Ever more learning to go around

In various discussions in my trade, and in general public, there seems to be a point of gravity around insufficiency of latter-day education. The troubles are many, but they fall into several distinct categories:

[Spoiler: the true point of this entry is somewhere near the bottom…]

  1. Children know way too little; much knowledge is lost. No, this is not about the simple learning of facts – it is already quite clear that that Nick Carr’s Shallows, shallow brains, have taken root and may only be undone by a big swing towards renewed rote memorization and a wholesale write-off of current generations. It is more about culture, the effects of too much freedom in education. Be aware that I tend to think that a great many children would be much happier (as adults, too) and society would benefit in a big, very big way if children were allowed to develop (start developing) their non-sports skills into Excellence much earlier than now. On the condition that general education of all sorts of subjects is maintained at quite a level too. We don’t want savants that in the end fail to make the genius grade and end up with nothing else. Conclusion/result/solution/requisite to make this possible: see below.
  2. School-leavers aren’t ready for any type of job available, if any are available. They’re too inexperienced, but also they know too little to understand the most basic, core things of how organizations operate. This complaint is of all times, yes. Solutions have been tried, but have run out of their time. Military or social service, socialist or bureaucratic (there is a distinction between those two, overlooked by those that don’t gauge the depth of the notions behind those simplifying labels!) in its nature, have worked here and there, but were unsustainable because of free riders (fire them for their lack of character!) and moreover because of lack of economic egalisation – rewards for services delivered, education and experience gained, [hi there useful Oxford comma] and societal gains haven’t been calculated, estimated or explicitly transferred hence remained too little visible. This can be solved by reinstating social service requirements on youth – but that wouldn’t necessarily go down well with any economically developed society where individualism has raged. Conclusion/result/solution/requisite to make this better: internships, plus see below.
  3. There’s so many variation within any profession and at all experience levels that education can only deliver base levels of professionals. More differentiated high-level education is required. But that would splinter course programs and may very well tie many too many young still direction- and destination-seeking students into studies and careers that they in the end are disappointed with. With, due to specialization, too little way out; all the places elsewhere have been taken by maybe a little bit less experienced, but better specialized, others. Conclusion/result/solution/requisite to make this better: see below.

What is causing all of this ..? My take is that education as a system is lagging more than ever the increases in complexity of society/societies. Way back in time, when times were slower, societal development could be caught up with through education in relatively sufficiently short time. New generations could be trained, in whatever way, mostly by training on or near the job. But the exponential speed-up of society’s business, and society’s complexity!, over the past centuries, has meant that the developments have become so quick and so unclear as to the one solution to catch all to cater for well-rounded members of society through education, that ever more feel they (individually and as a group) are lost, not able to improve themselves easily enough to cope with the new world order.
A peasant was a peasant, and only the extremely rare exception would ‘escape’. In times when a lord would look down on a peasant for the lack of education, but would regard the peasant as less of a lesser human being than generally assumed. The lord knew well his existence relied on peasants for food, and the purpose of his lordship (and not the purpose of his individual person) was to govern. Excesses apart, all could settle in their place and destiny, and needed not too much education because of this simpleness of society. That has changed…

To educate new generations today to be able to cope with the enormous complexity of society when they have grown up, may hence take much more education, in breath and in depth, than current day education systems allow. All the compulsory subjects that are stripped away at too low levels already (humanities, math, science) due to too low exit levels being allowed and due to too early specialization (without allowing savants to jump ahead in their specific curiosities of choice), should be taught to all at higher levels throughout.
It is sad or a privilege, but current-day youth may need to attend school much longer to be ready to function in society…!

To be able to arrange for all the variety of students that will be around (including some that may want to broaden their horizon, switch specializations or just out of hobby interest want to keep on educating themselves, at various levels of experience and seniority), course structures may have to be changed. In particular, packaging of education should be reconsidered. E.g., in accountancy, not all certified accountants need to know each and every petty IFRS rule by heart as it may have no relevance to their daily job at all during all of their career. Better offer modules!
But this should be doable, in particular with the use of technology (MOOCs et al; blended methods) – and with other parties (both private and public sector organizations) more aware and involved and transparent to allow to learn from the sideline how they operate. To ready the next generations better for their roles.

Comments invited.

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