What Are The Strengths and Limitations of Current Education Systems?

Hi Everyone,

As a means of kick-starting the discussion, it would be fantastic if you could reflect on and respond to the statement and question below. In a few days time we can then start looking at possible solutions to identified challenges.

It is not my intention to be overly prescriptive here so please do feel free to begin new threads as the discussion progresses.

I very much look forward to reading your responses and learning from your experiences and insights.

Best wishes


FACT: Today, millions of people across the globe do not have jobs. (please refer to the infographic on page 3) One of the causes for this is that they are not getting the skills from the education system that they need for employment or self-employment. Please also click here

Drawing on your own experiences, what are universities, technical institutes, and vocational colleges doing well and what are the key challenges they are facing with respect to any or all of the following:

  • Capacity : meeting demand for enrolment, servicing the needs of students and managing their expectations?
  • Technical infrastructure : Access to current and emerging Information and communications technology (ICT), software, and high-speed internet?
  • Connections with industry: skills audit and curriculum design?
  • Widening participation: recruiting students and teachers from under-represented groups?
  • Funding: to develop infrastructure, to further research, and to support widening participation through the provision of financial subsidies?
  • Quality of education: attracting and retaining talented staff and retaining students for the full duration of their studies?

If you are here from industry or are representing an NGO, your invaluable perspectives are of course most welcome too.

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Hello I work for the Open University.
I feel that a limitation of the current education systems is that students are working towards achieving a qualification and many are time poor so they often do what they have to do to gain that final goal, rather than consciously engaging in the education process itself. A key challenge is to help students appreciate the importance and applicability of employability skills they are developing along the way e.g communication, group-working and collaboration skills. Do we explain to students in advance how we are servicing their needs and are we managing their expectations of what they will get out of their studies?

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What a great post to kick off the discussion - thank you very much Ann. I have some thoughts on this but will remain quiet until others air their views :slight_smile:

Hi all
The system of education does have some strength as people are equipped with some of the 21st century skills. The integration of technology in learning is a move in the right direction. The most recent generation of learners are into technology and innovation. However, there is still more to be done with regards to integrating all the 21st century skills together with the SDGs. The challenge I see with the system of education is that it still teach learners to be employed. The education system do talk about entrepreneurship but the challenge is that people are still holding on to the employer-employee mentality. A paradigm shift is needed in the way people perceive education. A more radical approach in needed to create awareness of the 21st century skill where well rounded learners will be developed from the foundation phase throughout tertiary level. Learners who would work collaboratively to integrate technology and innovation in creating sustainable job opportunities for the population. Learners need to develop entrepreneurial skills very early to eradicate poverty.

Many thanks for your considered response Patience. So if people are still holding on to the employer-employee mentality, do you think there a dominant culture somewhere which promotes aversion to risk? And if so do you think this culture is also to be found within the education system or is it mainly found elsewhere?

An educational system should have teachers or instructors who are talented, develop the talents by way of training and imparting these talents to their students by way of teaching and learning and also encouraging the students complete academic tasks to optimal levels of personal excellence.
What we see mostly are teachers who are not re-trained in line with new innovations and technologies in their areas of expertise and so they give out to their students only what they know. When eventually these students graduate, they become unemployable as they cannot meet the demands of employers.
Another area I want to look at is curriculum development. The curriculum in most educational systems are a misfit of what organisations, industries etc require. The development of curriculum, therefore, should be a collaboration between educational systems and the labour market. Courses studied should be so developed that will enable graduates fit in easily to the needs of the labour market.
Another area is entrepreneurial studies. Skills should be developed and properly tailored to societal needs. Such skills when properly imparted will enable them to be self-reliant and reduce seeking white-collar jobs. Also, soft loan for starting small-scale businesses should be attached to those interested in entrepreneurial studies to make it more attractive. This is because most students see acquisition of skills for the unintelligent.

The main challenge would be: What do we want the learners to achieve when they complete their formal schooling? From classrooms to market.How applicable are the KAS gained from their years of learning?
Relevance of Curriculum to host nation context should be on top of the agenda.How relevant are the courses to the local context?
The Quality of Teacher Education Program is another critical factor that tend to be overlooked. In the face of rising Climate Changes ,courses and resources should be relevant and updated to address the knowledge gap from classrooms to communities.
Looking from a Global development perspective, the two critical development indicators that form the bases of developed country are: Education & Health. Education is a Market. Therefore all branches under the Education umbrella should be continuously maintained. They are: Curriculum,Teacher Education Program, Pay & Incentives, Professionalism & Standards,Training & Professional Development.All these a part of an Education System.

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The Times of India (https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/more-education-means-less-employment/articleshow/68889475.cms ) recently reported that in India the level of education is inversely proportional to employment opportunities. It would be naive to assume that students do not understand that higher studies do not guarantee employment. Yet there is mad rush during entrance tests . This is a paradox.

