“What You (Really) Need to Know” -Lawrence Summers

InnoVidya member Shrikant Patil, points us to this New York Times Article by Lawrence Summers, former president of Harvard University, who wonders what would happen if the educational system is drastically altered to reflect the structure of society in the 21st century. Here is the set up:

And the world is changing very rapidly. Think social networking, gay marriage, stem cells or the rise of China. Most companies look nothing like they did 50 years ago. Think General Motors, AT&T or Goldman Sachs.

Yet undergraduate education changes remarkably little over time. My predecessor as Harvard president, Derek Bok, famously compared the difficulty of reforming a curriculum with the difficulty of moving a cemetery.

Given this, it won’t be easy to change the education system (and it is not clear whether you want the educational system to change very rapidly in keeping with the times), but if we were to change, then here are the possibilities that he finds interesting:

  1. Education will be more about how to process and use information and less about imparting it.
  2. An inevitable consequence of the knowledge explosion is that tasks will be carried out with far more collaboration.
  3. Just as text books are written by a few professors, and used by everybody else in the world, even lectures and lecture materials will be created/recorded by a few top professors and others will simply re-use this material. Professors will have more time for direct discussion with students.
  4. We will see “Active learning classrooms” – which cluster students at tables, with furniture that can be rearranged and integrated technology
  5. Globalization of the curriculum
  6. Courses of study will place much more emphasis on the analysis of data.

Read the full article.