This education expert and best-selling author says that schools must adapt to changes and focus on the experience they give to students.
Is it worth investing in your higher education? Expert Jeff Selingo believes it is. For him, education is as valuable as the planet’s natural resources. Consolidating an educational model is as important as the space race was. However, he says we need to transition towards flexible universities.
Selingo knows what he’s talking about. He’s been studying the topic for two decades. His books have appeared on The New York Times Best Seller list, he’s written for the Washington Post, and he’s a frequent contributor to The Atlantic. For him, the education of the future will seem like choosing a series or movie on Netflix. We’ll all see the same thing… but at a different pace.
“We stopped having a ‘TV schedule’ that required us to be at home at a certain time to watch a program. Now, we can watch it at any time. We can watch a single episode or binge-watch every episode. For me, this is very similar to the universities of the future. Are you going to stop your life just to show up on campus on a Tuesday at 3 p.m. to take a class? No. We should all have more flexibility,” he says in an interview with Tec Review during Tec de Monterrey’s International Conference on Educational Innovation (CIIE for its initials in Spanish).
However, in reality, universities aren’t ready to achieve this. Selingo believes that only a minority are prepared, but the pandemic presents a good opportunity to change how we learn and teach.
And centennials agree with him. According to a Harris Poll taken in 2018, 70% of millennials in the United States said that the most important thing about university was learning new things, but only 58% of Generation Z thought the same. In fact, 55% of centennials believe that YouTube has contributed −to some extent− to their education.
Should we invest more in higher education in a post-Covid world?
Yes, definitely. The need for higher education around the world is greater than ever. In many ways, education and higher education are going to be the next “natural resource.” Now, creating a higher education system is the equivalent of the space race 40 or 50 years ago. Just look at South Africa, at countries in Latin America, who are investing in higher education systems after Covid. I think it’s going to take a giant leap. There have also been many questions about equity during the pandemic.
We have this idea that we can’t leave a large part of the population behind. And we know that education is the key to social mobility, which is why these countries are investing in that.
Is it possible to have an education that isn’t linear? Can you stop studying and then carry on later?
I think that the value of education will be in things that are less episodic. You won’t have to stop what you’re doing to go to school. I compare it to streaming movies and TV series. We can watch and repeat them at any time. There’s much more flexibility. You and I can watch the same show, but in a different way. That will happen in higher education. We all need to have more flexibility.
Are the universities ready for this change?
No, not at all. Only a small minority of universities are ready for this. Higher education is something of a long tradition. It’s been around for a long time. This is more difficult for Mexico and other developed countries. There are universities that are older than the countries themselves. Harvard is older than the United States. As a result, it’s very difficult to change. But it’s like when cellphone technology overtook landlines. In some countries, there weren’t any landlines when cellphones arrived. This can happen to higher education: if they don’t have the system and they don’t have the infrastructure, they can build something from scratch.
Do you think that the state of the global economy, for example, the inflation that exists in the United States and in Latin America, will affect the number of people who sign up for higher education?
That could happen, but it’s too early to say. The cost of education remains stable. The price of universities is the same because it’s already very expensive.
But could the cost-of-living affect people’s decisions to stay at school?
It depends on the job market. If they can get a good job that pays them a lot of money… maybe they won’t want to go to college.
Can you aspire to have quality higher education that is free?
No. Higher education is labor intensive. It requires a lot of research and infrastructure. I don’t think it’s possible.
Even if the government contributes?
I think that the government can contribute. Part of the problem with education around the world is that it used to be a collaboration between institutions, government, and people. And that got out of balance in the past 40 years. Governments and institutions have withdrawn many of their contributions. That means that a lot of the burden ends up on the student and that –for me– is worrying.
I’m not a huge fan of it being “free,” but I am a fan of partnerships and everyone having a stake in the game. In the end, that ensures quality and everyone growing in the same direction. We run into problems when one person does more than everyone else, such as students or the government.