Numerous curricula and educational institutes claim to foster the skills required for 21st century employment, but what does this actually mean? How can these skills be blended with current educational models? Charles Fadel, founder of the Centre for Curriculum Redesign (http://curriculumredesign.org/), argues that most current education models are biased towards college entrance, an approach that he believes in now partially obsolete and never sufficiently served the needs of employers anyway. Fadel aims to close the education-to-employment gap through an approach he calls “Four Dimensional Education”. The approach is based upon the “four Cs”; the ability to think critically, work creatively, communicate and collaborate.
Fadel believes that a false dichotomy has been created between education for employability and education for life. He argues that education should serve all levels of Maslow’s hierarchy (often depicted as a pyramid, this theory of human motivation was developed in 1943 by Abraham Maslow and runs from physiological needs as our most basic, to self-actualisation). While he acknowledges the importance of branding in education (a Harvard degree is still a Harvard degree after all), Fadel had lots of advice for those wanting to enhance their employability through education, “if you are still in college, make sure that you do many internships and projects with industry. And regardless of whether before or after graduation, realistically and honestly document how you have developed those real skills via each course, so you can discuss that during your interviews.”
Fadel argues that there are three ways that current curricula can be adapted in order to teach skills more efficiently. Firstly, he advocates reassessing each curriculum in order to identify obsolete areas, allowing teachers to free up time for deeper learning and the acquisition of skills. Secondly, he recommends identifying which part of the curriculum is best suited to develop each skill. While any subject can, in his opinion, be used to develop any skill, some are better matched than others. Thirdly, Fadel encourages the training of teachers in a way that would allow them to identify how skills can be taught on a topic-by-topic basis.
Fadel’s arguments are compelling, and the nature of what it means to be employable in the contemporary world has certainly changed over the last few decades. Curricula haven’t always kept up. While it is useful to adopt the steps Fadel advocates, including reassessing the purpose and aim of each aspect of the curriculum, it would be erroneous to suggest that Fadel’s approach is any less focused than more traditional alternatives. While existing curricula arguably focus on college entrance, Fadel’s approach focuses on the job market, and a rather narrowly defined sector of the job market at that. Nevertheless, constantly rethinking the function and focus of education, is always helpful.
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