Should Learners Design Their Own Educational Futures?

Many people who are parents, professionals, business owners-large and small, teachers and students are beginning to voice their thoughts and feelings regarding the very question that headlines this article. Some are saying ‘yes’ and some are saying ‘no.’

My answer to this question is an enthusiastic “yes.” The following is “why.”

First of all there are the very basic thoughts about this question.  Of course there are many questions that will come from the question itself. Generally speaking some of the obvious ones are: Why shouldn’t they be able to decide what they want to do to earn a living when they grow into adults? Are learners mature enough to make these important decisions? Parents worry that junior will pick all the “easy” stuff and won’t be prepared to “do battle” upon graduation for those diminishing employment opportunities?  If I am willing to pay the cost of tuition and all the attached costs why shouldn’t I study what I feel adds interest and relevance to my life? There are many more but hopefully you get the gist of what I’m writing about.

There are concerns about education becoming too dependent upon technology to adequately educate our children and that we are moving much too fast. Learners still value contact and the connectedness they experience with human beings–mentors/coaches. If the learners aren’t getting what they need, they’ll slow down the use of technology.

For me my reasons speak to the need to grow the understanding that our learners need to be more competitive on the International stage. We need to demonstrate, more clearly, the need to address the long overdue changes identified with the current pedagogy. In 1962-Hall-Dennis suggested dramatic changes in how we educated our kids and not much was done to address those ideas. Now we are playing “catch-up” because many other countries who were struggling with global standards and ranking saw the need to change-did so-and now we are following their lead in many cases.

This is not a condemnation of our system. This is not a criticism of our teachers. This is, however, a comment on some of the decisions that were made years ago that have hampered our growth and our inability to change how we do things in education. The University of Toronto-a fine school by all accounts ranks 22nd Internationally tied with The National University of Singapore. U of T is the only Canadian School in the top 25. Oxford and Cambridge rank 1 & 2 Internationally. These are the 2018 rankings.

The point to this is we have to change the way we do business-the way we do education in this country and we need to start by letting the actual drivers of the system have a much greater say in how things are done–student satisfaction and success go a long way to changing the perception other countries have of us.

Here are my 5 reasons why learners should design their own educational futures:

  1. The most important driving force in education today is the learner. They are the ones who foster change in the system and we would be well served if we paid more attention to what it is they have to say. In a true sense the system is supposed to work for them and not the other way around. They would be the ones who regulate the overall content and the amount of influence technology would have on course design. They recognize the importance of the human factor in any learning environment.
  2. It’s a given that there still is some need for rote learning in a number of the courses the learners might choose. If we listen to the learners they will tell us (the system) how much is enough. It needs to be dropped as a practice but continued as a necessity for those professions that require it. It still can be a learning tool.
  3. Learners need to be able to select and study what they favour–what they are interested in doing when they grow up. They will never know what those interests might be if they are never exposed to the information and a hands-on opportunity to experience working in a particular field. We need to get over the idea that university is a 4 year  plan and that we know what’s best for them. If it takes 5 or 6 years to graduate then so be it. Kids learn at different speeds-It is too great a mistake for kids to be pushed through a course of study to graduation just because they changed their minds half way through a program. Better they have a chance to pursue something they are interested in than to work at something they dislike.
  4. In the future certifications will not hold much value. The true proof for a potential employee will be how well they do with on the job examinations testing for particular skills sets and how successful are they are with the competency based testing they are likely to experience. Kids need to select particular skill based programs that they will need to develop so they can be more successful. THEY are the ones that know what they need more than others. They should be able to choose what they need to be comfortable and more confident.
  5. Kids just learn better and faster when they choose to study and learn about topics that are of interest to them. The system needs to put together a study plan that includes these interests but also prepares them for the supporting education that helps them to succeed.

Anyways, that’s how I see things, All the best, Jim

Comments can find me at jim.lifechoice@gmail.com

(Disclaimer: Photo resources used in this article were used for Education, Research or Criticism purposes only. I derive no financial benefit from the use of this image.)

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