At the 2009 TEDxAKL event, Brenda Frisk framed her talk by first stating that
“everybody has been educated, so everybody thinks they know and they understand education.”
Teachers will almost inevitably gravitate to reproducing “the model of teaching that they experienced as students”. It is not unusual to hear teachers express that a given model ‘worked for me’ as a sufficient argument to justify their practice. But this attitude only perpetuates educational models designed for a very different kind of society, and very different commercial and industrial needs. It may then fall short of providing the adequate tools and flexibility needed to adapt to an ever-changing work environment.
“Science is about proving that something can be done ONCE. Commercialising it involves figuring out how to do that squillions of times, with exactly the same outcome, for as little money and as quickly as possible. VERY different skills.”
A recent report by MoRST, Igniting Potential, New Zealand’s Science and Innovation Pathway, shows that the vast majority of science-related PhD graduates (over 80%) will occupy jobs outside of academia. This figure would be much larger if it were to consider all other (undergraduate and post-graduate) science-related degrees. But despite this daunting reality, I would argue, most of the staff entrusted with providing this large proportion of students with suitable qualifications and skills for their future careers in the ‘real world’ have probably had little or no experience in those work environments to draw upon when designing a course curriculum. And as Nat Torkington points out, the skills needed are quite different.
I would argue that the quality of the education received may depend on how well the design of the curriculum is aligned with the real-life demands that the graduates will eventually face. And most of them will not end up in academia.
So, when it comes to curriculum or course design, should we take into account only what faculty consider to be the core necessary body of knowledge, or should the main stakeholders (students and future employers) be invited to participate in the process?