The formal practices of educating people need a serious overhaul. Most university and college institutions have become exactly that, institutions. They are like dinosaurs in the modern era of technology, providing the same generic types of courses they have provided for decades. The subtle difference is that they are now embracing modern technology; however, what they have in fact done is to take an old tired methodology and converted it into web-based delivery.
There have been many attempts over time to include industry in assisting in curriculum development, with the intention of producing graduates more suited to industry needs. This has in most part failed, as from an industry perspective; most graduates still require further substantial training in the work place after graduation. In the modern global economy with fierce competition from countries such as China, India, other Asian, East European and South American countries, western industries no longer have the luxury of extended €on the job training’, nor the luxury of being forced into situations where management positions need to be filled by sub standard educated or trained people. This situation has emerged because the educators have fallen short of delivering graduates who are capable of being far more productive at an earlier stage after graduation.
At a social level, modern day communities have less disposable time available, less disposable income and suffer more pressures to perform in the workplace. The community at large needs more focused relevant education and training that they can weave into an already busy schedule. They need to spend the minimum of time with the maximum outcome of being instant €value adding’ contributors in the workplace.
Identifying the problems
Most accreditation bodies are government controlled and yet charge many thousands of dollars for accreditation, including a sizable €application fee’ which of course is non-refundable. Are these organizations serious? All these exorbitant fees ensure is a large percentage of potentially exceptional education or training is excluded from any innovation to the public. How does any sensible person expect small to medium providers to gain accreditation with such a high cost base before they are even likely to get accreditation, compounded by the high cost of professional resources required to develop any form of training?
The second issue is that education and training are without doubt the platform for the evolution to civilized societies, progress and sensible social structures. The exorbitant cost of accreditation contributes to the fact that we continue to place education and training out of reach of those who most need it, the socially disadvantaged.
The third issue is we as a society seem to accept the fact that 80 percent of start up small businesses fail in the first three years. The other 20% of small businesses struggle for years and 70% of those fail after five years. Adequate training and education is out of their reach, due to cost, time and relevance. Economies survive or fail on the success of small business, and yet from a training and education point of view we shamelessly shut them out!
It appears that the industry has become a €club’ of self-centered academics, run by incompetent bureaucrats, driven by self-interest and supported by equally incompetent and self-serving governments.
Most organizations involved in accreditation claim that accreditation can be done within three months! Really? It would be interesting to see figures on how many applications are approved in three months, in six months and twelve months. These figures of course are not published and if they were, one could expect that the blame for such extended timeframes would be placed solely on the applicants.
The next part of the accreditation process clearly restricts any changes without the €renewed accreditation process’ being followed. Assuming that the three month time frame is true, then how does a course creator keep up to date with technologies such as the web, mobile applications, particle physics, evolution, marine biology, electronics to name only a few. In some industries, three months is a long time.
In the electrical trades industry, there is a comprehensive and well-structured €electrical standard’, which is constantly updated. The industry does not have to go through the expensive and derelict procedures of accreditation. The industry accepts that it is their responsibility to keep abreast of the standards and to apply them in the field, and understand the consequences if they fail to apply these standards. The standards have been formulated by practitioners, rather than bureaucrats, and are a system that serves the community very well.
A similar form of education and training standards could be formulated in the same way as the electrical trades industry, with training providers obtaining licenses to create, develop or to deliver education and training courses to the public. The consequences of not meeting these standards, or operating without a license should be severe enough to deter the honest ones and remove the dishonest segments of the industry. The licensing needs to be clear, easily available to anyone who is dedicated to quality training and education and be affordable. With interactive web technology, there are no excuses for being able to monitor education and training courses from a regulatory standpoint.
Governments need to become organized. We have a situation of duplicity between state and federal governments, which although improving very slowly, require a greater sense of urgency. If training must be administered by government at all (and this is questionable) then at least lets deal with one body on a national basis.
Governments have a reputation for squandering taxpayers’ money on many fronts and education is no exception. The many millions of dollars squandered each year on education and training, only make education and training more expensive, less accessible to the socially disadvantaged, and ensure that small players are excluded from the industry. If governments conformed to the same rules as corporations, most of them either would be in goal or would have a completely new perspective on spending taxpayers’ money.
There have unfortunately been too many cases of training providers, getting fees from students and then filing for bankruptcy, resulting in the students losing all their money. This kind of behavior does nothing for the industry, the country or the community and perpetrators should be severely dealt with.
Part of the bureaucratic standards and accreditation processes are supposedly designed to eliminate or minimize this risk. This further demonstrates the ineptitude of those trying to govern the education and training industry. This policy has never succeeded and is unlikely to in the future
Governments get out of the business of regulation. Redeploy the bureaucrats elsewhere and support the industry financially as well as providing relevant resources to develop their own standards, licensing processes, and regulation. The body that formulates these standards must be a balanced blend of academics, practitioners, industry representatives (not HR managers, but representatives who have to deal with the day-to-day activities of the business) and students who have completed at least 3 years tertiary education. The federal member charged with the education and training portfolio should chair this panel.
If governments displaced 100 senior to middle management bureaucrats there would be millions of dollars saved not only wages, benefits and all the on costs involved in supporting these positions, but also in productivity gains. This money more effective supporting some of the solutions discussed in this article.
In terms of risk, the solution is relatively simple. The new education and training