When we think of education, we normally think of something that is nurturing and safe. I don’t often associate risk with learning, because it is exciting to grow.
Yet revolution is on our hands; we have it right now. There is unspoken revolt by people who will no longer put up with our declining status as a nation:
“Many U.S. leaders say that the performance of American students on a handful of high-profile international tests and measurements – while mixed – underscores the weaknesses of the American education system, and foreshadows the serious economic challenges the country will face if it does not improve the skills of its future workforce.” 1
So just as the person who learns something new adapts, incorporating this knowledge into being a better worker, leader, friend, so must our educational system adapt. It’s already happening worldwide.
Education for everyone
Online learning has gained tremendous strength over the past year. States have been reducing funding, even going bankrupt. Dedicated parents are grateful to have a job and support the family, let alone fund their children’s education. As more young adults, and any adult, wants to succeed in life, who will help lead the charge, making education accessible?
Serial entrepreneur Randy Best founded Academic Partnerships, which helps support nonprivate universities to create online programs. These programs allow people to obtain a master’s degree without leaving their job. Best thinks big: He’s launched it both in the U.S. through American College of Education, and internationally through Whitney University System.
Imagine how a person can grow, without sealing themselves in five- or six-figure debt? They increase their value to their organization, and also pay for important degrees. If you are a teacher, attain a master’s degree and increase your value. If you’re in business, attain an MBA. You can do it at a time that is more tailored and convenient for you, ensuring a higher level of completion.
Online learning as part of a larger strategy
Others point to the fact that online learning is simply one component of a multi-faceted strategy that must be taken with each child. Check out Ed Elements. They use online courses as one part of the educational process.
So much of this is about customization, in order to rocket higher. Some students might need more time to digest and work on a concept; others can speed ahead in a certain area. Online learning works in and out throughout the day. It complements larger lesson plans from teachers, individualized instruction, and special advisors who work individually with each child. The educational process weaves between different needs, technologies, and amount of time needed to accelerate each student’s learning trajectory.
And it’s not just companies, but also investors who are getting involved. Rick Segal and Matthew Greenfield pioneered Rethink Education to help bring a sea change in education. They state, “The collapse of economies across the globe has illuminated one truth above all others: we desperately need a smarter workforce, top to bottom… It is abundantly clear that we now possess the technological capacity to reach students at all corners of the world, and as such, need to modernize our educational approach to fit the realities of the modern economic era.”
Key to this is their educational philosophy that college costs must come down. Their view is that education must have a lasting impact on the person, resulting in new ways of thinking and contributing to our world. The classroom should be active, interactive, and based on continuous feedback. Teachers and students are equally involved.
The revolution continues on a country level
One of my favorite systems in the world regarding education is Finland. Their view is “Whatever it takes.” And this started 40 years ago. The tack Finland took was to raise educators to the highest level of estimation. In order to become a teacher, you must be in the top 10% of applicants, and are required to have a master’s degree.
Teachers feel respected, and they live it. They are proud, work hard, and change strategies. Giving up on a child, or letting someone fall through the cracks, is not a part of their mindset. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a test for students in 40 countries, demonstrates Finland’s achievement. Young Finnish people are the best readers in the world, and are in the top six for both math and science.
Innovation in education happens in all sorts of ways. We still need to support those whom the government isn’t helping, and where schools don’t even exist. That’s ground zero where there is nothing to revolutionize. Here are two ways you can get involved in direct philanthropy, with two vetted nonprofits who will help give people the chance to learn.
We can’t say “Let the Revolution Begin.” It already has, and is just gaining momentum. Proactive for-profit companies, public universities, investors and countries, are leading the charge. I hope they bang down the gates of old systems so that each individual rises to their greatest hopes, joys, and potential.
Pamela Hawley is the founder and CEO of UniversalGiving™. She is a recipient of the Jefferson Award (the Nobel Prize for public service), a finalist for Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award, a Fast Company Expert Blogger on CSR and a Colburn S. Wilbur Fellow. She has been invited twice to White House events for social innovators, in 2010 and 2012. UniversalGiving is an award-winning nonprofit that helps people give and volunteer with vetted, quality opportunities all over the world.