I have been writing for years about the direction that higher education has and is going. The focus of a higher-education degree is content. Despite the myriad of protests otherwise, thousands of Masters programs around the world will have classes that will have PowerPoint sessions on the last day of class with critical content that must be memorized in order to get a qualification.
Present day society has gone from an information scarcity world to an information abundant world in mere decades. And yet, higher education is still based on an information scarcity model.
A number of the biggest companies in the world no longer require formal qualifications and will now hire individuals with the right skills rather than university or college qualifications to fill their need for employees. Why? Because a formal qualification doesn’t tell you anything about what a person can do. Here are some of these companies: Apple, Google, EY (UK), Penguin Random House, Costco Wholesale, Whole Foods, Hilton, Publix, Apple, Starbucks, Nordstrom, Home Depot, IBM, Bank of America, Chipotle, Lowe’s.
The headline figure from the World Economic Forum’s “Future of Jobs” report as far back as 2016 shows that only 10% of the skills demand is related to content. So why content? Why are most higher education intuitions still focused on delivering content?
I developed a method for teaching higher-order thinking skills rather than content more than a decade ago. I have taught thousands of students single semester classes using this method with amazing results. The only problem is that a single semester only gives students a taste of higher-order thinking (abstract cognitive enablers). I have written about the method, talked about the method, and clearly demonstrated the effect of acquiring even minimal higher-order thinking skills and have been met with the same reaction over and over. Overwhelming enthusiasm from students and “who cares” from colleges and universities as institutions.
Well, it is finally changing. I have students who are paying, out of pocket, for the acquisition of abstract cognitive enablers. University students who are already paying for a degree and working long hours to memorize content for the qualification. University students who can see that they are learning no real skills that are needed for the world of tomorrow.
It is not surprising to me that these students are not located in North America or Western Europe. Years ago, I wrote that complacency and arrogance in the West would mean that these skills would be in demand somewhere else – the students in the West already learn all that they need to. So where are they located? In China. A place where competition for elite jobs in both the public and private sectors is ruthless (as if it isn’t everywhere) and the students are willing to do whatever it takes to gain an advantage.
Well, if what students in the West want is content, that’s what they’ll get. Content, Content, Content. Lots of content (not remembered) and empty qualifications obtained through the “Sit Down, Shut Up and Face The Front” followed by cramming and an exam model of education that higher-education currently subscribes to.
It’s unfortunate that hundreds of thousands of students enter higher education each year to get something that is becoming increasingly worthless, and with automation switching into high gear because of the pandemic, becoming worthless even faster.