Dixie Darr

In Learning Tools on April 8, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Academic Inflation

“There was a time when good academic qualification so guaranteed a job, but not any more. One reason in academic inflation. In the next 30 years, more people worldwide will be gaining academic qualifications than since the beginning of history. But as more people get them, their currency value is falling sharply.” So sayeth the brilliant Ken Robinson in his book, Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative.

Three converging trends contribute to academic inflation:

§ Jobs that used to require a bachelor’s degree now require a master’s or even a doctorate—not because the nature of the job has changed, but because employers have a bigger population of college graduates to choose from.

§ Steeply rising costs of college programs put graduates so deeply in debt that entry-level jobs can no longer pay the bills.

§ Colleges don’t teach the skills business needs: communication, teamwork, and creative thinking.

What’s the answer? I think we will begin to see more and more people bypassing the traditional college degree and seeking practical, up-to-date knowledge and skills on their own, using the Internet. As degrees become less relevant, we will see people being evaluated based on what they know and what they can do. That’s been happening for years in cutting-edge fields. Look at job postings now for social marketers and they rarely require a degree because there simply are not such degrees available.

Robinson points out that earning a degree may be just as necessary now (or more so), but it is no longer a guarantee of anything. It’s just a starting point. It isn’t job training so much as training in how to learn. As John Naisbitt pointed out thirty years ago, “Things are changing too fast for people to specialize their education. . . .Tasks are going to change, careers are going to change. If you know how to learn, you can continue to grow. If you don’t you’re going to be handicapped.”

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