Learning Reloaded

We are trying to make sense of transition and build up on Edgeryders experiences together, as a community and with help from a small research team, and hopefully get to build a longstanding declaration for change (a transition handbook) with our adventures ryding edges. After putting up the Ethnographic report and the Making a living analysis, we’re getting down to Learning. You know the story folks: summary below and full paper in google doc, both inviting you to comment and put your own thoughts on the table :slight_smile:

“school is a hostile, limiting force, essentially extraneous in preparation for adult life; where acquired knowledge is not always welcomed either useful for life, even not related with society around them”  (Edgeryders Research Papers, 2012, Learning, Gutierrez and Mikiewicz)

1. Edgeryders on Education, learning & recognition

Education is identified with the school system, formal education, as a process of obtaining credentials while learning is activity of an individual.

Learning is generally associated with positive experiences and acquisition of useful knowledge and skills. Although much of this is gauged to happen either outside, in parallel to, or in spite of formal “teaching” and or educational environments, the need for some kind of learning foundation is recognised.

While the perceptions about the experiences and kinds of knowledge acquired during formal education are mixed, there is general consensus that it neither sufficiently prepares young people for working life nor does it (with exceptions) provide them with skills, networks and other resources that will generate paid work. Teaching methods are criticised for not motivating students to discover their own interests or helping them to develop personal frames of enquiry (with the exception of art education). That said, several participants know and use theoretical approaches and thesis for explaining some facts taking place in their lives, such as staff behaviour in the work place, relations between employers and employees, violence (of any kind), manipulation and feelings.

Edgeryders perceive that it is necessary to explore alternative paths to gaining skills and knowledge and have repeatedly raised the topic of recognition and acknowledgement of knowledge and skills acquired both within and outside formal educational environments. There is awareness within the European policy space of the need to promote and validate “invisible” skills. This is expressed in the current concern within the EU of evaluating skills and acquired in non-formal and informal settings. A perceived big challenge is to identify what kinds of skills are learned both within and outside formal educational settings (in Eu speak distinction is made between formal, non-formal and informal education) .

The attempt to gain acknowledgement and promotion for skills acquired in non-formal or informal education has been put in practice and coordinated at a national and European level through the European Qualifications Framework (EQF). EQF is based on recommendations and common principles developed in these areas gauged to be of “key” competences for learners:

  • quality assurance in higher education and in vocational education and training
  • quality of mobility,
  • validation of non-formal and informal learning, lifelong guidance
  • the recognition of qualifications abroad

2. Socialization, social relationships and learning

The Edgeryders mission reports point to different, and possibly contradictory, roles played by socialization as par of the learning experience. On the one hand doubt is cast on whether or not socialisation is an actual part of purpose of university or possibly even part of the problem; some experiences from long-distance learning highlight the ability to pursue learning at one's own pace as a distinct advantage over synchronous teaching - teachers in classrooms are saddled with managing a balance between different students, and they end up tuning in to the average students, with the faster and slower ones suffering as a result.  On the other hand one of the most important solutions to solve some recognised problems of educational/learning system is networking and building dense social relations.

Andres Davila raised the point about the need to upgrade teaching methods in the classroom. In the same conversation it was pointed out by Gyula that classroom dynamics per se, rather than teaching methods, are a much bigger threat to some childrens learning trajectory due to discrimination and or bullying. In another conversation it was pointed out that distance-learning environments where there is correspondence (email/forums/phone) before physically meeting may offer young people opportunities to demystify power-relationships through socialisation with superior parties.

Perhaps decoupling the different expectations of what education in general is supposed to offer can enable us to cope with new or increasing demand without putting more preassure on the same limited resources?

