What Should Be the Focus of Higher Education?
There has been an enormous uptick in story lines – in all media formats – which attempt to unravel the mysterious linkage between education and employment or “employability.” I’ve covered a lot of those stories in my blog and more appear daily. I think the stubborn global recession accounts for this, in part, because there is a re-thinking about the structure of curricular offerings in the developed higher ed systems, and a re-examination of the same in the developing world – all driven by the tremendous pressure created by high rates of un and under-employment (of graduates) throughout the world. These pressures surely stem from different causes, however, the fact remains that educators must squarely face the new realities of the marketplace.
This article’s headline infers the focus needs to be on skills: http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20130103154436919#comments
The attention of education policy-makers and the international education community is moving away from raising literacy levels and increasing access to secondary and higher education, towards skills required by the workforce to promote economic growth….Higher education experts say that universities are coming under increasing pressure to ensure that their graduates are ‘employable’, although preparation for ‘employability’ is still only rarely incorporated in university courses, and the skills that could make a difference in finding employment and ways to deliver those skills are still not evident.
New ideas are beginning to take shape such as the expansion of MOOCs and their potential to reach millions of people. In the U.S., new linkages between industry and universities and a resurgence in students undertaking practical work-based internships. The focus on employability most threatens traditional methods of delivering classroom content and the traditional aloofness of faculty as far as the linkage of their discipline to the marketplace (alas, I was a liberal arts major and it does hurt to say this).
I will continue to seek out and highlight innovative best practices when it comes to university-business partnerships and forms of collaboration which do make it more likely that students will receive BOTH a broadening of their intellectual horizons and a practical set of skills and competencies which make it more likely that they can begin to pay back their student loans in some reasonable period of time after graduation!