What is the future of education?

imagesEverything around us is evolving through technology and the world we are living in will look very different in ten years, the same will hold true for education.  So what is the future of education?

Decades ago our public school system was one of the best.  People went to college with hopes that the degree would be the key in getting the right job and perhaps making more money than their parents did.  Much has changed.  Our public school system is far from nimble.  There are layers and layers of costs that take away from the cost of actually educating a student.  Many teachers are far from innovative and are tenured so we are stuck with them until they retire.  I never was a fan of the charter school system as I thought we should fix the system we have but the reality is I know better.  The only way to fix something inside is to start outside.  New Orleans is a perfect example of what happens when an entire education system is completely wiped away and starts from scratch with charter schools that are funded by the state, it works.   They are actually educating kids in New Orleans without the layers of corruption and money spent poorly.  They are also being innovative in how they teach kids of this generation.

The cost of a college education is exorbitant.  The debt that has been taken on by individual students is just waiting to come back and bite us all in the ass.  The lenders have used those college loans as an opportunity to make money.  We should allow students to take out loans and charge them interest rates that are based on the annual inflation rate and cap them if it gets over 5%.  Getting out of school and getting an entry level job ( that is if you can get a job in your field of choice ) and pay the type of monthly bills back to the lender is strangling most graduates ability to function on their income.  That is not a good thing.

Will more kids graduate from high school and go to a two year program that is geared towards their field of choice such as being an electrician, being a plumber, being a mechanic, being a program entry person.  Vocational schools can be a really great place for the right person and doesn’t leave you laden in debt.

More people will take classes online and there will be a time when you can get your degree through a MOOC.   That is a very good thing for the global world because many of the students online don’t necessarily have access or the cash to go to a place for high learning.

How about the top schools in this country vs the schools that are not in the top 25?  My guess is that the top schools will always have people that want to go to them but I do believe that they will all have to become more innovative in how they are run.

Will people will want to get a history degree with a minor in some abstract field?  If they are taking out a loan that they have to pay back my gut is the answer is no.  They will want something more practical.   Having more professors be collaborative in their teachings with professors from other areas might make a difference.  After all one of the most amazing things about a liberal arts education is expanding your mind to think differently.     Seeing a Computer Science professor collaborate and teach a class with an English teacher around tech and content could be one example.  Teachers can only be innovative when tenure is taken out of the equation.  They are forced to do research, write papers and publish books that are read by few people but are just the standard process of what it means to be a tenured professor.  What if professors were just reviewed annually based on innovation, thinking out of the box, getting kids excited and not publishing a damn thing.  IMHO tenure should go.  It would change everything.

What if every college got rid of single sex fraternities? Based on what is coming out from under the rug on many college campuses across the country it seems like we are going down that path.  It would create more inclusion between both genders who could live under one roof.  This generation is the perfect generation to push for that change.  They feel more empowered to say things, they are more collaborative with each other and they are well aware of the world that we live in and how hard it is to chart your course outside of college.  It is important for a student to think about what goes on beyond the university.

This conversation can continue on and on but it is time for a major change in education.  I’d like to see one major educational institution take a bold stand and stop tenure, rethink their curriculum, get rid of single sex organizations and be a leader.  While they are at it they should push to change the drinking age from 21 to 18.  If you are 18 you can vote and be drafted.  You are going to drink at 18 when you get to college so let’s make it legal so we can have open honest conversations and some rules and regulations on campuses about binge drinking.  Otherwise it will continue to create havoc on campuses across the country.

Education tends to move at a tortoise speed and the time is now to be bold and make some changes in education.

