The world around is evolving more and more each day. When we only could dream of a smart phone 10 years ago, at the moment we already have smart glasses and watches. But while almost everything around us evolves because of the rapid development of new technology, the further development of the educational system has almost completely stopped.
For the past decades the educational system centered everything around the idea that students can only learn when they go to the university and follow a pre-defined program. When I went to high school I had some choice within my educational program, but that limited itself to a choice between 4 pre-defined programs into only two directions.
What if we give new students the choice what they want to do, right from the start and let them design their own study completely? Would they be worse off if they did not follow the beyond basic mathematics if they will never use it? I do not think the very young students shouldn’t get any mandatory basic courses like mathematics, language and history, but do they need to follow those courses for more than 10 years?
Some companies do not care any longer which kind of study their employee did in the past, they only care about the fact that their employee has a masters (or bachelors) diploma. When the employee has proven that he is intelligent enough to get that specific diploma, they know they can teach him everything he needs to know to do his job. Those companies need people with specific skills which is only 10% of what they do in their current studies.
What if students can choose exactly which specific courses they want to follow, at the start of each year? For example Paul would pick different courses from an online library. Moreover he does more courses a year than he would do in the old system and this time the courses are not limited to what his study offers. Consequently, universities need to work together to create a library of online courses, but it is not unthinkable. With the introduction of Coursera students can already follow university level courses for free using the online platform. Universities use this system to promote themselves all around the world and the teacher gets more time for one on one contact in stead of only giving lectures.
It may happen that Paul picks courses which cannot ever be combined or which are combined totally worthless. Paul will then still have proven that he can handle a masters level of education and continue his study more aimed at what a company want or he can start searching for a job that does not think inside the boxes created by the old system.
In some sense universities will get useless when you implement this system all over the world, but there is still one strong advantage to studying at a university: Social development. Students develop themselves greatly when it comes to the social parts of life during their studying years. For the first time they get to life away from their parents, they join a new sports team and are forces to interact with people who they did not know before. People really evolve during their student life and become a better person because of it.
The education provided by universities just does not fit the current time anymore. The universities should provide a home for self studie and above all student guidance. Asking the students why they choose the courses they will motivate them even more than to just let them solve it all on their own. Teacher can focus more on their research and can give a course all year long by just keeping it up-to-date on the internet in stead of having to give the same lecture every year for over three years. The teachers will be available for the students for direct contact and guidance during working hours.
If this is going to happen on large scale in the coming couple of years, I don’t think so. But it may happen on a smaller scale. There are enough companies that will hire people based on their portfolio and skill set in stead of on their finished study. Students from these new schools will hopefully show the bigger and older universities that it can be possible to change the educational system and give the students the freedom to learn whatever they want and especially whatever they find useful themselves.