3. New practices, new requirements, new demands

In the 20th century we have seen increased access to primary, secondary and tertiary education in Europe. The effect of this is a consistent increase in the numbers of people with higher educational credentials - as well as prolonged periods of education, which in turn means a longer of transition period, ie. the period of “youth” or “not yet adulthood” is stretching far into people’s 30s. This has been driven by:
  1. logic of the market: the need to adapt the workforce to changes in the labour market
  2. Different strands of ideology pulling in different directions:
  • classical functional vision: education is a sorting machine. It exists to effectively organise the training, selection, and allocation of individuals into set positions in society via different professional identities
  • theory of human capital: more educated people = more effective economy
  • discourse of equal opportunities and open access: equal access to education at all levels for larger number of people eliminates inequalities resulting from social origins. It is compatible with theory of human capital in that if everyone has educational credentials efficiency of the economy will be maximised and social awards will be distributed on the basis of professional and personal competence and not social characteristics
Consequences:  education has held and still holds the promise of a good life; being better educated than your parents has implied that you could expect for a better life than the one they had. But since the 1980s the role of education has shifted from  ticket to a better life to necessity without which you are excluded from the labour market. However, recent developments with regards to availability of student loans, reducing grants and increasing tuition fees are making it increasingly difficult for young people to continue or access higher studies. This is set against a background with record unemployment rates amongst young graduates who are frustrated because the promise of a good future for those who worked hard at school was not fullfilled.

The policy makers’ perception of why we have unemployed graduates falls into two categories:

  • the fault lies with the education system: it is not working well as sorting machine
  • the fault lies with unemployed individuals: there is no probllm with the sorting machine, but individuals lack of competence makes them incompatible with the professional (social) structure and so they are out of it.
Education policy therefore  aims to :
  1. improve the efficiency of operation of the sorting machinery
  2. provide support for people, who “do not fit” the market by providing them a proper type of training (again in the machine of preparation and sorting them).
Where much education policy thinking fails is that the underlying premise is false. There is no rigid occupational structure due to:
  • prevalence of short term employment
  • precarity/ uncertainty, escalated by a worldwide economic crisis and the fluctuations of the global economy, affecting all social layers
  • variability of working conditions
  • lack of transparency
The assumption that some social actor manages the above processes is also false.

Education as sorting has another problem. It fails to recognize that some young people don’t necessarily want to follow in the path of the previos generations, but are considering new ways, and in fact new goals. Some of them are freedom, self-actualisation, satisfaction in work and personal lives - even though young people - at least from the vantage point of Edgeryders - don’t know how to achieve them, or if it is even possible.

In learning environments, Edgeryders behave as they do elsewhere> sharing knowledge, ideas, thoughts and experiences. This is in direct conflict with the rigid, hierarchical social structures which are an implicit and important element in political thinking about society in general and education in particular. Even though it has repeatedly been questioned (e.g. several thinkers have put forward that social structures are shaped by the rules and resources used by individuals in action), it is still there in the background and it is important to be aware of.  Further it is reasonable that people who have power to create educational systems are imprinting it with their vision of the world. This means that educational systems are, almost by definition, conservative. The issues of democracy and the democratisation of societies are absent, as the assumption is that purpose of education is to maintain social stratification, not disrupt it. Expectations of any sort of change as fuelled by transformative capacity of education are misplaced.


  • innovation in administrative processes for evaluation of individuals and projects that better support fluid collaborations and more flexible approaches towards learning
  • shift focus of programs financed by the European Commission from increasing value of indicators of participation in formal education to placing greater emphasis on changing culture of education/ students.
  • encourage giving educational institutions more autonomy while promoting more exchange of experiences and what seems to be working well.
  • open schools to society: networking and social capital support in order to build learning communities also with schools/universities as part of them. European policy should support regional programs and those in local communities in order to create spaces of continous improvement of skills and resilience of students social networks needed to successfuly navigate the real world. As well as  emphasising the need for use of social media and other online resources by teachers and learners in education e.g. encouraging children to write blogs as studying method..
  • use the Edgeryders project as a prototype of an successful online space and methodology for informal education. In addition to serving as a source of first hand knowledge about experiences of young people coming into maturity offering almost real time information about how policy is being perceived by and contributed to to by individual citizens, projects using the Edgeryders methodology offer:
    • opportunities to cross paths with people from a broad range of backgrounds to discuss relevant issues, develop critical thinking skills and develop personal frames of enquiry
    • while creating new contacts and building new networks
    • enhancing development of pre-existing, or gaining new, communication skills (including improving language skills)
    • stimulating use of online resources and developing personal social media presence
Piotr and Prudentia suggest that more space be made for this kind of initative in programmes financed by the European Union.

