Jiva Technology

How we consume education

Education is all about school, right? And university? And maybe some professional education if I want to become a lawyer or an accountant. Or maybe some vocational educational if I’m a nurse or a plumber or a digital marketing maven? Once we’ve mastered the basics of reading and writing and some basic maths, it’s all about acquiring higher level skills. And there was a time when those skills had a proper shelf life, like a lifetime. How long do they last now? Even if I train as an accountant, will I need to be proficient in artificial intelligence in 20 years as the software robots take over the profession.

It used to be said (and maybe it still is) that one of the most important aspects of university was learning how to learn. As a narrative, that works well for the people who really love to learn (which generally correlates pretty closely to those who find it easy) but we need to think about the rest of us. What if you don’t love to learn, but you realise it’s an increasingly necessary evil. It sounds almost heretical to talk about education in that way, but perhaps we need to be just a little less uptight about acquiring skills, about getting an education.

Given that everyone seems to have little problem being a consumer and buying stuff, maybe it’s time for skills-acquisition to take the weary path down from its ivory tower and just let people consume education. ┬áSome universities are already heading in that direction, even if they won’t admit it. 3 years at uni: tick. Choice of accommodation to suit your budget: tick. Ready made student activities: tick. Okay, maybe I’m pushing things a little far, but you get the idea.

Britain needs people with the right skills more than ever. The market for jobs is actually a myriad of smaller markets with their own dynamics, some with shortages, some with massive over supply; some with good prospects, some with a dire outlook. It isn’t easy to shift between those markets, but if we apply what we know from mainstream marketing, we know that if we want people to consume we just make it easy to buy. Amazon have famously made it so easy to buy things without moving much more than your finger(s) that it’s turned them into a scary 1 trillion dollar behemoth. How many people have bought things on Amazon by mistake.

About the last thing that you’d say about education is that it’s easy to buy. After the formative experience of being forced to consume our basic education (its against the law not to), there is then almost no way to easily identify what to buy, let alone how to buy it. Sure, many of us all out of school and into university; I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the 50 years that current graduates will likely spend in the work force post-graduation. Want to become the aforementioned digital marketing maven? Where do I pick up the skills? How do we afford the time away from work without an indulgent employer?

These are serious issues, not only for individuals, but for society as a whole. As our economies shift with the advent of longer working lives, climate change and adoption of artificial intelligence, the need for flexibility in the workforce will become ever more important. Maybe it’s time to get our act together?


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