How much of learning is remembered after graduation

How much of university learning is remembered after graduation?

The writer, Abdulhussein Tejani (Dubai, UAE) is a Change Architect in Leadership and HR and has been involved in many capacities in the community and through pro bono work with youths.

How much of university learning is remembered after graduation? Research shows that content is barely remembered but what stays in our mind is the softer skills one gains at university. So why then do we encourage our kids to attend a formal setup like the university.

2019 was the year that was called the year of data doubling whereby the amount of technical information started to double based on advances and extensive research. This trend is one that will continue to grow at a similar pace if not faster. This means that a student approaching a technical degree will probably have what they learnt in the first year being outdated by the time they start year three. This is scary.

Based on the pace of change in the educational systems around the world, the level of dissatisfaction from the corporate world with the state of readiness of graduates is at an all time low and growing. Some of the well-respected companies are actually looking for young talents who have not attended formal universities.

So why are we stuck on wanting our kids to be graduates and the corporate world is not interested in graduates. Are we working at cross purposes?

Unfortunately, whatever system we work with, the key to success lies in the age-old quadruple relationship between the educational institution, the corporate world, the parents and the learner. This has been eroding at the edges towards the core.  Parents seem to have given full responsibility to the educational institutions for their children. These institutions unfortunately are used to following a formulaic approach to education whereby a one approach fits all.

Post-modernist approach

However, with the Post-Modernist approach, there seems to be an approach towards personalizing education that is more learner centric. It is definitely a step in the right direction. Based on an approach that is hovers around a person’s strengths is something that has been postulated a while back by Marcus Buckingham in his book – Now Discover Your Strengths. His assertion that when one is working with one’s strengths, one’s motivational levels go up and if we recruit for strengths within teams, it becomes a robust team that feeds of each other’s’ strengths. Thus, this approach is one that has merit.

The challenge, though once again, with this as an approach however requires the corporate world to embrace it. Unfortunately, the majority of organizations out there have yet to get on board with this. Nor are the educational institutions ready with either the teacher resources or the curriculum for this metamorphic change. The unfortunate part of educational systems is that there is a reliance on a body to develop an examination process to rank individuals. A ranking process coupled with an individualistic approach do not go hand in hand.

We are living in exceptional times preparing our children to work with technologies that have yet to be invented, to fact problems that we are yet to realize are problems in an environment we are yet to perceive. What was scary above pales in comparison to this!

How then can we cocoon our children to a system that breeds conformity versus boxless thinking, innovation and design thinking as well as infusion of Emotional and Adversial abilities that go beyond the stratospheric levels? This for me is the key question that needs answering!

If higher education systems do not destroy traditional assumptions about what constitutes value and reimagine the market of learning in the knowledge economy, the private sector or students themselves will. It is, after all, a huge market.

If there is something that is constant, it is Uncertainty. If the environment is continually changing, then we must focus on outcomes rather than products. In an unpredictable environment, the outcome is not predicable in terms of behaviours and actions. Outcomes need to be based on the core business and values of the enterprise.

Such organizational behaviours are not controlled, but risks are controlled. This allows individuals to act in ways that is best suited to the core values of the organization rather than to a role that has been assigned to them. Administrators must surrender control of their faculty’s behaviours.

This allows all employees to embrace change, while relying on the stability of foundational values. In this organizational setting, diversity operates as a window to see alternate views and as a system that invests in innovative paths. Rather than trying to minimizing mistakes, leaders in this organizational setting would expect and even welcome mistakes — knowing they will happen. They would think of mistakes as ways of looking at one’s own shortcomings and identifying systems that are required to successfully innovate in the organization.

We simplify our focus and make what we have learned in the past co-exist with the future — with where we are going.

It is only a matter of time in a demand-driven higher education economy until higher education institutions begin to compete with one another and students assume greater control of the marketplace — they will come to control the competitive exchange with academic market players. As institutions compete for the student market, as more private institutions (including corporations) are able to offer degrees, as employers are able to frame and reframe how and what they value in education, and as students begin increasingly to independently articulate and defend their own learning, the less control institutions of higher education will have on their primary currency: the academic credit.

Important questions:

One process that must be repeatedly performed, is to address three questions:

  • “Are the institution and its employees better off because of the decisions we have taken?
  • Are students better served by the decisions we have just made?
  • Have we enhanced the environment for teaching, learning, and research by what we have just done?”

Addressing these three questions and an application of the five principles moves the group away from the focus on individualism and toward communal goals. This might lead us to a more unified, dynamic and responsive academy.

Change is mercurial and cannot really be contained. Thus the time has come for us to adapt as opposed to meander, for the future is not ours but for those who will inherit from us.

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