Education in the twenty first century
Figure A is a graphical representation of how we tend to see our lives: you’re born, you get educated for so many years (when you’re ready), you work for so many years, then you retire and someday move on. This was true for most of human history where we each learned one thing and worked on that one thing until we died (retirement is a fairly new institution). However, this is rarely the case anymore; people change jobs and careers all the time, and new fields of study are constantly emerging as older ones become irrelevant. Figure B is much more like how our lives happen in our current age of accelerated change.
If that is the case, we need a new paradigm for education, one that matches our lives better. No clear separation of work and study but a system where the two are more intertwined throughout our lives, as shown in figure C.
I would also argue that the shift is already happening. More and more people are returning to graduate schools as a way to initiate career change. Graduate schools are increasing their offerings for certificate programs and continuing studies. Professors are getting more involved in workshops for companies and professional organizations. Nevertheless, most people still hold the mental model depicted in Figure A.
I’m not suggesting that the traditional model of higher education will suddenly go away, but there are some big implications for universities and educators going into the future. While the idea may seem somewhat outlandish now, once that change is fully engrained in society, it will look completely normal and obvious.