links to is well and truly ripe for a laugh, but I fear that by setting it up as the work of “an idiot” – he encourages the subsequent replies that his tweet receives… all eye-rolling etc…
The fact is that some of the concepts that the graphic is trying to convey are worth discussing. To deny that seems a bit daft to me, And by going to the nth degree – on either side of the debate – much of the nuance in lost.
I believe it’s in this nuanced space where the education debate must take place so we can ask and then address questions like:
- Why do our ‘best and brightest’ students feel the need to cheat at their selective schools or in their university courses?
- Given Finland performs relatively well in PISA, why is it their Youth Unemployment rate around 24.5%? (By comparison in Australia it’s around 12% and we think that’s high.)
- Why do Gallup regularly report that in Australia, around 30% of Year 5 kids and 50% of Year 12 kids have disengaged from learning?
- What’s the best way to prepare students – and ourselves – for the workplace given that many estimate that 50% of the workforce will be freelance in the next decade?
- And what do we make of the fact that Ernst & Young has declared that in the UK, they no longer take into account an applicants A-Levels or degree qualifications? Often educationalists cite tech companies like Google or Apple as examples of the shifting economy and workplace… but here we’re talking about accountants.
- What happens to our institutions when we recognise the education system is failing too many kids, that learning can happen anywhere and that traditional qualifications might not carry the weight they once did?
- And how long will it be before we realise that either/or arguments are unlikely to present many insights to these questions?