Comments (Archived):

  1. pointsnfigures

    Are you sure you don’t have a bug in my house? We are talking about similar things and have similar ideas. I love your idea on evaluating professors at colleges differently. Currently, most are evaluated on the quantity and quality of the research they publish. Shouldn’t different disciplines be evaluated differently? Or, shouldn’t professors be paid differently based on whether they are teaching or doing research, or by outcomes of students in some way?I have an idea of how to disrupt education, but getting the money together and putting it into practice is tremendously hard because of two reasons. First, we haven’t sold it correctly. Two, investors don’t want to solve that problem the way we want to solve it–they want software only. But that solution is too light. It’s throwing rocks at a tank.I’d also add that increasing costs of college education are also economic. More worldwide demand for American colleges with a fixed supply. More federal subsidy for the same education, and fixed supply. Tangible outcomes showing that lifetime income is higher for any college degree than simply going to high school has increased demand, with fixed supply.

    1. Gotham Gal

      why is it that teachers are the only working people who are covered for life once they get tenured? it is the same really with unions. you should have to be innovative and excited to continue to work in an academic arena.

      1. pointsnfigures

        Because they are govt employees. My father was a teacher. Has a great pension. No worries (except it’s totally underfunded in Illinois and probably insolvent). My father would have loved NOT to have been in a union and been paid based on merit, but he was a rare bird.Opportunity is also attracting a lower class of teachers. In years past, JK-12 was dominated by high achieving women–because they didn’t have opportunity in traditional private industry. Today, those women go work for private industry, and most teachers are second class students with education degrees, not math degrees or history degrees or science degrees.I did a look at how much teachers really make back in 2010. A U of C economist helped me with the net present value, and checked the numbers so I know they are correct. All my assumptions are clear-and anyone is welcome to disagree with them. http://pointsandfigures.com…Teaching is a low risk profession with a lifetime high net income.

        1. Gotham Gal

          So true. Life time no risk

        2. pixiedust8

          I hear over and over again that teachers are low achievers, and just want to point out that I don’t find that to be valid in my daughter’s school. Perhaps it is true (and I agree that teaching should be considered a top profession), but just sharing my anecdotal experience. Her teachers are really exceptional people, and she’s in a NYC public school.

          1. pointsnfigures

            I think you have to look at the macrodata, not just your own personal experience.

          2. pixiedust8

            While I’m not a believer in education degrees, per se, how are they being classified as “second class”?Also, why would anyone want to be a teacher nowdays? Not only are you in one of the professions that seems to have the largest number of crazy people trying to shoot you and your students, the job itself is not easy unless maybe you luck into a job in a high-property tax district.I’m sorry, but I’m sick of people sitting around criticizing teachers and doing nothing to change things and make the profession more attractive. From what I’ve seen, it’s not the teachers or even the teachers’ union. The bureaucracy within the DOE is astounding. I had NO IDEA until I had kids and got involved with the PTA.It’s easy to be an armchair quarterback.

          3. pointsnfigures

            They aren’t the strongest students. http://www.forbes.com/sites…Plenty of people go into teaching. Not only for the love of it, but because it’s a stable job, with regular hours, and you don’t work 12 mos a year.From all my experiences with education it is the teachers union, and the DOE and the bureaucracy. I think that’s the point of the post. A hierarchy that is ripe for change and can be toppled.

          4. Susan Rubinsky

            Also, teachers in the United States have low IQs compared with other professions. In the US, teacher IQ is an average of 108 and ranks 21st after many other professions – http://anepigone.blogspot.c

          5. pixiedust8

            I’m not sure I see your point. They rank above electrical engineers and 21st place isn’t bad, given you ranked 106 professions. That said, I put more faith in hard work than a high IQ (and I have a high IQ myself).

          6. Susan Rubinsky

            108 is rather low. My son is over 20 points higher than that. He comes home from school frustrated all the time because his ideas and thought processes are misunderstood by many teachers. And I can totally relate. I used to come home from school feeling the same way when I was a kid. (My IQ is over 30 points higher than that of the average teacher, but I didn’t know that until I was well into adulthood.)For example, I actually thought I was stupid in math in elementary school because I would create my own ways to solve problems and I was continually told year after year by teachers that I was wrong. When I would show my teachers my process, they didn’t understand what I was doing even though I would get the right answer. This kind of thing happened to me in many areas of study and I didn’t have a teacher who understood that I was actually smart until I was in sixth grade. (By the way, Common Core actually teaches math in a way that embraces creative problem solving — I sooooo wish that was in place when I was a kid).I find that when I go to parent teacher night at my son’s school, I am appalled at how dumb some of the teachers are. I work with my son every day for creating strategies for dealing with dumb teachers. That’s kind of sad.

