Saturday, July 04, 2009

Education in the 21st Century

The recent economic crisis has caused peoples and nations to reevaluate priorities and seek better ways to be prepared for future downturns. The foremost among these concerns is education. With the drastic rise in unemployment worldwide, leaders and academics are coming to the realization that the education systems of their nations need to be updated and reformed for a global economy. How is this to be done? The last truly great reform of education was the high school or secondary school and these came about during the height of the Industrial revolution. Laborers in skilled and unskilled positions have lost their employment without the guarantee that they can apply their skills in other sectors. A good example is American autoworkers. So what are some of the solutions that can stem this unemployment crisis? It can only be found in a revamped system for job retraining and education.

The present system of reeducation centers on community colleges and four years colleges and universities. This system is still somewhat effective but due to high costs and limited incentives only a section of a nation’s population has postsecondary degrees or training. For example only around 31% of the United States has an undergraduate degree or higher. What steps can be taken to improve this situation? One way is distance learning. With the advent of the internet more institutions of learning have been able to offer courses online. Due to reduction in resources used when offering a course via the web, the average student pays a fraction of the cost of regular tuition. This combined with government assistance can place higher education within the reach of the wider population. Another solution has been the greater cooperation between community colleges and full four year institutions. Community colleges often offer a less expensive alternative to attending a four year institution but are affected by the stigma of being lesser institutions without the prestige of more well known colleges and universities. The partnerships allow graduates of community colleges access to higher institutions of learning after completing the community college associate degrees even giving them easier admission than traditional entrants to four year institutions.

Community colleges also now offer targeted courses that focus on industries and skills that are in high demand. A good example is the three week to three month courses for health professionals. By taking a Certified Nurse Assistant course the average person with a high school diploma can go from a minimum wage income of $7 per hour to as high as $14 to $24 per hour with income increasing with job experience.

Education in the 21st century must be job market oriented providing graduates with the skills most in demand. It also must provide quick and affordable retraining programs to help workers find employment more quickly after a layoff or dismissal. If governments worldwide can achieve these goals it will lead to a more stable and viable global economy.


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