“It’s quite trendy to say that the education system is broken. But it’s not. It’s wonderfully constructed. The truth is that we don’t need it anymore because it’s obsolete” – Sugata Mitra.
In a nutshell, an outdated syllabus is like having none at all. It is the equivalent of bringing a knife to a gunfight. It ensures the skills and technological inferiority of students, leaving them at a disadvantage when they have to fit into a modern workflow with modern needs.
In fact, according to a report by the Times of India, 90% of Indian Universities are reliant upon outdated curricula. These outdated syllabus have lost touch with the times and consequently put students at a disadvantage in terms of workplace readiness. The result is professional misfits who add little value to any workflow and thus find it hard to secure a job.
The good news though is there are multiple ways to address it. And that’s what we shall be talking about today as we seek to bridge the gap between the syllabus of yesteryears and the education of tomorrow.
Addressing the divide through mentorship
One thing about outdated syllabus is the absence of real-world value. Let’s demonstrate this with a fictional example. Say that there was a unit in an IT class that taught about web development via C programming. Over time, AI came in and gave birth to the rise of website builders that operate on natural language.
Now, in this case, the outdated syllabus continues to teach about hard coding websites through C, whereas the profession has moved to newer technology that doesn’t require coding but other skills such as using CMS like WordPress. This obviously means that this particular student will be playing catch up with the technologies of the day.
Mentorship is one way to address the gap by tapping into the experience of professionals who are usually at the forefront of this change. A mentor’s knowledge and expertise can help guide our young students toward embracing and understanding new technologies and skill sets that the modern workflow requires.
As an example, the University of Cambridge has realized great success in terms of giving students modern skills thanks to its mentorship program. By pairing learners with more experienced mentors, the school has found a way to holistically provide professional and personal development, imparting skills that students may not necessarily find within a classroom, so to speak.
Implementing work-integrated learning
Work-integrated learning basically fuses academic experiences with supervised student workplace learning. It basically provides the perfect middle ground between internship opportunities, and classroom learning, with both happening concurrently.
Arizona State University offers a great example of a successful WIL program in action. It offers opportunities for ASU students, as well as their educators, to learn from courses and a hands-on, real-world workflow in a specific industry.
Overall, this WIL program has helped ASU to provide more than 1,000,000 experiential learning hours to more than 10,150 students, and the upsides have included:
- Improved digital literacy skills for students and educators.
- Student’s communication abilities have improved.
- A greater understanding of ethical practice.
- Growth of self-management, teamwork, and problem-solving skills.
Ultimately, WIL programs such as these will help to ensure that learning institutions don’t lose touch with the needs of the modern workflow.
Putting success on a pedestal as an inspiring example
Additionally, we also need to shine a light on learning institutions that are doing things right. We ought to recognize and award institutions that consistently update their curriculum to stay ahead of the curve, or generally make efforts to ensure their learning stays relevant and updated.
For example, Harvard University ranks as one of the best learning institutions in the world due to the flexibility of its syllabus. The curriculum is regularly reviewed each semester with the goal of updating:
- Learner objectives
- Course content
- Grading methodologies, etc
Through this example, other learning institutions such as Yale University have borrowed a left in regard to the curriculum design.
Overall, other successful institutions can provide inspiration and a blueprint for others to switch to a more agile curriculum that stays ahead of the curve. By giving such learning institutions the recognition they deserve, we may hopefully trigger a wave of change across borders.
Providing surplus education through e-learning
Modern problems require modern solutions. Fortunately, there’s more than plenty available when we’re talking about outdated syllabus.
Imagine the case of a data scientist studying Python and SQL. With every new iteration of each language, certain features get deprecated. Over time, this means a very different programming course over a short duration. While updating the syllabus every so often can be difficult, given the bureaucracy often involved, e-learning solutions prove a great remedy.
Students can stay updated with changing technologies and skillsets, via online learning solutions (paid or free) such as:
- LinkedIn Learning, and so on
The wheels of a traditional syllabus may turn slowly. But the gears shift a lot faster with online learning tools which guarantees better agility and scalability, driven by the competition for students. The latter are often quicker to respond in terms of emerging skills and changing market patterns. A report by Statista shows that online education platform markets are growing at a CAGR of 9.38%, which proves the growing demand for these tools.
We can’t stress enough though that it is not traditional learning vs e-learning rather it’s a case of one AND the other.
Upskilling our educators is also crucial
We cannot talk about updating syllabi without sparing a moment to discuss upskilling those who take charge of executing it. Teachers are the cornerstone of any curriculum. The pedagogical strategies they use and the knowledge they pass on are, at the end of the day, one of the most important aspects.
Therefore, introducing technology is just as important as empowering those who are at the forefront of curriculum implementation. In fact, it is the need of the hour. When that happens, educators can better understand and incorporate new technologies and skills into their classrooms.
More specifically, we can tap into more opportunities to upskill educators such as:
- Workshops and conferences
- Online certifications
- Benchmarking across schools
- Student feedback reviews
- Peer observations and research or studies
With a grasp on changing real-world applications of knowledge, upskilled educators can provide appropriate course correction. They will consequently groom students who are more compatible with the modern workflow.
Final word – Constant industry-level consultations
No matter the industry, the only constant is change. If we are to bridge the gap between outdated syllabus and modern education, it’s prudent that we give those at the forefront of this change a more active role to play. For instance, bringing in practitioners and industry leaders for consultations during regular curriculum reviews can be a great solution. These veterans can help contribute to keeping the curriculum or what’s being taught at university up to speed with the disruptions and transformations in that specific industry.