What Is Education During The Pandemic

Education can be hard to define with just few words or sentences. Layer on that the complexities, anxieties, and chaos created by the pandemic and defining education becomes a moving target. Reimagining education might be a good way to approach things. An interview with Fred Swaniker, co-founder of the African Leadership Academy and African Leadership University provides us with some viewpoints regarding what education can be. Let us evaluate some of his positions:

“Instead of learning to memorize facts and figures, students need to ‘learn how to learn’ and how to solve problems.” Problem solving is what managers do in our professional lives. The support staff perform the day to day grind activities, while managers help resolve the problems that arise (in addition to managing people of course). Not only is the world is constantly evolving, but the associated rate of change is also increasing. Therefore, to prepare future next generations for success, students need an education that prepares them to problem solve in an uncertainty environment. This requires agility and adaptability. To succeed in learning these skills it requires more than just hard work. It requires a partial reorientation of education, transitioning from route learning via regurgitation to a pattern that encourages flexibility in solution finding and rewards those who can develop synergistic solutions.

“We should bring the working world into education a lot earlier and take education into the working world.” Mr Swankier has segmented education to two categories.

  • Type 1: “just in case education”. This is the current education methodology popularly embraced worldwide. It is that because we teach and learn many things on the probability that just in case that it may become relevant.
  • Type 2: “just in time education”, which consists of these three primary characteristics.
  • Education never stops. Learning is a lifelong process.
  • A portion of education focuses on learning how to learn and learning how to solve problems.
  • Learning comes in different forms and utilizes a variety of resources.

Our view is that a balance of specialized and general education is necessary. Specialization is critical to gaining expertise and thereafter utilizing that expertise to provide services for which you are paid. However, in a changing world, any specialist heeds to recognize that he current skills or even his profession may become outdated and therefore needs to be flexible and forward thinking in order to maintain his/her knowledge base and earning potential. Towards, this end Mr Swankier suggests that, “Education should be flexible rather than forcing you into a box”. That language may be a bit of overkill. There is a balancing act that requires peoples to specialize but continue learning so that they can evolve with the marketplace.

“Instead of giving people a menu of academic disciplines, we should give them a menu of problems and challenges that the world is facing”. This is an interesting view. Solving other people’s problems does indeed enable us to earn a living. Focusing on a [world] problem that you would like to solve and then aligning that with a technical discipline (finance, engineering, etc) potentially generate greater satisfaction and contentment in one’s career.

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