Does any of the above stick out for you? Anything missing? Any questions you have about education and learning that the community could help you answer? Please help us turn this into a useful resource by sharing your thoughts…

All the Mission reports on learning:

  1. Reality Check: Which skills do you especially need to have to be able to manage your life and work? How, where, and with the help of whom are you learning them?
2. Happiness and education: Reach out to at least one student and ask why they’re studying
3.First lessons in work: Tell Edgeryders about your first "on the job" experience!

My first interaction with a job: what’s going on?

“There’s gonna be some changes made”

4.The classroom on the wire : Take a course or a lecture in an Internet-enabled classroom!
1 Like

Like in science, the old system won’t get reformed but die out.

The current education system will never be changed by policy to any substantial amount, and not last for the reason that giving up much of the compulsory school education would make a lot of teachers unemployed … . The “Learning on the Edge” report also makes it surprisingly clear how an education system has this factory paradigm of “producing” human assets for the economy, rather than autonomous, critically thinking persons. I liked these provocative stances and would like them to be read by the Handbook’s addressees  …

So instead of policy reforms, I expect the state-supported education system to wither away (for anything but elementary school) by just being plain unnecessary. It is, when even companies start to hire people not based on formal certificates but on their StackOverflow profile, Mozilla OpenBadges, own tests or whatever. Personally I am at a point where I won’t go back to being “schooled” ever because of all the inefficiencies experienced there. (Example: Because my university education wasn’t apt for time saving self-determined learning styles, I ended up creating lots of pages of open content docs to fix that for myself … . And with the new “schoolish” BSc / MSc system here in Germany, even this kind of self-determined learning got impossible.)

On the other hand, the alternatives (esp. free and open ones) are not totally ready yet. But sufficient for everybody who is willig to navigate some chaos and collect the material like mosaic pieces. I did that for learning Spanish myself lately, and lo and behold, I found near verything I need for free on the web in high quality form. (Only frequency based vocabulary file and a good grammar cheatsheet were missing, so I created these as open content).

Sorry for the little rant, folks. I also had to get rid of some steam. It built up during my interactions with the school and university system … . So I really liked to see in the report doc how a majority of peers feels likewise.

i love free content

But the question of how poeple creating free educational content and supporting services are payed.

-You can do it as a vulunteer is you already got a well payed job which at the same time leaves you with free time. (lucky bastard)

-Or it can be payed with tax money - like free formal education can be.

-Or by charities? If it is a non profit model, then investors are out straight away.

Some educational models have investors - companies - for which you then obliged to work or pay the money back.

It seems like that the 5th sector does not really require formal education at all. it is a terrible thing to say, because I am now studying soc scie. The main reason for me to study off line is that the informal part of it, such as social circle is much ore valuable than the books I read. If you leave books only, why would I need to enroll at the first place?

Not so fast

I don’t think it’s that simple, Neodynos. You assume overarching rationality: systems die out when better ones outperform them, so that the old ones become irrelevant. I am not sure this is the way societies evolve.

