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Why educational institutions need to change FAST? Challenging the existing status quo on how schools

Dr. Constantine “Dino” Kiritsis

SoFIA Board Member, Founder, StudySmart



I guess I am not the only person challenging and questioning the educational systems available globally. The more research I do, the more momentum seems to be building on this topic. Since 1999, I have been questioning the real value of the academic degree in the real world that is changing on a daily basis. A number of my articles actually focused on such issues as the one questioning the duration of the PhD degree in the 21st century based on the assumption that research and surveys can be conducted in seconds compared to the 20th century, thus limiting the time required to complete the degree. Furthermore, Peter Thiel’s book From Zero to Onealso questions the duration of each class session in school. Why should all classes last for an hour? Is this logical? Are all classes the same? Jeff Selingo (2016) also has questioned the duration of the bachelor’s degree. Why should it be four years? And why should it be four years for all degrees? This is a point that I have always raised during my talks on educational issues around the world, also comparing the American degree with the UK degree of three years. ‘More’ does not mean ‘better’. A chartered accountant in Greece some years ago required 30+ courses and eight years of experience while a CPA or an ACCA could complete the training requirements in four parts (CPA) or 14 papers (ACCA) with three years of experience + 2 after the completion of the course. We should never judge merely through quantity in such cases and blanket policies are not necessarily right. They do save time and make things easier though.


Focus on the duration of a PhD

Recently, I did some research about the history of the PhD or ‘Doctorate’ only to verify my initial assumption that its duration most probably needs to change. The Doctorate degree has been around since the mediaeval ages and about 100+ years in a form close to its current structure. It is logical to assume that a PhD candidate once required 3–5 years minimum to research a topic area, review the literature collect and scrutinize all the data.

In the era of the Internet and the capabilities and tools available for analysis, it is logical to assume that the structure may need to change, not necessarily drastically but at least in those areas related to the time required to research a certain topic area and in specific disciplines where this is possible. Spending let’s say five years on a topic may be good in the sense of testing the evidence, but this evidence, up until the mid-1990s required a considerable amount of time to collect—let alone find a way to make it presentable—and test efficiently.

The fact is that the corporate world is moving faster than ever and changing dramatically, especially due to the automation of jobs, but schools and universities are actually stable. Stability is not as ‘good’ as it once was. In an era of change, we need to embrace change. Schools and universities do not seem to understand this.

Research studies by a number of consulting firms (i.e. McKinsey, 2014) have suggested that employers feel that graduates are not as equipped as they need to be before they land their first job. So let’s think of this:

We go to schools that are organized in the industrial era to graduate through standardized tests (i.e. in the USA) or through a system where only the last exam counts without taking into consideration previous performance to enter college for three or four years, which is—in many cases—out of date, to teach us ‘knowledge’ (not ‘competencies’) to eventually graduate and enter the job market with limited or no practical experience and work in an era where automation is ‘killing’ a great percentage of jobs that we thought would be ‘there’ for us.

Interesting, isn’t it? Parents and college students should be aware of these issues as the system does not seem to be working if one checks stats on graduate employment globally. It takes many graduates a number of years to actually enter the job market, even with a master’s degree. How can we confront these challenges?

Change is happening fast, technology is disrupting everything, and we need to be able to assess, evaluate and predict. The problem is that we are asking the wrong people. If you want to know about the job market, ask consultants and seasoned—market-focused—counsellors. If you want to think about which area to study, ask the people who work in that area, not the school or college. Go and ask someone who is doing what you want to do, not the person or people who are not even working (or have worked in many cases) in that industry. Make the best out of your time at school and during college to gain competencies and skills. Internships do play an important role. Soft skills development also does. With a plethora of courses and trainings offered online for free, make the best out of your time in everything you do.

In an era of disruption, it may be a good idea to challenge traditional models that were created based on the parameters existing 100+ years ago. Almost every industry has been disrupted, and it seems to me that the most traditional industry resistant to change may be the educational establishments themselves.

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