          7. pixiedust8

            100 is usually considered the average IQ. 108, 109 and 110 are the borderline for “high average,” depending on the scale used, so no, 108 is not “rather low.” But I’ll just reiterate that I have more faith in hard work (given average intelligence) than in IQ. Emotional intelligence is also crucial to success.

          8. pixiedust8

            I just think the teachers themselves are blamed for a lot of things that beyond their control. I also see (now that I’m very involved with an elementary/middle school) that teachers and administration have to make up for uninvolved parents. (Don’t get me wrong–there are lots of involved parents, but there are more that aren’t, although the reasons for that vary.) But parents, as long as they aren’t actually abusive, get a pass even if they don’t do their part. The administration at our school has to deal with a small population that brings a lot of outside issues into school. I can’t imagine what it’s like at a school where the majority of the population is dealing with hunger, bullying, neglect, etc.

          9. Gotham Gal

            there are so many amazing teachers. i just don’t believe in tenure.

      2. Andrew Kennedy

        pointsnfigures Gotham Gal Great post. As JLM would say, “I agree with you more than you agree with yourself.” my mother graduated from UVA in ’71 (first female graduating class @ UVA — she got a masters in education). I graduated from UVa in ’04 and was in a fraternity. A few points below:– The effects of tenure continue to play out and the negative impact it is having can not be understated. It’s cancer for innovative thinking.– FNMA, Freddie & Sallie Mae were brilliant ideas to foster liquidity in critical lending markets at the time (they gave birth to the ‘american dream’), but too much of a good thing for too long reeks complete havoc. Let the markets do their thing ie unlock formal education from it’s restrictive and cost prohibitive structure that frankly doesn’t get the job done in the 21st century / internet era.– As for the solution… higher education needs to be restructured by alumni purse strings. As you mention “The only way to fix something inside is to start outside.” #bingo. Alums are the only group with a vested interest (students have no influence as they are paying to be there) and what they need is an incentive to contribute small $s in a targeted fashion that helps to strip out the fat over time.”SchoolCoin” has a catchy ring to it.. money can’t be used for administrators, libraries, tenure etc etc…

        1. Andrew Kennedy

          @pointsnfigures:disqus not sure if my above response cc’d you or not.

          1. pointsnfigures

            that’s an interesting idea about a school coin combined with block chain, loans would surely be repaid…

      3. Lisa Abeyta

        I wish we’d never tied public school teachers’ salary to test scores or good professors’ rewards to tenure; it absolutely kills creativity and motivation – even for the good ones.

      4. Mark Gavagan

        An argument for tenure is that otherwise, schools would lay off the most expensive (experienced) teachers and hire the cheapest replacements.An idea that might counter this for k-12 public schools is that if a district lays off or fires a $90k teacher and hires a $50k replacement, the $40k salary difference is deducted from the district’s state aid until the longer of 5 years or the duration until what would’ve been the replaced teacher’s typical retirement date.This would remove the financial incentive to replace experienced with inexperienced teachers.

        1. Gotham Gal

          Inexperienced become experienced overtime.

          1. Mark Gavagan

            You’re right, though the best teachers probably do have 3-10 years of experience (enough to be great, not so much as to be exhausted or disillusioned).My suggestion above is a way to address teachers’ concerns about eliminating tenure.

          2. Gotham Gal

            It would take time to eliminate. It would be for the next generation.

