Friday, 3 May 2013

A Definite Education

Everyone seems to be screaming for Education to deliver more entrepreneurs and enterprising students... While everyone says that this is needed, where is the framework and training for this? And is the focus on entrepreneurship setting some students up for a fall?

This week I stopped by the Tech & Learning's Tech Forum. I did not catch all of the speakers at this event but found Yong Zhao comments really interesting, although the sentiment did mirror Thomas Friedman and Seth Godin that;

"As educators we are doing a good job of preparing students to be employees, but we need to prepare them to be entrepreneurs"

Education & Employment Mis-Match
Whether discussing students as entrepreneurs or employees it would appear (to some) that Education is not doing a very good job with finding students employment;

"Worldwide educational institutions are out of sync with employer needs...42% of employers believe newly educated workers are ready for work, 72% of educational institutions do. This is an enormous mis-match. Primary and secondary educational institutions are not keeping in touch with corporate recruiters and the needs of business"

At the same time just about any corporate article that I look at includes the desire for "soft skills"  - team work, collaboration, communication, initiative, flexibility etc. While the curriculum does touch on these elements you can't help thinking does it go far enough? There is also the fact that various attitudes or "core values" are also highly desirable, but are these the parents' or educators responsibility today?

Zappos is a company who are renowned for having a great culture and this video highlights what their "core values" are - What is Zappos

In "Good to Great" Jim Collins highlights how  companies placed greater weight on character than education, skills or experience when hiring. He uses the example of Nucor Steel who based their steel mills in farming communities because of the work ethic that farmers had... The skills of steel production could be taught, the work ethic couldn't. 

Whether working for yourself or for an employer there appear to be key attributes that will be needed for this generation.

Letting Down a Generation?
I just can't get the Suli Breaks video out of my head...
  • 1 million views in a month
  • 2.5 million young people unemployed
  • Traditional ways of doing things are being "up-ended" and are becoming obsolete
  • Every educational conference I check in on has the same message: We need change... and fast - Generation Jobless and Scarred Generation
While there is always lots of applause and agreement at these events, I can't help asking how has this happened? How is the change going to be implemented quick enough in the UK? ...Or who going to deliver this change?

I had a discussion with a dynamic and visionary education leader recently on this very issue, who informed me of some of the challenges you might expect to face from policy makers, education regulators and unions... the very people who are responsible for educating our young people seemed to be making reform difficult.

If an education leader faces resistance with implementing the changes they would like to see at their institution, how on earth is this badly needed and urgent change ever going to be a possibility?

In an attempt to find the change agents in education I took to the dictionary, to see whose responsibility this might be...I wonder if you can spot the same challenges that I did. 

A Definite Education 
Educationthe process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university:
  • The theory and practice of teaching
  • A body of knowledge acquired while being educated
  • information about or training in a particular subject

Education Decision Makers/Stakeholders
Politician - a person who is professionally involved in politics, especially as a holder of an elected office.

The online Oxford dictionary goes on to describe this profession as "A person who acts in a manipulative and devious way, typically to gain advancement within an organization"

Ofsted - Office for Standards in Education, an organization monitoring standards in schools by regular inspections.

Principal - The most important or senior person in an organization or group

  •  The head of a school, college, or other educational institution
  • 2 [in singular] a sum of money lent or invested, on which interest is paid:the winners are paid from the interest without even touching the principal
  • 3 A person for whom another acts as an agent or representative
  • 4 Law the person directly responsible for a crime.

Teacher - A person who teaches, especially in a school 

Teach1 Impart knowledge to or instruct (someone) as to how to do something
  •  Give information about or instruction in a subject or skill
2 Cause someone to learn or understand something by example or experience:
  • she’d been taught that it paid to be passive my upbringing taught me never to be disrespectful to elders
  • Encourage someone to accept something as a fact or principlethe philosophy teaches self-control
  • Informal make someone less inclined to do something:‘I’ll teach you to forget my tea,’ he said, and gave me six with his cane
Student - A person who is studying at a university or other place of higher education

  •  A school pupil
  •  A person who takes an interest in a particular subjectstudent of the free market
Word Perfect... and Employable
So, based on the dictionary definitions above, who is ideal group/person in education to drive the change so that the definition of education today involves;

"The process of receiving or giving systematic instruction in being an "enterprising entrepreneur" or being "more employable?" Is it;
  • The "person who acts in a manipulative and devious way to gain advancement?"
  • The organization that monitors standards, which measures and benchmarks against the status quo, as opposed to encouraging innovation?
  • The most important or senior person at the college?
  • The person who gives information/instruction in a subject/skill?
  • The person who is studying?
Education Externalities
Perhaps there is another definition that we need to bring into the education debate, externalities;

"A consequence of an industrial or commercial activity which affects other parties without this being reflected in market prices, such as the pollination of surrounding crops by bees kept for honey"         

After all each of the groups above are doing their jobs, and most are doing an exceptional job as per their training... but the landscape for students has changed.       

Indeed if I wanted to be especially controversial, does innovation suffer as a result of the formation of Ofsted? After all Ofsted is only 20 years old... I think education has been around for a bit longer than this...         

For a sector/industry whose function is  teaching and which proclaims the virtues & value of Life Long Learning, the message from this particular lesson seems to be getting lost.

In Suli Breaks video "We will not let an exam result decide our fate" he talks about being taught by Miss Led, but she is teaching in precisely the way she was trained to... it's the job prospects and opportunities that have changed.

Whose going to be brave enough to tell the teacher or want to take a trip to the principals office to say " can we re-define our education?"

Enterprising Politicians 
Everyone today is talking about Enterprise! Enterprise! Enterprise! (I'm sure not so long ago it was Education! Education! Education!) But who is to deliver this enterprise in education? If you want entrepreneurial students where is the enterprise curriculum? Where is the project based learning? Where are the STEAM classes?

And is jumping on the Entrepreneurial band wagon the right thing to do? How many unemployed techs did we have in the 1990's when this was flavour of the month? What about how hard a career path entrepreneurship is? Or how it may not be suited to all personality types?   

"8 out of 10 new businesses fail within the first three years.... only 1 in 10 venture-backed startups succeed, and venture capitalists turn down some 99% of the business plans they see. The odds appear to be stacked against you!"

That said, there do appear to be some attributes that entrepreneurs share with the skills that employers are looking for... But I wonder if standard inspections will win the day, as opposed to an the introspection that appears to be needed. 

If you want more enterprise in education then surely there needs to be an investment in training for this. The good news is that the training shouldn't cost much because the training manual and expensive consultants are not in place yet.

All that's involved is admitting we don't have all the answers and handing over responsibility... it may even involve handing the keys over to the students?! "What the heck is a Teacherpreneur?"
As usual with these issues, there is no one person or a single organisation that is responsible for the challenges... but there sure are a lot of individuals who are paying the cost of educations externalities. And it sure is a heavy price.

...But the answer just might involve more collaboration...

"Teacherpreneur" (Not in the dictionary)  - 
"involves giving classroom teachers more of a voice in educational leadership, while allowing current educational leaders and policymakers opportunities to spend a part of each year working in a classroom with students"

Whats the worst that could happen?

Any change agents in education reading this may find "How to be a Star at Work" of interest. It's a 10 year study at Bell Labs and may provide some answers and a practical field guide to the Education Vs Employment Mis-match. 

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