Thursday, 4 September 2014

is higher ed knowledge transmission or skill development?

Some recent articles about the future of higher ed appeared in the 2014 June 28 issue of The Economist. In a nutshell: academics will lose their jobs to MOOCs, MOOCs deliver low cost programs throughout the world, and the demand for higher ed is still there because of the lifetime earning power with a degree, though that has diminished in recent years.

Part of the problem with their analysis is that it seems to me that the authors still view education as transmission of knowledge rather than the development of learning skills. However, part of that perception is likely due to many classes in our universities being run with lectures dispensing knowledge to students rather than using class time to develop students' thinking, researching, and communication skills.

One of the things I found interesting, though, is their analysis that the lifetime earnings potential is markedly higher for graduate degrees than for undergraduate degrees - the earnings differential for undergraduate degrees has decreased over the last couple of decades but not so much for graduate degrees. Some will likely say that this simply reflects the fact that bachelor's degrees have become the new high school degree.

A great rebuttal to this issue of The Economist can be found at the Behind The Numbers blog. It discusses the dangers of linking education with profit. Public not-for-profit education is accountable only to the citizenry. In contrast, for-profit education may not have students best interests at heart but rather its investors. 

Higher Ed articles in The Economist, 2014 June 28 issue