        2. Susan Rubinsky

          There’s a rather interesting program here in Connecticut where people who have had careers in other professions can do a one year program to become a teacher. My son had a high school Honors Chemistry teacher two years ago who had a PhD from Duke and who had worked in the Pharmaceutical industry. The guy had retired from his job in Pharma and did the one year state program to become certified. The teacher was fantastic!

          1. Mark Gavagan

            @susanrubinsky:disqus, That’s an interesting idea. Those with great communication skills AND meaningful in-the-trenches experience are probably great at teaching.

      5. Susan Rubinsky

        there was a great study put out by Brookings Institute a few months back about the teaching profession. The study indicated that public school systems loose the top 25% most effective teachers to other, mainly private sector professions. The highest rate of retention is for the lowest performing 25%. The study did not go into great depth on the WHY behind this fact but I would guess the following:1.) The best teachers leave for private industry because the private system VALUES them more. This could be through compensation and recognition of value through other means such as promotions, leadership roles, etc. Until we get a system in place in the public sector that values the top performers, the top performers will always leave.2.) Top performers do not want to work primarily with low performers. Until the system changes to get rid of the low performers (the lowest 25%) and to help the middle tier people improve, the top performers will leave.Just my 2 cents.As a parent of an 18 year old high school student who has sampled almost every educational offering (magnet school, charter school, private school, regular public school), I can tell you that the charter schools have the best, top performing teachers and staff over all. Every single teacher in my son’s middle school was exceptional. And almost of them, ironically, came from the ivy leagues. There was no union or tenure, but each teacher was compensated at a level higher than the teachers in the regular public schools.

    2. Brandon Burns

      “investors don’t want to solve that problem the way we want to solve it–they want software only”I was a bit disappointed when Skillshare went web-only. There was something really magical about meeting in person for those classes.I get why they made that decision. And while it may not be entirely investor driven, I’m sure it was at least somewhat investor driven. There’s no way it wasn’t.Skillshare is not representative of the education world as a whole, but this example is happening everywhere.Learning is a personal experience. It can be done in an impersonal way, but it can be done better with human-to-human contact. I don’t think anyone would really disagree here.But where folks will disagree is on the costs and earnings potential of such a school. But why? At the end of the day, the classes cost a price and Skillshare takes a cut. Moving the model offline to online does little to nothing to change that.However, what an online-only school gives you is a faster (potential) route to scale. One class can have 100k students. We all know this isn’t the best way to learn, but it sure sounds like a great way to make money.But who’s to say human-to-human education can’t scale, eventually, to the same profitable size? Just a bit slower?Some of the most bogus arguments I hear from investors all the time basically amounts to “manual labor = no scalability.””Wait, you’ve got to take photos of apartments on behalf of the listers? Nope, no money for you. That can’t scale.” — what almost every VC told a seed-stage AirBnB. And what almost every investor says to anyone in a similar position today. The lesson has not been learned yet.In fact, it only trickles down to more dumb decisions.Almost no VC will invest in consultancies, agencies, production houses, or anything else where the major revenue driver is billable hours — basically nothing where people, not code, have to do the job.Nevermind that McKinsey had almost $8bn in revenue last year. WPP, the largest marketing services company, has a market cap of $30bn. Low margin business that rely almost entirely upon manpower sit atop the list of the largest companies out there.So, bringing it back to education, remind me: what’s the investor excuse for not backing businesses that require more human labor? Like schools with human teachers?

      1. pointsnfigures

        you can always use http://www.dabble.co, heh. And I like your points. One fear is regulation. But I don’t think a startup should ask permission.

        1. Brandon Burns

          That reminds me, I was supposed to connect you to Nihal at Coursehorse. But that was almost a year ago when I last saw you / talked about it. Whoops!Lemme know if its still relevant.

