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Forging an Alliance Between Business and Education

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The fact that education is essential to organizational success has never been truer than it is today, with the globalization of information exchange. The impact of education within this global information revolution is even more potent for while it holds out the promise of easy access to information, it runs the risk of selectivity and superficiality in the transmission of knowledge - a situation whereby we could be easily seduced by the illusion of having gained intimate knowledge of a subject, and even worse, act upon that conviction.

As is any rapidly evolving discipline, there are both opportunities and threats and we need to face them. For one thing, the lines of demarcation between formal education, the mass media, and the information technologies are becoming progressively more blurred and difficult to define.

What are the implications of this? If we accept the premise that 'reality is perception' then we recognize that the idea we acquire forms a complex mental construct based on systems of beliefs, values and attitudes, many of which were implanted at a very early age, and carry the weight of irrevocable and unquestioned truths. The force of such convictions can lead to, or at least set the stage for war, death, injury and all the public and private grief that always come with blind violence.

When faced with war or other political upheaval, our educational systems often remain, for many years following such incidents, fragmented, managed or manipulated mainly by groups who are more interested in protecting power bases than in education. Few schools or universities offer genuine opportunities for openness and unbiased mingling among the various communities.

Most governments, while investing heavily in rebuilding the physical infrastructure of the country, for some reason do not seem to place the same urgency on rebuilding the human resources base in parallel. Instead, this need has been recognized as a priority by the private business sector who is investing in the development of what it perceives as basic skills for further education and training to empower its workforce. These skills are English language and computer literacy; both necessary for commercial viability.

In spite of the serious obstacles to reconstruction, in countries faced with rebuilding, there is great scope for optimism. Much of this optimism is derived from a variety of programs specifically designed to increase the positive impact of the educational system. These programs have included nationwide competitions planned in such a way as to make it possible for teachers across countries to have the same opportunity to secure a place in the rebuilding programs. Benefits of participating in these programs include:

  • Promotion and recognition in careers,
  • Changes in the selection of books and educational resources,
  • Greater understanding of the culture behind the people being taught,
  • Flexibility in viewpoint and a willingness to re-evaluate and change.

While these can be advantages, they also place a great burden of responsibility on the shoulders of those who organize exchange activities or develop and produce educational resources.

The effects of such exchange programs are not limited to the group returning to their native country. Perceptions on the part of those in the host country are also affected. As in all long-term programs, and I feel that effective exchange programs fall under this category, the ability to evaluate their impact, benefit and net returns on investment is a very elusive and difficult task; add to this, the need for effective follow-up programs to sustain the communication bridges that were established and the problems of re-integrating individuals returning from long stays abroad into their home culture, and we see how much there is still be done towards developing exchange models that will attract adequate funding.

In conclusion, I would like to say that in spite of the obstacles, international education exchange is a way of helping people see that what they perceived as reality, may only have been a highly edited 'mental construct' shaped by incomplete data from books and media and further distorted by isolation from first-hand experience.

Education could be defined as the awareness that there is no perfect methodology for building knowledge and that learning must be the unceasing search for better methodologies to acquire, explore, formalize and transmit bodies of knowledge.

International exchange programs which offer genuine experimental learning within a non-hierarchical teaching and/or learning model are among the most potent means of shattering myths created by incomplete, outdated or highly selective access to information.

 

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