Saturday, June 18, 2011

Transforming Education in the U.S.

Let's get down to some specifics about Education. Where do we want to go over the next 20 years? What do want to achieve? What should we be doing?  How about truly transforming our Education system in the U.S. using 21st century information technology and business models.

Yes, I know we need to set educational standards, have standardized testing, hire and retain great teachers,  and need to adapt programs to meet the changing educational and training needs of our times.  But these and other ideas being tossed around are usually aimed at tweaking the system – making modest incremental changes. But what about doing something really innovative that could dramatically transform the landscape over the next decade.

For example, there is not a lot of public debate about the growing popularity of  online, for profit universities, e.g. Phoenix University, American Public University System (APUS).  These are reasonably priced, high quality educational institutions with flexible programs tailored to meet the needs of working students. States could significantly reduce their expenditure of scarce tax dollars currently going to support older, traditional 'brick & mortar' institutions.  

[Sorry, but I can't help but mention APUS as one of my examples. They are currently the largest university  in my home state with over 80,000 enrolled students. They are also running their global online education system using the open source Sakai system.]

Similarly, what about offering some of our more advanced students access to an online high school curriculum. These students could go to school year round and finish in less than 4 years.  They could even take some introductory college courses if they are able.  Rather than drop out, some students that have to work could still attend school online and get their degrees.

Home schooling also continues to grow in popularity. Should states be providing expanded online educational resources for those parents and students?  What else can we be doing to leverage information technology and new business models to transform Education in the 21st century. It's happening in other industries.

In fact, isn't Education a profitable growth industry for our country that we should be more proactively pursuing and building up? This could spawn new companies and jobs, help reduce taxes, and contribute to a culture of continuing, life long education that is needed so our country will be competitive and continue to be a global leader in the 21st century where Information & Knowledge will rule.

What do you think? Would you like to  see a highly competitive and privatized Education industry with high paid teachers challenging our students? What else should we be doing to radically transform the future of Education in the U.S.?

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