PC: Sally Baking Addiction
Let's imagine this...
You have the perfect cookie recipe in your hands. Once you start baking, you then realize the baking process doesn't always go exactly according to the recipe. Different batches of cookies are different. Even cookies on the same batch can be different! Some batches of cookies take only a while to bake and turn out 'just right!', whilst others may come out of the oven still raw.
Once you get the hang of it and develop your learning curve, you start to develop the capabilities to produce more. Your cookie business is up and running, your customers are waiting. Note that producing more doesn't always mean 'better'. When you operate on such a large scale, your focus is no longer on the 'crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside' recipe. Instead, you just want to replicate, produce more, expand your business, beat the competitors, push your limits. In the baking world, technology may be able to help with the 'standardization' or increase the production capacity. When it comes to shaping and developing young talents, however, things are vastly different.
Education is about bringing out the best in each young individual, not about quantity (accepting way more students than you should) or duplication (just to end up with an oversupply of average students). You cannot rely on an old trusty recipe for 'good' education. There's no perfect or one-size-fits-all recipe for that.
Baking vs. Education? Cookies vs. Students? What? Let me explain further.
Every year a whole new batch of students goes into the 'university ovens' to bake. A HUGE batch. Once these students are out of the comfort and warmth of their university ovens at the end of the 4 years, they cannot afford to be 'raw' or 'unready'. If universities cannot give 'that edge' to their students to be able to stand out and stand on their own two feet, universities are essentially just manufacturing facilities. One batch of average students after another. Average batches that will just waste the time, money, and energy of universities' customers (i.e. businesses, also known as 'employers' of their students) to acquire and train. Average batches that will simply be rejected.
The ages of 18-22 mark a huge turning point and a significant transition in students' lives. From the arms of their parents at the beginning of it to standing on their own two feet by the end of it. From all the theories in class to all the applications in life. Universities, as the 'ovens', therefore have the pressure to ensure that the major transition is smooth and successful.
However, a successful transition is not always easy, especially in this disruptive age with so many 'gaps' that need to be bridged.
1. Gap between 'businesses' (potential employers) and young talents (potential employees)
With major transformations and constant changes in the business world, business needs today are different from those of years or decades ago. Different business needs require new kinds of people and new skill sets. Basically a whole new recipe of 'talent development' or at least a modern twist. While businesses want to be agile, innovative, and adaptive to change in this day and age, classes and programs in many universities are still taught in silos with assignments and 'tests' that don't replicate the real world for students or reflect students' true capabilities to potential employers. While a student may have the perfect 4.0 GPA, he or she may lack other skills that sitting in a classroom can never teach: working with VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity), conflict resolution, prioritizing work, people management, etc.
2. Gap between young talents and universities
Students enter the real world either disappointed because they cannot unleash their fullest potential (what they spent 4 whole years of their lives studying) or lost because they have to make a big adjustment or relearn completely...or both. When this is the case, the entire academic career is just hard work with no results, let alone rewards. Students will burn out even before they actually start working!
Universities shouldn't be just where students take classes. The latter can do so in the comfort of their own home with more and more online learning tools and avenues. Universities shouldn't be just where students just enter a classroom or a lecture hall, sit for a couple of hours, and leave. That's too easy. That's not real life. Students should be given real challenges to tackle. They should be able to work with and not just learn from their instructors. Tests should really test a student's skills (e.g. ability to solve complex problems and manage risks - whatever field they are in), not just his or her supposed intellect. Prepare your students before they have to learn it the hard way out in the real world...without any guidance or support.
Gap between 'businesses' (demand side) and 'universities' (suppliers of talents)
The widening gap between the academic sector and the business sector is causing concerns not just for those directly involved, but also for parents, future parents, and the country. How can our country be competitive if our businesses and, of course, the public sector aren't run by competitive people?
As we can see, the 'cookie' analogy escalated quickly. This is a matter of national importance. Co-development is integral to the future of our future generations, the future of our businesses, and the future of our country. Education builds 'talents'. 'Talents' then build the competitiveness of our businesses and our country.
It's time universities, businesses, key industries, and the government come together. Utilize your wisdom and years of experience to provide our young talents with some direction and vision, but let them take over, bring this vision to life, and build the future in their own ways. Instead of analyzing whether these young talents can actually do it, put this energy to work in a more productive way. Provide them with a forum, a stage, a platform. You have the connections, so connect them with the right people. Give them the freedom, flexibility, trust, whatever they need to have the confidence and motivation to take action. Replace lectures with workshops. Fewer 30-page essays that professors usually just skip to the summary, more real hands-on projects.
These ideas inspired CODE Program, a program that builds strategic partnerships among the academic sector, the private sector, the public sector, and young talents for sustainable co-development. In collaboration with the Council of University Presidents Thailand (CUPT), CODE will work with each university to formulate a key topic, which aligns with the university's core competency, interests, and vision of the future. Businesses or government agencies that share the same core competency, interests, and vision will then join in. Together, the strategic partners will look into the future, from the standpoint of the key topic, and build the future together according to their shared vision.
To learn more about CODE, visit CODE's page or watch this short #CODEvelopment Introduction video. Also, stay tuned for more updates on the program here on my website.