So, how do we deliver student-centric, best-of-breed education? It’s a worthy goal and I think three things have to happen. Here they are … I’d love to hear what you think as well.
1) Develop the student passport – if education is invested in the student rather than the institution, we’ll need a way to track what students are doing over time. I think of it as a passport, in three different ways: 1) It’s kept by the individual rather than the institution. 2) It’s universally recognized. 3) It keeps track of all the individual’s educational experiences.
On the other hand, it’s probably not a physical booklet but rather an online system. The student is responsible for keeping it up to date and can choose to give access to it (or not) to educational institutions, potential employers, potential spouses, and so on.
2) Agree on the competency required – let’s say a student acquires a number of educational experiences and claims that the sum of those experiences is equivalent to an MBA. To decide whether the claim is accurate, we first need to have some agreement on what constitutes an MBA.
That may sound difficult to achieve but we’ve already made a lot of progress. Different schools may have different emphases but accrediting agencies have a sense of what the common competencies are. Indeed, we now have a vision of a Common Core Curriculum for public education in the United States – and that was certainly a politically fraught process. Deciding what competencies constitute an MA or and MBA or a Ph. D. should be simple by comparison.
Notice that I emphasize “competency” rather than “curriculum”. Schools today may teach the same curriculum but some teach it well and some teach it poorly. We get by with a rough-and-ready sense of the prestige of the institution granting the degree. For instance, we might value a degree from Stanford more than a degree from Princeton. But that’s a very slippery yardstick and a student-centric universe would value what’s in the student more than what’s in the institution.
3) Universal testing, certification, recognition – if we focus on competencies rather than curricula, we’ll also need some method to test and certify that a given student has a given competency. We already have this in professions like law, medicine, and architecture. In a student-centric world, we would extend the model to other disciplines and professions. Indeed, I’ve always wondered why we need to test and certify architects but not, say, captains of industry.
We already have a number of testing agencies at the national level. For instance, Educational Testing Services (ETS) administers admission exams such as the SAT and GRE in the United States. ETS seems to be well positioned to test other competencies the domestic market. I would argue, however, that the testing should be global rather than national. At the moment, I don’t see an institution that’s ready to take on a global role.
So there you have it. Just three small steps to flip the educational model and put the student at the center of the universe. Can we do it? Well, we’ve already done it with wine. More on that tomorrow.