  • There is entrenchment: when a lot of people are invested in the system, they are going to fight hard not to let it go. If they are wealthy and powerful, their opposition might become impossible to overvcome. 
  • There is embeddedness: the school system as mass manufacturing is embedded in a larger scale mass society. The larger-scale system might be able to withstand evolutionary process, even when the school system per se would yield. Incidentally, embeddedness in a mass society might be deeper in Europe than in the U.S., that has an individualistic ideology to lean on. In Europe, policy makers call 1945-1975 "the glorious 30 years" - and many of us would object to living in such a massified society as that one!
  • There are legacy metastable constraints. For example, school is compulsory. Even if everyone agreed it to be useless, we would still have to go until we get Parliament to change the law - and repealing laws is one area where the status quo has a strong advantage.
  • There are fairness issues. If we could make school much better starting next year, this year's students would freak out: reform is putting them effectively out of the labor market, as employers would prefer to hire alumni of the new, better system. 
In a situation like this, doing nothing starts to become a really attractive solution for decision makers. And, lo and behold... nothing gets done. 

By the way, what I have seen of your open college notes is amazing. In the forthcoming Edgeryders world government, you’ll make a great Education minister. :slight_smile:

Not so realistic

Thanks for your crisp-clear depressing analysis, Alberto :wink: Seriously, it’s a good analysis of what forces are at work in the status quo (not just limited to the education system).

And I’m not even going to try defend my former position – it was a rant with an emotional bias to it. I hope that the old system dies out, at least when its proponents will have died out and the Edgeryders generation will own all the policy maker positions because there’s nobody else left.

But yes, even that might not work out, like it did not with the 68ish student movements, and much for the same reasons. Many of which you listed already, and one might add a mechanisms of individual behavior that could also affect this generation: widespread opportunism. Because of economic necessities, students and teachers conform to “the system” that they basically oppose. And the “doing nothing” policy of policy makers is just another form of opportunism: the easiest way to go for them personally.

So, unless you can show me “the way” how societies can evolve in this matter fast, the only solution I found is to ignore and replace the education system for me personally and in my personal area of influence. Like by using and writing open content material and learning in P2P modes like with forums and in coworking. And of course by not judging people by their formal education …

But I have no idea how to help those children in compulsory education here. It could be soo different, though.

I forwarded your comments

Hi neodynos, so here is Piotr and Prudencia’s answer to some of (y)our comments, in the framework of social mobility policy fail that some of us perceive. they sent it via email.

"The education system realizes functions of selection and channeling people of different socio-cultural characteristics in separate school paths. As a result, individuals who gain a certain level of education represent a specific cultural characteristics that allow them to address specific professional and social position. Still the formal level of education says about cultural capital held by the individual. University Graduates have different competences than the graduates of basic vocational school.

Rejection of the importance of education as an indicator of validity of the person on the labour market takes place among people with a similar level of education – therefore possessing a similar cultural resources. The Edgeryders probably live in such social circles, where higher education is obvious and ceases to be a determinant of the difference. However, looking at society as a whole, education creates very different trajectories and constructs different social worlds.

The policy of educational expansion (as it takes place in the EU) can cause the impression that education ceases to be a channel of social mobility. But it is not the case – one cannot take any social position without passing through the system of selection and allocation. The problem is that, there is no longer a clear transition from education to work period. It is also the price for the increased the degree of freedom – we are no longer condemned to work in only one particular profession throughout our life."

+ 1

I like your suggestion, CPT. It’s not about complaining anymore; it seems a lot of people here know exactly what kind of learning experience they are looking for, and it is not easily found in formal education. Maybe this chapter could start with a tell-tale quote from one of the mission reports?


I agree. The above was a summary of how the policymaking space understands or concptualises education and the gap between this and how people at the edges of change do.

I think what is missing is a sense of what the alternatives feel like through the example of existing projects that people are working on, especially people in this community. I remember the initaitve you were working on with the kids designing their own environments and to some extent I guess Prinzessingarten, and then now this campaign which I know little about. Care to elaborate?

more Education Rant

It seems to be a catch 22. Don’t judge people by their formal education, but by… what? Job they have already done? Pretty face? Whom they know? Yeah, recommendations seem to be the crucial part.

