What future for education? / Week 1

My previous learning experiences…

Reflect on your previous learning experiences. Think about one particularly successful and one unsuccessful learning experience. Consider what were the conditions that made this experience successful or unsuccessful for you and what this tells you about your own preferred ways to learn.

I have had the privilege to enjoy a very good education. Starting from international junior school in Spain, high school in The Netherlands, followed by two master degrees: one from a technical university in the Netherlands, and one from a leading international business school in Switzerland.

The two experiences I will focus on are the master degrees, because they have been two complete opposites when it comes to the experience, and the outcomes.

I do not want to be negative about my experience at the university in the Netherlands, in fact it is one of the leading technical universities in Europe, my alma mater and one of the places I made friends for life. However, from an educational perspective I found it not stimulating, mass-delivered and completely unaligned with industry or career perspectives. I took 8 years to complete a 5 year degree. In fact, I believe 90% of students do not finish their degree within the set period. During the course of my studies the system was changed twice. We started for a class of 300 students in a large auditorium and I am not sure how many graduated in the end; I know just about as many people that quit their degree as that actually completed it… The formula was 100% didactic — ex-cathedra, one way traffic that did not really matter if your where in class or not. In fact, if you look at the total of my classes, I think I only attended one third of them. My main source of study was books, old exams and exercises delivered to us. That did not make me a good student in any way, I was probably average — or even above average considering I actually finished my degree. One thing that did not make any sense to me was the lack of external influences — as I was being trained to become a civil engineer, you would think a degree that allows you to build bridges and buildings would actually make sure you received massive exposure to construction sites. Totally not true, classes where very academic drive and mathematics, physics and thermodynamic theory was the closest I ever got to seeing a screw go in a metal structure. Industry experiences (stage/internship) where not mandatory, in fact I was so desperate to I found a combination to write my final thesis and conduct an internship at the same time. Having said all this, it did teach me determination and self-reliance, two key attributes that I believe are needed to succeed in life. But I never built a bridge or a house, or worked one day in the building industry. There have to be better ways to achieve the same result.

In stark contracts, the business school I attended in Switzerland offers a leading 1-year master class in business. My class consisted of 90 hand-picked students from 42 countries with extensive experience and intellect. The auditorium was uniquely build with 90 chairs exactly; fixed searing that changed every month. All faculty knew your name and classes were super engaging, very often outside speakers where brought in bringer relevant experiences and exercises to class. It was a very tough year as we were expected to work/study for 16 hours a day. Leaving you 2 hours for taking care of life and with 6 hours of sleep — this also went on over the weekends. The emphasis was on leadership, teamwork, professional and personal development — I do not remember if we had grades, in fact they were meaningless as the real measurement was how much do you personally got out of it. It’s all up to you, so being curious, being inspired and learning from story-telling and experiences was all that mattered. Form your own option, develop the skills you need to the level you need them — if you need more, you know were to find what you need. A fantastic year, so condensed so quick and so transformational.

For me to learn effectively I need…

… to be excited, stimulated and challenged. Interaction, direct response and motivated to do better, learn more, make me curious — this is the environment I would expect educators to create.

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