My previous two blogs were written together with Jasper Box. It was an interesting, meaningful and fun experience. Seeking for different perspectives opened up my point of view and made it possible to dive deeper into matter with critical questions and (mis)understanding. We discussed the way we humans approach each other, which forms of dialogue are common and how these forms of dialogue would ideally be about complementarity. Collaborating out of complementarity with an open attitude, ‘seek first to understand then to be understood’ (Covey, 2016). Not meaning that we should eliminate any form of competition, as competition is a great driving factor for innovation, but to find the right framework to generate competition, not aiming for individualistic or capitalistic growth but sustainable, mutual growth. A massive shift that influences all elements of today’s society.

As a result of writing these blogs about dialogue, I noticed how the way of communicating within educational institutes, not only verbally but also by structure, is not in line with the aim for sustainable and mutual growth. The aim within education is still on the quantity of knowledge from the individual. This aim proved itself to be a great obstacle in connecting the current work-field or industry with students and education. While doing my research I noticed how the current collaboration between the industry and education is based on expectations. Industry expects students and education to make learning fit their way of working out of the believe that education should mimic the work-field, ideally creating a seamless transition from education to career. Educational institutes on the other hand expect the work-field to actively participate in the creation of practical experience for students seeing the contribution from the work-field as necessary for their education. Simply put, work-field expects education to fit to their way of working and education expecting work-field to fit to education.

A lot can be said about the expectations towards one another. For example, the theoretical base of education does not fit with the dynamics of the work-field or that there is not added value for the work-field to host students in their company. However, in the end the fact that all parties only look at the challenge of connecting work field and education from their own perspective and view on benefit makes it extremely difficult to work towards a solution.

A shift in needs

Fact is that education, in essence, is responsible for preparing students for their future career. Which means that it is the responsibility of educational institutes to provide students with the correct experience for their future. A good question is if that current preparation is focused on the correct things. According to Gert Biesta, an education sociologist, qualification, socialisation and personalization are the main tasks of education. Meaning a student is able to learn how-to live-in society (socialisation), is prepared for the labour market (qualification) and is able to form her- or his self (personalisation) (Doorn, 2021). However, according to the OECD (2018) the core tasks of education are shifting. In a report about the future of education, the OECD describes what the competencies of a student in 2030 should be. These competencies are brought together in three elements: creating new value, taking responsibility and reconciling tensions and dilemmas. What is interesting to notice here is that the ‘qualification’ competence disappeared. The three competency elements of OECD are all bound to specific situations and more focused on skills and personal competencies than qualifying for generalised knowledge.

These competencies of the OECD make sense if we look at the way the work-field is changing. Our current work-field is increasing in dynamics. Linear careers are disappearing and the amount of flex workers is increasing at the moment, almost a third (31,8%) of the Dutch labour force is flex worker, meaning a self-employed person or people with a flexible employment relationship (Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek, 2021). Flexible work structures desire different forms of educating, education that is more personal, focused on the individual. A form that does not yet fit in the educational structure. According to Jester Strategy (2020), the expectation from ‘traditional’ education to create a flexible and interactive environment (Lifelong learning) is hardly compatible with the current structure of learning outcomes and diplomas. You only get to know the world when you go out and current education facilitates this only limited.

You only get to know the world when you go out and current education facilitates this only limited.

What is needed

In line with the prediction of Jester, I noticed in my research that the expectations of the work-field to fit education into their needs and desires does not work. Most important reason being the theoretical base of education. In other words, a student needs to verify his or her practical experience by making use of theoretical models. Models that are most of the time about very specific situations that only rarely occur. Something that can be linked to the qualification factor of education (Doorn, 2021).

In Blog 2 I shortly discussed how current trends in society require a more flexible and cross sectoral way of working. Challenges such as climate change and pandemics require society broad attention and solutions. In order to succeed in tackling these challenges there has to be more space for personal development within education. Qualification in form of grades can still be used but should not be the leading factor of education. Communicative skills, appreciative mindset and a focus on complementarity are needed in order to generate positive change.