Optimizing Talent - Day Three - The Divine Wisdom Present in Every Human Being




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Oct 05, 2012
by Gerben van Lent
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Optimizing Talent - Day Three - The Divine Wisdom Present in Every Human Being

"Life always rejoices in greater wisdom" Shai Reshef presents his tuition-fee-free University of the People

Thursday saw us further exploring and deepening our understanding. You can learn here in a very short time span about a diversity of initiatives worldwide ranging from cooperation and harmonization initiatives of African Higher Education in the different regions and across the continent, setting up accreditation of prior learning systems in Moldova to voluntary based teacher support activities in the Philippines, just to name a few.

Next to it there is exposure to and exploration of wider concepts and critical factors that are relevant for developing actions and strategies to address achievement gaps and social mobility of which I will highlight three:

Focus on learning outcomes and (the portability of) qualifications more than on institutionalized learning. When you shift the perspective from the institutions that offer learning opportunities to the learners and their perspectives and needs, then aspects such as what do I know and can do, what behavior and attitudes do I need to develop, where can I learn when I want to further my options, how do I know that what I learn has value for and will be recognized in the labor market or prepares me for continuous learning, need greater attention.

Mobility becomes a much wider concept then the current horizontal and vertical mobility between Universities, including now also elements like mobility from learning to work and ‘back’, mobility associated with labor migration, brain drain and/or brain circulation. Articulated transparent qualifications are increasingly relevant but when 140 countries have qualification systems then that in itself creates a new issue. The future might be more skills focused than qualifications focused. In this view, skills transferability is really essential and the balance between supply and demand oriented learning will shift. Higher education in its traditional form will continue to have an important place, but more as part of or choice within lifelong learning than as an end goal

Optimizing teacher talent for learner’s success

Successful learning and providing opportunities for all to learn and to develop skills and talents will always be connected to those who facilitate the learning, in most cases the teacher. In many sessions and discussions in the Optimizing Talent series of seminars does this theme surface and this time the focus was on which quality assurance and ‘accreditation’ mechanisms could be identified that would nurture, grow and ensure availability of teacher talent.  Exchange and sharing of best practices from the practitioners level up to the systemic level could be an important step in the right direction.

How to cater for the demand – New solutions
Whereas legacy learning systems in Europe and the US need to adapt to challenging economic situations, changing global positioning changing demographics and exclusion issues, the new big economies struggle with dilemma’s related to the fast development of their economies, resulting in enormous needs quantitatively and qualitatively for growth in education and training at all levels. Some simple figures will illustrate this: The world has 7 billion people, 600 million 18 to 22 years-old, with some 180 million in traditional HE (30%). To achieve let’s say 60% of some form of post-secondary training, you will need to cater for 180 million more. For a country like Brazil, this target would imply some 5 million extra learners. Coming back to paying attention to skills improvement of migration groups: In China alone some 200 million people from rural areas come as labor migrants to the industrial centers and will need continuous training to stay employable over time.

It is difficult to imagine that these numbers can be taken care of simply by growing the number of public universities so alternative models are needed especially if we want to include wider access opportunities – two examples: In Brazil a change in the regulations in the mid 1990s making it easier to set up private universities resulted in significant growth in student enrollment.

Another new and ‘audience-challenging’ approach that was presented is the University of the People. It was introduced as a tuition free online university with courses in business administration and computer science reaching out to those who can’t afford a traditional form of tertiary education; the concept combining open educational resources, open source technology and the new internet culture with social responsibility of partners at organizational and individual level.

Coming back to the title of the blog: My choice is related to Mozart’s opera Die Zauberflöte paying tribute to Salzburg’s most famous citizen and it describes the symbolism embedded in the character Sarastro. Sarastro in the opera’s libretto is literally: "our idol" and he makes "life always rejoice in greater wisdom”. Let us aspire to be Sarastro’s for the days to come.

You can download the daily newsletter which includes Gerben's review as well as Marybeth Gasman's op-ed on minority-serving institutions here: www.salzburgglobal.org/go/495newsletterTHURS