New York Times columnist Tom Friedman has been one of the most active in calling public attention to the new global economy and how it changes just about everything. He recently held his New World Conference in San Francisco. At the conference, both business leaders and pioneering education change agents made strong statements that the U.S. education system is not meeting the needs of this new economy. Business leaders and economic thinkers are worried that today’s students aren’t leaving school with the skills they’ll need to succeed in the workplace. Representatives from tech companies and hiring experts are looking for applicants who show individuality, confidence in their abilities, ability to identify and communicate their strengths, and who are capable of thinking on their feet.
It is particularly telling that every panelist agreed that, right now, the U.S. does not have a system that produces students that meet those needs.
“The problem is not to get incrementally better with our current education system,” said Tony Wagner, expert in residence at Harvard’s Innovation Lab. “The problem is to reimagine it.”
“Content knowledge has to be engaging to kids,” Wagner said. “If kids aren’t motivated, you can pour content knowledge in their heads and it comes right out the other ear.” And while critical thinking and communication are important, Wagner said schools are in danger if they stop there. “Above all, they need to be creative problem solvers,” Wagner said.
Gallup reported on a recent study of college graduates to gauge how engaged they are with their work and whether they are thriving in the world. The survey found that students who felt supported — that their professors cared about them as individuals, that professors made them want to learn, that they had a mentor — were three times more likely to thrive as those who did not feel supported. Only 14 percent of college graduates answered that all three of those qualities were present in their college experience. Even fewer college graduates found their higher education experience to be relevant to life and work after college.
Richard Miller, president and professor at Olin College, noted that college and university education has also been completely disconnected with this need. Olin follows a radically different approach to learning designed to produce education innovators. “Students are the power tools of change in education,” Miller said. “They are the most ignored and they have the most at stake.” But, as Olin has found, when they are given free range to design, make, and innovate they can be very powerful examples of what a great education can produce.
For more, review the article in the link below, which provided these highlights: