Merging secondary education, higher education and continuing education

secondary education

In many countries, the educational model consists of several components. They often come in the form of primary education, secondary education, higher education and continuing education.

The costs to maintain these different components are enormous and since the educational system is often funded by tax money, it is one of the biggest expenses on a countries’ budget.

This fact leads to a logical question, which is if the educational system could not be cheaper, or at least more efficient.

In this blog, I’d like to introduce you to my answer to this question.

The different components of the educational system

In many countries, the educational system is divided into smaller components with a different focus.

Primary education focuses on general knowledge and skills, such as learning how to read, writing, arithmetic and how to interact with other people.

Secondary education continues where primary education stops. It focuses on more in-depth knowledge about general subjects. Besides that, it gives the possibility to slowly specialize in a direction of the students interests and talents.

Higher education is where the student is taught specialized knowledge for a specific profession or field of interest.

Continuing education is often used for specialized courses that are relevant for a specific profession. Though, it can also be used for the purpose of self-actualization.

The fact that so many countries use a variety of educational components can’t be coincidence. There has to be a good reason to do so since the costs are enormous. Because of these high expenses, the efficiency of the educational system is a never ending debate within politics and educational philosophy.

Reasons for separating the educational phases

Each phase of the educational system focuses on another ‘age-range’. They grow alongside the development of the student. There are many arguments for maintaining the different phases of the educational system since they are fine-tuned to the mental development of the student.

Social reasons

Social reasons play a dominant role within primary- and secondary education. The main argument for this, is that school should not only be about studying. It is also the place where kids learn how to interact with each other, teachers and others.

Primary schools and secondary schools are often located close to home. This turns school into a social hub for the kids in a village or neighborhood, enabling them to socialize after school as well.

Motivational reasons

Motivational arguments or often used to defend the almost completely fixed curriculum of primary education and secondary education.

Interests and intrinsic motivation develop over time. Young children often don’t know what they would like to work with and a fixed curricula allows adults to decide what is good for them.

General knowledge

The importance of general knowledge, is often an argument for the separation of the educational phases. Before intrinsic motivation takes shape, a student learns a lot of general knowledge that can be useful in life.

Primary- and secondary education can put their focus on teaching general knowledge while higher education starts working more with the actual interests of the student.

Merging secondary education, higher education and continuing education

An educational system with different phases as I explained before, comes with certain benefits. Though, the main arguments to hold on to these are too thin according to me.

To introduce children in the primary school period to a fixed curriculum, does not seem to be wrong at all. Reading, writing and arithmetic and general knowledge can be acquired and work can be done on the development of social skills.

But from puberty onwards, the personality of the individual starts to shape itself and interests become increasingly visible. Intrinsic motivation to learn follows this process.

When there is a fixed study program, it is an enormous challenge to respond to the intrinsic motivation of every individual. Therefore, this requires a more flexible curriculum to adapt to the intrinsic motivation of the student.

To be able to offer a flexible curriculum to every student, the resources of a single high school or university are simply not big enough. Within the current educational system, it is impossible to offer an enormous variety of courses fitting the interests of every student.

The way to realize this anyway, is by combining the resources and budgets of the educational institutes of the secondary education, higher education and continuing education. Supported by technological developments such as ‘e-learning’, a huge variety of courses could be offered to fit the interests and talents of every single student.

A new, modern educational system

Differentiation is the key to provide students a curriculum fitting their personal interests and talents.

The benefit of this, is that students will most likely be more motivated for the courses they attend. They will therefore remember much more of what they have learned and minimize wasting time on things they are not interested in. This will increase the efficiency of the educational system.

The new educational system could begin right after primary education. The student is then around 12 years old, and starts with the first year where the vast majority of the curriculum is fixed.

The number of compulsory courses should decrease every year to give more room to the personal interpretation of the student.

Under the supervision of a competent study coordinator, students can be guided in the process of choosing suitable courses. This enables the student to build up a career soon and enter the job market earlier. This could lead to an increment of the labor force and increased tax revenues to fund the educational system.

Secondary education

Percentage of compulsory courses in the new educational system (example)

Central teaching centers

Within the new educational system, local schools would cease to exist. