The value of the world’s higher education network continues to be put to the test. While the increase in the rate of enrollment in technical, vocational, and tertiary education continues to grow, perhaps we could be expecting bigger effects on other Sustainable Development Goals, including health, human rights, environment, and strong institutions.
In the US, the level of higher ed student debt has reached never before seen heights, bearing similarities to the housing bubble of the last economic downturn. In places like South America, a boom of higher ed institutions has set records in enrollment, which will no doubt have positive impacts on the general standards of living in the coming decades, even if not in the best conditions of social inclusiveness. But here, just like nearly everywhere else in the world, most universities are still content to create the competent job seekers of tomorrow.
On the other hand, experiences in supporting entrepreneurial education have also shown positive results, although that depends considerably on the stick by which it is measured. Even the best records of startup sustainability still leave over half of entrepreneurs looking for a new direction. Without a doubt, more young people today are competent in well-rounded aspects of the innovation process. Today, the topics include prototyping, design thinking, and —why not— social media marketing. Tomorrow they might be different, but it will be even easier for the public to acquire the skills once they reach the mainstream. Or they should.
Trying to capitalize on the situation, EdTech company D2L, developer of the Brightspace LMS, has built a series of materials highlighting the importance of learning systems as gateways to attend to the learning needs of their users with higher responsiveness. Specifically, D2L is banking on how competency-based education is arguably the clearest path forward in the conversation.
The problem faced by higher ed institutions is not easy. They must empower the people in their first years of economically productive life to build the organizations, and therefore the jobs, of tomorrow. But both the sector and the students must be aware of the many possible outcomes of a higher push of practical innovation competencies. (That last word, being the operative word.)
It might require rethinking the way less structured experiences, like innovation entrepreneurship, can still be validated within a common Competency Framework. But if the private industry, non-profits, innovation support ecosystems and of course, the higher ed sector begin to speak in the same evidence-based language of competencies, the issue of youth unemployment could begin to look like the next polio.