          1. Gotham Gal


  2. TanyaMonteiro

    I remember meeting with engineering professors when we are hiring in 99, I was astonished to discover that a few of the US professors hired their students straight out of class, they ran their own businesses and lectured. I’d hired in a variety of Grand Ecole Universities in France and never came across the same examples there.Read this quote the other day “children are 25% of our population today, but they are 100% of our future.Sir Ken Robinson’s TED always comes to mind when talking about education,http://youtu.be/iG9CE55wbtY

    1. Gotham Gal

      That is an excellent quote

  3. Lisa Abeyta

    You are singing my song – I have come to the conclusion that nothing has hurt our public school system quite so much as thinking we could measure success by standardized testing, and nothing has hurt our colleges quite so much as tenured professors who actually want the job of academic researcher instead of teacher. And for those who don’t fit in the right box, school is not only doesn’t work, it makes things worse.One shining example of what does work is the FSAE program at the University of New Mexico – the only place in the U.S. where this program is part of the undergrad Mechanical Engineering major instead of a club or higher level degree. Students work together to design and produce a Formula 1 race car and then compete with other programs across the world. My older son spent a year there as a sophomore in high school designing a computer program that could help the students test the viability of their designs and will enter the program next year to build his own car. http://www.dailylobo.com/ar

    1. Susan Rubinsky

      A lot of PolyTech universities in the U.S. have similar hands-on programs. Places like Carnegie Mellon, NYU Polytech, and Penn State are examples. However, competition is high and we need a LOT MORE of these programs.

  4. lisa hickey

    This is a great post. I get so excited when I see people talking about education reform in innovative yet simple ways. Your ideas aren’t that difficult to implement or execute, it’s only the resistance that has to be overcome. But they would create real change. That’s why more people talking about these types of ideas is so important. Let’s make the conversation about education reform sexy and exciting and have it take hold in popular culture. The fact that so many people are coming to your blog saying “you read my mind” is encouraging. The time is right to create a sea of change.Here a few more thoughts:– Regarding the top 25 schools. I’d love to see them collaborate, team up together to solve some of the important social problems of our day. Learn to share. Share their resources, their knowledge, what they know about teaching and learning. I mean, look at what happened the last time colleges and universities decided to share. They invented the internet.– The idea of more 2-year trade schools is interesting. But why just trades? Why not any sort of 2-year “practical application” schools? What can you learn in two years that will give you practical skills for a job? What about computer science or software development or coding or statistical analysis or practical work in the healthcare? What would “practical history” look like? Look at where the jobs of today/tomorrow are and what are the skills needed for those jobs and build 2-year, super-intense programs training people for those jobs. Similarly, you could make it easier for students to take the four years of college in two chunks, so they could work in between. Get one degree in 2 years, and then go back for a second degree later, when they have a job or experience or can better pay for it. Four years was was always arbitrary anyway—and I’d bet students today learn way more in four years than a generation ago. We have to find ways for more people to get the education they need to survive in today’s world without destroying their lives with debt.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Totally agree on expanding the two year degree. That’s innovative

    2. Susan Rubinsky

      Love the two year split idea. Very interesting.

  5. Brandon Burns

    Schools are getting more and more expensive, but the money isn’t going directly to education costs. Therein lies the crux of the issue.For example, this weekend there was a long and passionate thread on my Facebook newsfeed about my high school’s tuition. When I graduated in 2001, it was $7500. Today its $15k. It’s projected to be $22k by year 2020.Most of the conversation was around the school’s endowment, liquid assets, and how they both play into diversity vs. real estate.The financial aid money comes from the endowment. Outstandingly, 80% of it is earmarked for financial aid, and 20% of total tuition “revenue” is covered by scholarships.However, liquid assets are dwindling. It is agreed that this is mostly due to the school’s investment in real estate in its area of town. The investments have been made to “secure a healthy long term future” but now, with the liquid asset pot low, the administration is trying to figure out how its going to keep that financial future secure.But what does that even mean, in practice? There’s going to be a big meeting about it, with the larger school community all invited to partake. But what is there really to talk about? What’s more important that continuing the financial support for underprivileged kids, which 80% of the endowment currently does?Well, some folks think buying land is of at least equal importance. My high school, along with the University of Illinois, has purchased most of the land within a 1 mile radius, just west of downtown Chicago. Historic land (the Great Chicago Fire was started one block over, Jane Addams founded Hull House 2 blocks north, etc.), that turned into one of the worst ghettos in the country, and is now revitalized due to the investment by both schools. It makes more people want to go to both the high school and the university, brings better housing options to he area, more upwardly mobile residents, and creates a “better” environment in general.This is a nationwide trend, and it has its benefits — just look at NYU Poly and the revitalization of downtown Brooklyn.But what is this educational land grab trend doing for *education* itself? Is it making it better? Is it really setting these schools up to be better educators? Or is it just making them larger “non-profit” businesses?