But the Previous Job is:

it is often either not so qualified payed job or qualified and not so payed one.

Formal education has devaluated. The outcome is that many would die for the unpaid internship to get Work Experience coating to their sad diploma.

There are some interesting policies addressing this in Sweden. I don’t know whether it’s the same in the rest of  the EU , and whether they’re good or evil:  unpaid interns are put on some kind of benefit, as is they were payed. Employers love it.

Another option is going somewhere where either your study field corresponds to the locally booming sector, or in places with less people receiving higher education.

This option is disliked by policy makers and considered brain drain.

May be the problem here is not only poor policy makers, but our parents, who went on and on about the fact that we should get any kind of diploma and it will get us a job? Because the gap between generations is now bigger than ever.

So ones now struggling to get a job with a couple of master degrees blaming the useless formal education, but may be they were the expectations planted in our heads when we were children?

I have seen many success employment stories amongst those who has been formally educated in a sector corresponding their family business.

Almost like in good old days of feudalism.

May be it gets better if when we all become old, we will be able to tell younger generation: “We have no clue. You know better.” Instead of telling them to go to Whatever University as soon as possible.

Blaming the parents wont do

Yeah, I hear you and to some extent I agree. But I dont think at this point it matters how we got to buy the promise of a diploma, I mean I trust our parents genuinely thought that was best for us, and it worked for their generation.  But the future is ours to change and make it better, for our children as well, like you are right in saying.

So while we seem to be a crowd with a pretty radical view on education, we have to be constructive enough not to dismiss it altogether, but re-build it. From this point of view I very much appreciated @Gelada’s point:

I would say it is important to get your metaphors right. If we regard teaching as a factory trying to get a certain product out of the door (perhaps maths ability, or manners, or even self-learning students). Then we will just get into trouble. If instead we regard it as farming, providing the right conditions for something to happen, then we will have more luck. Though we must also accpet that there will be, through no fault of our own, some crop failures.

He’s also fond of what real pedagogy should be like, and I personally wouldnt mind having something clearly written down in the handbook on new teaching values and styles…

Dusting off the Edgeryders account after long disuse…

Hello all. Sorry I’ve been gone for a while.

So, two points I’d like to mention which could perhaps be added somewhere into the perspectives here.

1) This could be just a personal preference, but when talking about Education models with people I’m always very fond of highlighting how the Trivium/Quadrivium model used to work from the Classical World until the 17th/18th Century.

The Trivium consisted of Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric. Grammar taught you the mechanics of language. Logic taught you to think critically and construct reasoned thought. Rhetoric taught you the means of communicating your thoughts effectively to others. Then the Quadrivium covered learning particular topics (at the time Arithmetic, Geometry, Music, and Astronomy) in detail. So, the idea was first teaching them how to learn and communicate in the best possible ways (Trivium) and only then introducing them to data-dumps (Quadrivium).

Even without reinstituting this system in its entirety, the general approach is worth considering and is, I feel, sorely lacking in modern education. We don’t teach students how to learn anymore. We go straight into filling them with facts which we expect them to vomit up on examinations. I firmly maintain that arming students with the skills that will allow them to approach in-depth knowledge with greater facility is an important, and currently missing, first step.

2) We don’t really seem to have an acknowledged place anymore to accomodate ‘Renaissance Men’/Polymaths in any meaningful way. In a piece I wrote a while back, I used da Vinci as an example. Leonardo was formally trained as a painter. In his life, in addition to working as an artist, he was an anatomist, architect, engineer, mathematician, and diplomat to name but a few of his occupations.

Can anybody imagine a city commissioning a painter to build a bridge nowadays? Nor can I. Yet it happened in the past, and successfully at that.

We don’t seem to have a place in the world/the workforce for someone who, though bearing credentials in one thing, also happens to be incredibly competent at something else as well. Furthermore, people seem to be frequently discouraged from exploring multiple disciplines and are rather encouraged to specialise. This doesn’t strike me as terribly wise.

