Is it time to change the way we learn? Traditionally, education occupies the first stage of a person’s life, and is therefore seen as the preserve of children and young people. After education, we imagine ourselves entering a career and then working in the same job (rising steadily through the ranks) until we retire. Is this still how the world works?

The twin pressures of globalisation (bringing with it increased competition from overseas) and technology (including automation and machine learning) are challenging old certainties. It’s already likely a person will change jobs many times within their working life, and its not uncommon for a person to change careers entirely. Likewise, technology is developing at such a pace that skills constantly need updating and refreshing. Do we need to rethink our approach to education?

What do our readers think? We had a comment from Iveta says: “We do not know the future and the jobs of the future, so I would say that schools should orient students towards a lifelong learning attitude – when graduating, a student needs to have a clear sense that his/her education will not end with a degree, but would continue throughout one’s life.” Do you think education systems do that today?

To get a response, we spoke to Simon Marginson, Professor of International Higher Education at the University of Oxford, and Director of the Centre for Global Higher Education. What would he say to Iveta?

We’re not achieving lifelong learning goals in the way that Iveta suggests, which I think is a good proposition and one that many people support. The limitation of our current provision is that in most countries we still see the upper-secondary education stage as the crucial stage, because it’s the stage where students are selected into elite and non-elite institutions, and then we focus on the first degree as a young person’s experience.

There are a small number of systems, particularly the Nordic systems, and to a less extent the English-speaking world, where there is substantial provision of adult education, but much of it is occupied by people who’ve already got degrees or have been in degree programmes. There’s not much re-entry into education by those who’ve dropped out earlier by that stage, and the larger notion of lifelong learning, therefore, is being carried by those degree-holders who go back into adult [education], and they’re a relatively small minority of the population. So, we haven’t yet established lifelong learning as a norm, but the resources are there to do it – especially through information available on the internet, through the availability of free or low-cost programmes in a whole lot of course content areas, and so on. So, we could do it.

For another perspective, we put the same comment to Stéphane Lauwick, President of European Association of Institutions in Higher Education (EURASHE) and Director of the Institute of Technology (IUT) of the University of Le Havre. How would he respond?

Well, the short answer is: no, they don’t do that at all. Basically, the reason is that professors, lecturers, academic staff generally are trained and selected in terms of their discipline and their perceived excellence in one discipline. And, of course, they are usually – or have been so far – trained to impart that knowledge to students. Of course, this is all very well for the more able students, or students who know what they want, but it doesn’t prepare most students to adapt in life.

As Iveta rightly says, we don’t know what the jobs will be perhaps even in five years. The issue now is how do we go from a discipline-based higher education to a competence-based higher education, and one of those competencies is how do we learn to learn? How do we reflect on our learning? That’s the ‘meta-level’, as it were.

I must say that I think all education systems in Europe, and probably in North America and other places as well, are aware of that challenge and are really working on how to effect that change. It’s quite a difficult job, but we’re working on it. Having said that, no, [education] systems do not provide this type of competency yet, but they will do soon, I’m quite sure. In fact, I’m very optimistic at the turnout of events.

Do we need a new education model? Should education systems focus more on lifelong learning? Should we promote alternatives to higher education, such as vocational training? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Intro to Arduino; PORTRAIT CREDITS: Marginson (c) Graduate School of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Lauwick (c) Catherine Lefavrais – IUT Le Havre (CREAV)

25 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Shadow Hand

    Education is the key to success.

  2. avatar

    It is about time! A commonly shared, European view on education is important, vocational schools need to ne promoted, syllabuses with a common core of subjects/contents/level, commonly shared job opportunities at a European level, open schools for adults’ education focused on computing, history, literature, foreign languages. Not easy, even to briefly sum up.

  3. avatar

    Life-long learning, mixed groups, experience sharing, cooperation, simulations, recognizing the potential – instead of top-down one size fits all teaching methods.

  4. avatar

    I was happy to find that an entrepreneur called Enon Landenberg, who was invited by EU direct and my local council to talk about start-ups agreed with me. That the education system is designed to create obedience which stifles out-of-the box thinking and forbids challenging which are required for a person to be innovative and entrepreneurial. The talk also highlighted that many EU grants and offers of help were only for the under 29’s. Many people at the talk were over 45 years of age and found no help or support for their entrepreneurial visions due to their age. These areas are definately worth changing. Also some education about values, ethics, respecting different people, nutrition-the truth, managing finances, taxes, the money system, voting, government and the EU should also be taught.

    • avatar

      The corporations that invented and make the Pisa studies do this to make education systems compete against each other in their favour.

  5. avatar

    Defenly… it’s needs to address modern needs of modern societies…
    only if all people had access to high quality of education.. most of our problems would had been a memory in a generation or two

  6. avatar

    Always it is space for better. We should introduce phylosopy more in school, to educate more for a healthy body and mind, to educate for help not for competition, to not waste our time, to educate for respect of principles, to see properly our target in this life: to create a better life for future generations! I dreamt to have my own school, an utopia :)

  7. avatar

    Bill Gates already answered this question and the answer is YES the Education Model must be more flexible and more Digital oriented

  8. avatar

    Of course times are changing so fast, and EU, burocrats are eaiting for what?

  9. avatar

    Yes, there is too much theory and no practice.

  10. avatar

    Sure, moreover i believe in upcoming few years the education system as we know won’t be existed anymore, that includes university, school and research faculties,
    Just because our modern education system is not relevant with our needs anymore, and covert the education process from inviting something new to repeat over and over wrong information
    Besides the way of examination is based on remembering whatever and as much as you can and just throw it away in one day exam date, so we examine how good he is at this day, and we examine his momery not his way of analysing abd processing the information, we tend yo fail to exclude wrong information from this educational system due to Bürokratie
    So we fail to solve the current issue we face with this system therfore it needs upgrade

  11. avatar

    We should be success-oriented. Study the most successful systems and determine what seems to make them successful. Finland and Singapore have world-beating systems.
    We shouldn’t be afraid to be different, but we shouldn’t be bashful about standardised testing either. Standardised testing is a way to eliminate teacher bias and fraud and give everybody the same chance to get good grades. Over-personalised systems can make grades too arbitrary and open to abuse and parental intimidation of teachers, which is also detrimental.
    We should be rational and success-oriented.

  12. avatar

    Uh… i think so, but i can”t say why, since the subject is too complex for me( no studies or experience).

  13. avatar

    No, go back to basics, history, math, science, languages, etc.. Leave politics and cultural Marxism out of our schools.

  14. avatar

    in Spain, of course, the educational model must be changed, it is a political model, according to the political party in the government

  15. avatar
    catherine benning

    Do we need a new education model?

    Education is not indoctrination. Free thinking is the spin off of broad and satisfying information, not robotic thought, unable to function without reprogramming.

  16. avatar

    We absolutely need a new education model! It’s obvious that the modern generation is not interested in learning and that has to change as soon as possible! That’s the only way to progress.

  17. avatar
    Susan Thai

    It is important to discuss education technology in this era as it will help the whole world to grow and to come out of poverty. Education is the only tool. Great Article.

  18. avatar

    At times, depression is killing. Not everyone knows that and they feel its not real. Thanks for such a beautiful article. Read it about depression here

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