Tuesday, January 26, 2016

From Degrees To CVs

I wrote earlier about how, by expecting too much of them, we have positioned college degrees to fail (See here). The college and its degrees became, effectively, a tool for the ever expansive state to control another aspect of lives of its citizens. The poverty of this formula becomes apparent at this point in time, when the state is no longer expanding and the promises of middle class life, that pursuit of happiness, looks more hollow than ever. Yet, despite the 'credential-equals-job' mindset that we have all grown up with - and the brutal realisation that it does not, not anymore - we are somewhat caught in this argument that we do not have an alternative credential that we can trust, and therefore, we have to keep sending people to Higher Ed, keep the spectacle going.

But there is an alternative credential that we can trust, that all employers look for - the CV! A CV, a portfolio of experiences and verifiable references, is the credential we build and carry through our working lives, and it is the only currency in the employment universe. Any other credential, a degree, a certification, a professional status, while they may have value in and by themselves, but in the employment context, they are just components of building CV. So, if we acknowledge that the central challenge in Higher Education is making people employable - because, for all the higher goals, a person is not complete if s/he is not employable and, and the governments promise middle class life through Higher Education all the time - the issue is not to find another credential looking from the supply-side, but rather start building credential that is in demand, the CV!

What is above is really a convoluted way of saying that students need more experience, and we should find a way of assessing and validating the real life experience. So, imagine a degree curriculum consisting solely of projects, that, in a progressive manner, introduce the students to the complexities of real life work. In this, what we assess is not just the explicit, technical learning, but also the development of tacit knowledge, soft skills and human abilities of the person. True, these are more difficult areas to assess and validate, but there is much work done on this already.

The paradigm shift here is to attempt to assess, and validate through credential, skills and abilities which are essentially 'non-academic'. This is common-sense if we accept the goal of a vocationally orientated credential is to create employable graduates, and the other option, assessing an university graduate studying business or engineering in the same way as one would assess students studying for Literature or History degree, does not make much sense. Yet, this shift has proved so difficult, because of the regulatory bias and the narrow definition of what universities do.

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