    1. Gotham Gal

      great comments. we are definitely spending a ridiculous amount of money on non-education expenses.

  6. pixiedust8

    I agree with you on everything. Also, for the good of society, we need people who do “impractical” things like think about philosophy and poetry, and the current college system is not encouraging those people. College is WAY too expensive, and I think degrees for people who will do “social good” jobs–like social work and teaching–should be less expensive. Who is going to major in social work if they will be paid 20k for a tough first job with 100k in debt? It’s ridiculous. It astonishes me how this country ignores huge tuition hikes, and in other countries, people are staging walk-outs over $100 hikes. (We’re clearly the dumb ones!)

    1. Susan Rubinsky

      Yeah! Pell grants in the United States are capped at just a little more than $5K right now. Here in Connecticut, the cost to go to UCONN, including room & board and fees is a little more than $23K. So a student from a low income family would have to take out $15K in loans each year. That’s crazy.

  7. Sandi Lin

    One theory behind tenure is academic freedom – that professors should be able to teach and research freely without political pressures or fear of losing their jobs. For example, exploring topics like stem cells that are risky and controversial. But tenure has gone too far (esp. in K-12) and contributes to rising educational costs and inability to fire poor performers.Another idea – what if the federal interest rate on educational loans was on a sliding scale based on job shortages in the economy? E.g. 0% for computer science majors and nurses, but 20% for underwater basket weaving.

    1. Susan Rubinsky

      I don;t know that I agree with this. Someone made a point earlier about culture needing philosophers, poets and artists. I would agree. Also, when I worked in tech, my best hires were not business majors but liberal arts majors like History or English. These people could think, analyze, synthesize and write. It was easy to teach them the biz stuff.

  8. AG

    Education and tech still puzzles me, but only where folks start arguing that online education will eventually replace colleges and grad school. Let’s be honest, education is so little of what college and, say, business school is about. It’s about growing, maturing, making friends, developing networks, etc. And even where education is concerned, how many young people are self-motivated enough to teach themselves the subjects they need to learn at home? Not that many, I’d imagine. So I’m stuck in this regard. Re tenure and the public school system…it’s outrageous. And it’s criminal that we have not made it stop yet. I just learned today that the dropout rate of high school students in philly is >50%. Staggering.

    1. Susan Rubinsky

      I totally agree about college being about being there. I know my son, who is going to college next year, needs t be in a hands-on environment where he’s collaborating with people.

  9. Sofia Papastamelos

    Lots of great points! I think at the very least many of these liberal arts schools need to reevaluate how they look to provide a “well-rounded education”. As a recent grad I see many of my friends struggling to apply their education to a career right out of college. They have spent a few years being scholars with their professors (researching, writing, etc) and don’t have a clear realization of their many skills and how to apply them. They get hung up on their major as opposed to the skills they’ve acquired and how to market them in the workforce. Many don’t really know how to not be in school and end up sinking more into debt from grad school.I actually do think that it’s beneficial, no matter what your path, to learn about history, philosophy, arts, etc but also think that we can incorporate a practical career skills element into the classroom (I like your example of English class + digital content creation). Maybe it’s partially the student’s fault for not choosing a more practical field of study, but I think with a little innovation universities can allow one to pursue the humanities while still proving practical value. Let’s make the few years you are there worth the money.