Key Global Evidence: Education Design
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Education Design addresses shortfalls in the design of present worldwide education systems. It looks at how the construction of these education systems can be refocused to help potential employees better meet the demands of the market and employers.
Improving The Quality And Relevance Of Programmes
All of the training and education markets we studied are vibrant but the quality and relevance of what the market delivers is inconsistent. It is vital, therefore, that we raise the quality of education programmes - in particular, the relevance of course content.
Employers are increasingly sceptical of qualifications that teach individuals to do a specific job. The current pace of industry change means some programmes are out of date before a student has completed a course. There are also cases where training in new specialist areas is not actually available through public institutions. The Managing Director of a successful animation studio in Mumbai told us, for example, that there are no publicly funded courses that he can recruit from at the moment. In some areas, therefore, the education system is playing catch-up.
The quality and relevance of programmes will only improve if there are structures to facilitate industry and business involvement in the design of curricula.
Programmes Are Not Interconnected
As training and education markets become more fragmented and deregulated, their programmes become increasingly unrelated to one another, not just between countries but within specific countries and even certain sectors. There is also a trend towards businesses 'going it alone' because they feel the education system is failing them. This can increase the sense of disconnection even further.
The isolated design of qualifications creates problems. Individuals may find themselves learning the same thing more than once, wasting their own money or that of an employer. They may also find it difficult to plan their own professional development due to a fragmented educational landscape.
We Are Not Teaching People Sufficiently How To Learn
An employee's ability to learn is highly prized by employers. However, evidence shows that this attribute is often overlooked. It is also difficult to teach and impossible to quantify.
If an individual lacks the facility or attitude to learn, there is only so much additional education and training can achieve. As globalisation generates opportunities for talented individuals, a demonstrable ability to learn equates with adaptability - another commonly valued quality.
How you teach people to learn and how you then assess their ability to learn are issues that need addressing urgently.
Transferable Qualities Need To Be Taught More Effectively
The role of these 'personal qualities' now and in the future, dominated discussions in every country. Some of the key comments are listed below.
- Language: The terms used when speaking about personal qualities must be addressed. There is no unified definition of what we mean by soft skills - particularly in a global context. Some people referred to employability skills and others talked about 'job-ready' skills.
- Skills mix: The combination of personal skills that are needed is wide and varied and yet they form the basis of valued qualities for employees.
- Qualities: Essential qualities include the enthusiasm and capacity to learn, a positive and progressive attitude and a sense of responsibility. There are also more traditional 'soft skills' like communication, leadership and team working.
- Teaching: One of the biggest challenges concerns the complexities of teaching and assessing these personal qualities. There is debate as to whether certain skills can be taught or whether they should actually be considered as a skill (for example, 'attitude' or 'respect'). The design and delivery of professional education programmes must reflect the need to address significant gaps in developing these qualities. We need a better understanding of the way people learn them. We must also consider more effective mechanisms for measuring the breadth and quality of an individual's personal qualities.
- Attitude: Employers generally rank attitude as a key factor when recruiting and developing staff.
A Focus On Behaviours And Attitudes
Employers in every country complained about young people leaving education without a fundamental awareness of how they should behave in the workplace. They also stressed how important a positive attitude was in developing effective, productive employees.
- Expectation: There are some clear differences between countries. In the UK and India, candidates have high expectations of what a job should deliver (personally, financially and in terms of career), even though they cannot always match this with personal skill or experience. In South Africa and Brazil, expectations of entry-level positions are much lower. For employers in China, loyalty and commitment are key considerations.
- Achievement:Many new entrants into the job market feel they have achieved enough simply by securing a job. They are not motivated to work hard or to progress further in terms of developing their skill and expertise.
- Understanding:Understanding of what constitutes a 'good attitude' differs significantly between employers and (potential) employees. Common standards may need to be agreed as well as ways of communicating these qualities better to those entering work.
- Responsibility: Society (families, schools, communities) must take equal responsibility for fostering more appropriate and realistic attitudes among those at the beginning of their careers.
A Need To Improve Basic Education In Schools
The quality of primary and secondary education is vitally important wherever you are in the world. But candidates must already have a grounding in basic skills if further or higher education is to be effective in training work-ready individuals.
The provision and quality of basic education in the developing world is a particular challenge. It is easy to forget that any of the world's fastest growing economies are still facing huge battles against poverty which poses enormous challenges for the provision of education. The rewards of economic prosperity are already inspiring huge investment in basic education and, while it is important to sustain and increase this investment for social reasons, the long-term impact on the quality and size of the workforce will also be profound.
A Need To Transform University Education
Divisions remain between academic and professional education; such distinctions are increasingly unhelpful and often misleading.
Many universities now teach what may be considered vocational degrees. They also continue to provide the majority of entrants into traditional professions like medicine and law. The quality and content of these courses still need to be transformed in the same way as those taught in more vocational institutions. It is recommended that all diplomas and degree courses should incorporate the development of transferable qualities.