Noticeable was that during my research, work-field, education and students all agreed on the fact that the student in the end is responsible for connecting to the work-field in order to gather much needed practical experience. As students grow, they become more confident in the way they communicate and present themselves. However, from students that I spoke, I noticed that students are least confident about how they present themselves towards others and need guidance in approaching their professional career. Taking responsibility, one of the competencies of the future, should in my view be more central in education. Furthermore, I also see a solution here to tackle another problem that education is facing. Every year, around hundred thousand students fill in the National Student Survey, grading the Dutch educational institutes on a majority of topics. One of these topics is the preparation of students on their professional career. In 2019, exactly this topic had the lowest overall score with a 3.3 out of 5 (Studiekeuze 123, 2019). It is still a ‘sufficient grade’. Nevertheless, the indication that the preparation on the professional career is seen by students as the weakest point of education is something to consider.
If we want to prepare students for their future career they should be good at the following three elements: creating new value, taking responsibility and reconciling tensions and dilemmas (OECD, 2018). What is needed in order to achieve this? Most importantly, there should be a shift from quantity to quality. At the moment the reaction on the score students gave on feeling prepared for their professional career is being solved top down. In order to get students more prepared, policy makers of education create new targets in order to get students more practical experience. The base of those targets is to increase the quantity of these assignments, pressuring those responsible (such as the client for my assignment, Business Desk) to increase their work. However, within these targets, something very important is missing. Namely the needs and desires of the most important stakeholders, the students. Students need guidance in order to find practical experience. They need help in how to present and orientate themselves no matter how big the offer of assignments is. Furthermore, work-field only values working together with students when there is freedom on their assignments. Preferring bigger, more personalized assignments (without many theoretical frames) over a high quantity of more general assignments. So, increasing the quantity of practical experience of students without focusing on personalized and situation specific content is counterproductive. Yes, practical experience will be increased. But the satisfaction by students and the work-field on collaborating will only decrease. Resulting in more frameworks, eliminating the possibility for students to link to a dynamic work field.
The struggle between validating the functionality of education by quantity and providing personalized guidance to students based on quality is nothing new. In 1987, Sociologist Jurgen Habermas gave the following explanation. ‘The process of education depends upon creating and sustaining particular kinds of communicative relationships between people (for example, teachers and learners)…In recent times these communicative relationships have been put at risk to the extent that they have been displaced or distorted by the function rationality, which characterizes the operation of both political legal and economic systems.’ In other words, the aspect of socialization within education is being suppressed by political legal and economic factors. Making students into products of education with a focus on individual growth. Habermas divides this confusion between quality and quantity in the System World that can be defined by measurable goals and targets and the Lifeworld that is defined by culture, society and personalization. (Habermas, 2015).
If in the end the responsibility of the preparation for their professional career is in the hands of students themselves. A focus on the life world of that preparation by educational institutes is required. Students can only create new value, take responsibility and reconcile tensions and dilemmas when they are being offered the right guidance. What is needed is an addition to our current education in which there is more focus on the formation of the professional of the future. An entity that has knowledge about dynamics in the work-field and the needs of a student. In order to create a fit between work-field and education, customization is required because the desired focus on the life-world cannot be fit into frameworks and general targets.
The difficulty in making the shift from the life world to the system world is that it will require letting go of the current structures. Letting go of validating students by grades and measuring the effectivity of preparing students for their future career by quantity. This project made me believe that the solution in creating more fitting education for students and the work field lies in a harmony between the System World and the Life World. Creating the time and space to have open dialogues, without a need of quantitative validation. Virginia Satir, an American Psychologist developed a model to describe different phases in change process families go through during therapy, which is equally relevant for organizations and bigger systems (10 Minute HR, 2015). As can be seen in the image, to reach a new status quo there will first be a process from resistance, to chaos, to a transformative idea, to integration. What this means for Education, to fulfil an advising and connecting role between work-field and education in order to close the gap, firstly all leading structures need to be abandoned. The current concept of education connecting to the work-field becomes irrelevant and needs to make place for the essence of connecting. A focus on the Life World, the dynamics between Work-field and education. The current resistance comes from the need to validate the relationship between work-field and education in terms of targets and KPI’s (the System World). The difficulty here is that these System World values are the cornerstones of the current educational system. Hence, chaos will follow. Nevertheless, it is a much-needed chaos in order for new ideas to arise.
I believe it is the responsibility of educational institutes to become a leader in this new way of educating. I noticed during my research how the expectation from education is that the current industry needs to put in effort in creating the correct educational structure for future students. However, if in the end the student is considered responsible for their practical experience. Educational institutes need to provide the best guidance possible. Hence, educational institutes should shift their focus from theoretical based qualification to practice base personalization. Not expecting the industry to reach out to educational institutes but to create a learning system that is based on the current desires of the work-field and focusing on the growth of the individual students. Creating the needed professional for the future that is able to create new value, take responsibility and reconcile tensions and dilemmas.