Obi Ossai MBCS, a certified business analyst, explores how he feels IT education might learn from agile and wonders how schooling might look in 10 years.

Learning and growth are critical to human fulfilment and progression. It is the process by which we become equipped to add value to ourselves (personal fulfilment) and society as a whole. Without learning, we have nothing to offer and remain the same, without change.

Apart from family and community, the conventional education system, where we spend a fixed set of years in a classroom, is the primary vehicle for learning and growth. In recent times, some aspects of this education system have been called to question.

Are we spending too long learning in the classroom/lecture theatre before applying ourselves in society? Is this conventional education system the best approach? As-is, in the conventional education system, most individuals tend to get introduced into industry by the early 20’s. As early as that might be, could individuals be introduced into industry much earlier?

We’ve already seen instances, like in the tech industry, where teenagers as young as fourteen have shown great capability. Early accessibility to computer has definitely facilitated this. Can we see this trend progress into other industries? At the very least, these questions have formed the basis for new conversations about the society’s approach to learning and growth.

An agile way forward 

The conventional educational system has a lot of similarities with a linear development approach. It demands comprehensive completion at a learning institution before any meaningful practical application in the real world; a minimum of X years of learning at the secondary school and tertiary level (undergraduate and probably graduate degrees).

On the other hand, a more agile path to learning has proved to be effective. In a sense, it is more direct and encourages you to jump into knowledge application as soon as you can.

In my opinion, the Nike slogan captures this best, ‘just do it’; get in there and figure it out as you go, review progress and adapt where necessary and chip away at it.

In recent times the value of internships - taking a gap year and extracurricular activities - have been recognised and is being encouraged by employers today.

This is a more agile approach. We place value on applying knowledge as soon as we can. Although it might lack the level of structure and organisation of the conventional education path, but is it just as effective, if not more effective?  

How relevant is all that structure and organisation in the reality of such a dynamic society? There are numerous cases of individuals who have spent years studying a particular program at university and have had to completely pivot into something new in the job market.

No knowledge is ever lost, but with conventional education being so expensive these days, it is well worth finding a way to reduce these cases with a more efficient path. The more modern and Agile approach would definitely reduce risk and investment (time and money) into a career path that would not actualise.

In employment

A lot of employers have complained about having to provide further training programs because graduates are not able to be as effective in their new role without them.

Bigger companies are in a position to create more dedicated ‘graduate programs’ to help. But, what does this say about the conventional education systems that is producing these graduates at a heavy fee?

Employers have started to value work-experience over degree qualification. This is in line with the agile manifesto: ‘individuals and interactions over processes and tools’ and ‘responding to change over following a plan’. 

Most recently we saw some big employers like Google, Apple, IBM and others who recently dropped degree requirements for job roles. Candidates have been seen to be just as competent with relevant experience and other supplementary shorter-term courses, rather than conventional degree qualifications. No doubt, the evolution of technology has been instrumental to this development; for example, online courses have facilitated access to learning material / information.

It is also worth noting that the roles that are required in today’s work environment are becoming more cross-functional, and as such, a more flexible learning experience might be required to meet these demands.

Furthermore, the more connected world we live in today results in new opportunities every day. In such a world, change is very common and must be embraced. As such, we might need a learning system that adapts just as well and fast to the ever-changing market.

Defining questions  

All these questions put a lot of uncertainty and opportunity into the future of what the education industry would look like. Are the institutions going to adapt and offer shorter and more flexible degrees?

Apart from specific fields like medicine and engineering, this is a serious conversation to be had in the reform of the conventional education system.

Are apprenticeships more relevant for some roles? Should secondary school really take five or six years? Should the curriculum be trimmed down into smaller increments? Should the natural progression be from secondary school be university / college? The process of learning and growth is definitely evolving and hopefully for the better.

It will be interesting to see where things are in the next 10 years.