Anything we think we can do about that?

I salute you (but)

I salute the applied historian at work. Welcome back, James.  :-)

I vaguely knew about the Trivium/Quadrivium model, but it had never occurred to me that it might be based on a theory of pedagogics. Was it that intentional or is this us projecting modern thinking onto it? Regardless, it is a stimulating thought.

On the polymath issue, let me be an economist for a minute. In a world of dire knowledge scarcity, your pool of bridge engineers is definitely going to be very narrow. If you need the damn thing built in a place with essentially zero literacy rate, your best bet is to find someone who can read and write, and who has learnt something, anything, and task that person to teach him/herself to figure out ow to build it. In this situation the very few learned people get a lot of chances to wander out of their field, just because there’s more things that need knowledge work than there are knowledge workers.

Scarcity of educated people might have been (certainly was) an issue at the end of the 15th century when Leonardo was around, less so now. No point hiring a generalist when there are so many specialists around! Makes sense?

Alberto, my friend, I do so love that you keep me on my toes. :slight_smile:

As far as I am aware, the Trivium was seen as a foundation from which further education could be built. Understanding how language works, how to think critically, and how to convey thoughts effectively were (and are) essential for a scholar, and also I should think for a generally cultivated person. I will give the disclaimer that I’m no specialist in the history of education, but I have yet to hear anything from medievalists to the contrary of this way of thinking.

I take your point about specialists and generalists. Perhaps da Vinci was not the best example I could have given for what I was trying to get across. I think what I was trying to say was that we are running the risk of putting too much emphasis on specialization rather than encouraging people to have a broad spectrum of skills and interests that can have the potential to be put to use rather than simply being relegated to ‘hobby’ status.

Another example I use in my aforementioned article (which, thinking on it, may have been a better illustration of my argument from the start), was a personal one. In my time as a curator, I regularly interacted with brilliant and enthusiastic amateurs and hobbyists. Some of these were old gents who, despite being employed in various other trades and occupations, had developed over years and decades a knowledge of the types of objects I cared for that left me (the ‘expert’) in awe. But, unlike them, I happen to have an MA degree, hence I could become a curator and they could not. I see that as not only unjust but, frankly, a huge potential loss of talent.

So, I guess my concern is that we’re in danger of being so reliant on formal credentials as an indicator of competence, that we potentially overlook those who have extraordinary skills but no bits of paper to ‘prove’ them. Competence over credentials.

What we do :slight_smile:

Keeping each other on our toes is what we all are doing here :slight_smile: The pleasure is all mine.

Following up on your “hobbyist” story, it occurred to me that maybe the history of education and the history of work have to be looked at in the backdrop of each other. In the 20th century, the age of education as mass production of skilled workforce, you learn stuff that will give you skills to sell.

I am no historian, but I get the impression that - as late as the 19th century - people learned stuff to become better slackers (courtesans) or just because they were interested. Of course, you only got to do that if you were affluent and did not really need to work. People who had to work for a living never learnt anything in a formalized way.

I have a hunch that you might like my countryman Gesualdo da Venosa. Here you have an exceptionally talented musician who could hone his talent because he was a wealthy prince, and making music instead of going hunting or drinking himself stupid was just his way to pass the time. Two centuries later, we find Giacomo Leopardi, one of Italy’s finest poets of all time, still pretty much on the same thread: a count with a weak health and lots of time to read and write. Fictional prince (but based on a very real character) Fabrizio Corbera in Tomasi di Lampedusa’ Leopard, same again: an astronomer this time. Amateur, because this is a hobby for him; and yet, a full member of Europe’s scientific community of the time.

So, you see: it seems no chance that we drifted away from the Trivium. Modern education is solved by what game theorists call backward induction: start on the job market, and see what skills work best. People will want the education that gives them those skills; build an education supply that will do that trick, and it will sell like hotcakes. Gesualdo, Leopardi or Corbera would have framed their actvity in terms of hobby, or of destiny (Leopardi), but they would have found silly the idea that they “were” a musician, a poet, an astronomer. They were a Prince da Venosa, a Count Leopardi, a Prince di Salina, that’s what they were! Who happened to do things unusual among their peers. Am I wrong?