In my situation in the Caribbean … we have extremely high interest in OER. and online. Our main challenges are funding and lack of infrastructure.

At my university we have a good mix of diverse students. We have tried to place modules and courses online…but face many challenges with resources to support the online environment. Our face to face modules are responsive to industry and employment. Adult students are attracted to the graduate courses of study and want them delivered online, but, the major challenge is infrastructure.
We however, have a curriculum that support workforce employability skills with qualified facilitators to place modules online supported by OER Materials.

Some great observations Phillipa - all of which we will be picking up on as the discussion progresses. Who should be responsible for providing the soft loans you mention and what do you think might be the obstacles / challenges that will need to be overcome to get such a scheme up and running?

Thank you Sera for this considered contribution. Please, I wonder of you could expand on your thoughts about ‘education is a market’? This is an area which really requires probing into further and I hope others will add to this discussion. I’m going to start a new thread based on this theme.

Thanks for sharing the link Supata - made for very interesting reading.

Thanks Anita. Has industry played a role in developing curriculum content and if so is there any potential to explore your funding challenges with industry?

The current education system needs to reformed in line with market requirements and the technology. There is a need to include and integrate entrepreneurship education into the curriculum starting from schools to post graduation. so that the students will be exposed all kinds of business enterprises and they become job creators instead of job seekers. The culture of entrepreneurship environment, starting from micro, small, medium and large enterprises, needs to be created in education which contributes livelihoods to alleviate poverty, creates mass employment and contributes to the development of the economy.

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Who should give the soft loans: Loans can be given to graduates through various methods the government may choose to adopt. Through commercial banks, bank of Industry, central bank or through Non-governmental organisations. Modalities of monitoring and period of repayment should also be put in place. Some major obstacles or challenges that may occur are as stated below:
It will be difficult to recover bad debt if the beneficiary is un-cooperative. For example, if he changes home or office address, refuses to answer phone calls, block all social media or even threatening the bank.
2. Legal problems may occur that may not favour the bank because of the length of legal procedures.
3. The beneficiary may experience unfortunate events in the business that can cause a big set-back in repayment of loans.

I believe that a majority of our graduates (at The Open University of Sri Lanka) have an aversion to take risks. One reason I see is that by the time they graduate, they are usually older than graduates from conventional universities (i.e. leaving out already employed mature students). Certain responsibilities come with age that limits the ability to take risks.
However, glad to note there are a very few who took up the risks to be entrepreneurs.

Similarly, there were a few who gave up the opportunities provided to have their own business and went on to safe employment.

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Bringing in the private sector, religious bodies and the civil society to also actively provide education is a good thing, though quality assurance mechanism is either absent or weak in some systems. Another positive is expansion of disciplines, as systems are being structured to allow inclusion and study of courses that emerge with advances in society, but such new areas where specialist skills are needed are coming up faster.than anybody is ready to provide or take training in them, leaving a huge skills gap.

One outstanding weakness of almost all systems is their strong bias toward “theory and book-learning” (as @AliceP describes it in this Equity and Inclusion thread: [http://discourse.col.org/c/pcf9-online-forum/equity-and-inclusion]. As a result of this, very many high school and college students graduate very unprepared for work (both white-collar and entrepreneurial), making them unemployable, in line with the comment by @philipaidogho. It creates the impression that the systems do not really bother about what learners are supposed to do with their learning (as @perse400 observes).
All these make students hold the wrong perception of education, which @patiencesd33 and @ann.walshe mentioned.

To increase employability, do we strongly agree that systems need to give due or more attention to entrepreneurial education, as Chandraiah @esampallyc9 is recommending, both by making establishment of and learning in vocational and ‘artisanal’/technical institutions very attractive and by making the more popular grammar schools and traditional colleges more practical and supporting them to offer entrepreneurial studies?

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I support the fact that relevant authorities should make commitments towards entrepreneurial education by refocusing the education policy towards entrepreneurially eliciting programmes. Economic development and sustainability are hinged on creativity and innovation which are the defining features of entrepreneurial education. Therefore if entrepreneurial education must be used to create employment, efforts should be focused early enough on school age youths to whom the future belongs.
I opine, therefore, that curriculum development from kindergarten to university level should include theory, practicals and more skills oriented. This will make courses more interesting therefore removing societal bias of looking down on those who take up TVET courses as “never-do-well”

There is still a very big gap between the current education system in my region and country at large and the current needs of employers today.
There is an urgent need for an overhaul of the whole education system that can integrate hard and soft skills into the formal education system so that learners get a holistic education that can help them become more employable.

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Many thanks for the excellent question you raise Chris. I will create a separate thread in the hope that more of our colleagues engage :slight_smile:

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