Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Corporate Education

Sorry I was writing this post last week and then was felled by a bad cold.

"So I read this article and it strikes me that I don't disagree with the overall thrust of the conclusions: that the current education system is outdated in its use of technology, that people need to be problem solvers and become producers of knowledge.  I think what irks me about this article is the tone, that the purpose of education is to create workers, that somehow we've been short changing our youth. What I get from this article is that the purpose of education is to create a stable of ready made plug ins for the new knowledge economy. Versatile plug ins, but plug ins just the same. It seems to be endemic in the discussion of the new way to educate with the goal of  creating knowledge workers with a specific end goal of being productive. But productive for whom? To the individual? To the employer? To society?

There are some fundamental ideas that need to be discussed. I think this idea that the school system does not produce innovators and people capable of change is ridiculous. That somehow the dearth of jobs for the young is our inability to prepare students for life. How have we managed to be innovative today if that versatility is not already inherent in ourselves and nurtured within a school setting? Is the school system we have now perfect? Absolutely not. Does standardized testing improve problem solving ability or show the worth of a student? No. Does some of the content in the curriculum bore students and teachers alike to tears? Yes to that too. But almost all of us in this forum are products of the current school system. We are enrolled in this course of our own volition, continuing to learn and push forward new ideas.My children, graduates of the current system, are grown and continuing on with either school or professional opportunities. I see them volunteer in the community and passionately argue for issues that matter to them. Some of this wish to engage with the community stems from our influence as parents, but some of it stems from the impact of teachers and the social networks within schools. What social media does is extend and expand the conversation beyond our physical geography, not eliminate the need for a physical gathering space to exchange ideas. Learning will now involve both our physical environment and the digital world. Notice how many of us in our videos situate ourselves by placing ourselves in our physical environment, our homes, gardens, outdoor spaces, showing our pets and treasures that surround us and make us feel secure in our identity. That environment is where so much of our learning occurs.

The problem is the disconnect between learning and education within the teaching profession itself. We forget that education is a system and structure, of how and where we create learning opportunities primarily for people under 25 and that education is not the act of learning. We all agree that the new technologies have already revolutionized how people connect, share and acquire information through all age groups. The question is how to use them to revolutionize the system of education. It is why we are discussing moocs as a possible platform for future education.

But if we are going to really look at the education system isn't it time we look at the purpose of the current system at the same time, not just the how but the why? The real reason why we as a society want to educate our young? Have the societal/economic reasons underpinning the current education system's purpose changed?  And if they have, how do we take what is good about the system and preserve it, while reaching out to innovation to meet the needs of students more fully? Is the purpose of the system still to create employees (as it was at the start of the industrial revolution)?  Or is it to create learners who understand how to find, analyze and respond to new knowledge? I believe that the time of answering to corporate needs is past, especially since people change jobs so frequently and old idea of the benevolent corporation that will employ people for life is gone.

Sadly this article comes under the heading "WISE (World Innovation Summit for Education) Building the Future of Education."  and has been written by an educator. The idea that people are not qualified for jobs is corporate spin that we, as a society, have been told to believe. Corporations, who have cut their training budgets over the years, continually try to have society pick up the tab for the cost of educating future corporate workers. Notice how governments fret about education curriculum when business chimes in? Instead corporations should pay qualified people more and offer more training in house rather than place this burden on the public education system. Allow the system to introduce children to many topics so they can explore, analysis and synthesis."


  1. I very much agree with you. Paulo Freire calls this the banking model of education, in which we develop skills in children so that they are prepared for their future, but who decides what their future should be? In a Democratic society, that decision should be up to the child...

    1. One would think so but just think about how often business starts to trumpet how poorly the K-12 system prepares students for "the real world." Thanks, David, for introducing me to Paulo Freire- he's seems to be my type of thinker. I am much more inclined to prefer informal to formal education but love the idea of informed action moderating our learning.

    2. On further reading of Freire it seems even more important to me than ever that children are taught media education in K-12 (not only the tools but how media [TV, Commercials, social media] is used to influence their thinking process)and how to look at media critically.

  2. I was reading through the presentation Jeannine St.Amand recommended in http://jeanninestamand.com/2013/01/30/curation-2/ “Content Curation for Education and Learning, Emerge 2012” and I came across this report embedded in the presentation "Future Skills 2020 http://apolloresearchinstitute.com/sites/default/files/future_work_skills_2020_full_research_report_final_1.pdf

    It is an interesting report but short on references(7)and mentions a globally wired world. Yet,is everyone wired yet? And what happens to those aren't? When I looked at the skills they require for the future isn't everyone who is participating in this course already have those skills?

    Earlier in the presentation they also talked about the cost of a degree and how businesses use degrees as a fast no cost way (for them) to select suitable employees with the cost burden born by the employee. http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2011/01/20/vedder_going_to_college_isn_t_a_smart_decision_for_many_young_people. But once again is this the right way to view the purpose of higher learning or learning in general? As a path to getting a job?

    Of course I think all education should be free (even higher education) and subsidized by the public because a well educated population is a good for society overall.

  3. But productive for whom? To the individual? To the employer? To society?

    Yes I think it is also the shift in the means of production and distribution of knowledge that companies are experiencing. I agree it matters a lot. Claims about the 'knowledge economy' may be less about creating knowledge and distributing it than locking up the talents of a generation who might otherwise make other choices.

    Industry constantly claims it has a shortage of skilled labor (for examnple programmers) but actually it is not completely true - it just doesn't have them on the kind of short leash that it used to. Young people could settle for more corporate existences, but I think these days a great number of youth feel poorly served by that choice. They see education as either available for free or overpriced. So a worthy investment right now is to work for yourself, so why sell out? They might do quite different kinds of things if they did not have to sell their labor.

    1. Interesting how many people are starting to work as freelancers 'for' business but not 'within' business. Perhaps we are seeing a return to the idea of "cottage labour"? Certainly my job could be done at home rather than being tethered to an office desk and I might enjoy it more if that was the case. But that requires a degree of 'trust' in my work ethic that I think many businesses lack. As to the cost of education, if someone is motivated, moocs may be the solution.