Rethinking Education: Why Our Education System Is Ripe For Disruption

Our education system is not broken, it has just become obsolete

When I think of all the tremendous, seemingly impossible feats made possible by entrepreneurs, I am amazed that more has not been done to reinvent our education system. I want all entrepreneurs to take notice that this is a multi-hundred billion dollar opportunity that’s ripe for disruption.

Our collective belief is that our education system is broken so we spend tremendous energy in trying to fix it. We conveniently place the blame on problems that stem from budget cuts, teacher layoffs, inadequate technology in our schools and our education policies. We need to recognize the fact that our education system is NOT BROKEN but has simply become OBSOLETE. It no longer meets the needs of the present and future generation.

Our education system was developed for an industrial era where we could teach certain skills to our children and they were able to use these skills for the rest of their lives working productively in an industry. We are now living in a fast paced technological era where every skill that we teach our children becomes obsolete in the 10 to 15 years due to exponentially growing technological advances. Meanwhile, new categories of jobs are being created because of these technological advances. It’s hard to imagine that half of the jobs that exist today didn’t exist 25 years ago.

Our education system today uses the mass production style manufacturing process of standardization. This process requires raw material that is grouped together based on a specific criteria. Those raw materials are then moved from one station to another station where an expert makes a small modification given the small amount of time given to complete their task. At the end of the assembly line, these assembled goods are standardized tested to see if they meet certain criteria before they are moved to the next advanced assembly line.

We are using the same process to teach our kids today, grouping them by their date of manufacturing (age). We put them on an education assembly line every day, starting with one station that teaches them a certain subject before automatically moving them to the next class after a certain period of time. Once a year we use standardized testing to see if they are ready to move to the next grade of an education advanced assembly line.

Rethinking education starts with embracing our individuality. Our life experiences are very different from one and other, and yet we seem to think every one of us can learn the same way. Some of us learn experientially, while others are more attracted to logical or conceptual learning. Why are we limiting ourselves to one format or curriculum when we know that each individual is going to learn differently? Further, why are we advancing children to the next level, or grade, on an annual basis, as opposed to when each is ready?

Just think of the opportunities we can unlock by making education as addictive as a video game. This type of experiential, addictive learning improves decision-making skills and increases the processing speed and spatial skills of the brain. When was the last time your child asked for help with a video game? Probably never, but so many kids are struggling with basic algebra and chemistry every day. Why is it that our young kids all across America can solve the most complex problems in a video game involving executive decision making and analytical thinking, yet we accept the fact that they can’t add or read?

No one can possibly argue against the need for new ways of educating our children.We can’t fix what’s not broken but need to reinvent it. We need to allow children to learn to be creative, learn to reason, and to solve real world problems using collaborative and interdisciplinary approaches.

As we continue to pour billions of dollars into a failing education system that seeks to advance teaching methodologies, it is time we flipped the model on its head and used technology to focus on our learners. To reinvent education or solve any of the problems facing our society today, we need to think innovatively, see the promise of education outside the box and recognize that failure is not an option.

Let’s not just focus all of our energy on leaving a better country for our children but focus on leaving better children for our country.

In this multi-part series on rethinking education, I will describe my recommendations for making learning adaptive and addictive for the modern age, applying insights into neuroscience and experiential learning, and how we can positively disrupt education with creative innovation. Here is my TED talk on using innovation and entrepreneurship to solve grand challenges.