Interesting here!

Really interesting discussion, you two. Let me cut in with a quick thought:

Alberto may indeed be right that education always develops in interdependence with the mode of economy. I’d want to add, it can be a few decades behind the development of economy paradigms, and thus create friction by not educating people any more for what they will experience in their life.

As for the big picture, I see the paradigm of economy change again since ca. 15-20 years: away from masses of people working in industrial mass production, to a mode where robots do production, and humans develop robots. (Admittedly this is a quite “local” phenomenon in this so-called “developed” world, while much of the rest  of the world did not even enter the industrial age … And I don’t think we’re heading for “service centric economy”, as we’ll have too much hardcore resource problems in the future to still just employ each other for manicure and selling obscure financial “products”.)

In this sense, the industrial education does no longer fit - we need now highly creative (both highly focused and cross-disciplinary) people to build complex robot systems and to tackle unsolved problems of humanity, like sustainability and long-term stable self-management of societies.  And from reading through the Edgeryders education paper, it seems many of us do feel this discrepancy, and so started to educate themselves as they see fit …

From reading stories yesterday about the patronizing and sanctioning done by the German federal job agency, it seems to me more and more that keeping people in dependent employment is a means of political control. “The state” is reluctant to go forward to this new age, where it would lose much of its control over the industrial age “masses”. To get a taste of the new age, take a look at Robotic Wageless Economy (take with a grain of salt - the site is not taking itself too serious, but has some cool verbalizations …).

I will grant that access to

I will grant that access to in-depth, horizon-expanding education has frequently been the reserve of the ‘elite’. University education nowadays is largely skills-based, so you get the particular training you need to, again theoretically, enter into the trade or industry that you have chosen to pursue. This is not only a waste of the potential good that higher education can provide, but I strongly suspect that it will come to be seen as insufficient in the not-too-distant.

I am currently stranded in the US, where people come out of university with literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and just a piece of paper and some initials to show for it that sanction that they are ‘qualified’ adepts at something. Yet I have met university graduates who show a stunning lack of competence in their ‘qualified’ field, and I have also those who have not graduated yet can think and act circles around so-called ‘experts’ in a given discipline.

Especially with the advent of the Internet, the ability of people to self-educate has increased in a way never before thought-of. The problem we’re starting to encounter is that these self-educated people are becoming capable and willing to start doing things, but are frequently hitting a brick wall in the form of the monopoly on accreditation by increasingly-expensive universities and related institutions.

In an age where access to information is easier, and people are increasingly strapped for cash, can we really continue to require expensive qualifications, which were developed pre-Internet at a time when knowledge was hoardable, at the risk of denying hard-up yet competent people the ability to contribute?

Given my support for Classical approaches to education, I am not advocating the demise of the university. I think the university can retain its traditional role as a place where people can go to help them cultivate well-rounded perspectives. At the same time, I think we need to come up with new ways of recognizing competence that factors in the new and unconventional ways that people are acquiring skills and aptitudes.

Note from Piotr and Prudencia, the authors

Hi James, just to let you know their answer to some of your thoughts that I forwarded, like this one:

“We don’t seem to have a place in the world/the workforce for someone who, though bearing credentials in one thing, also happens to be incredibly competent at something else as well.” (James Hester)

It seems that it is just the opposite. The contemporary labour market is so flexible and fluid, that narrow specialization is no longer an asset. People are forced to find a position different from their original field of preparation. Thus, having other competences than those indicated on the certificate can only help. The only problem is the recognition of these competences and their certification. The European Union proposes some solutions here, by supporting systems of life-long learning and certification of competencies acquired in non-formal education. (sent via email)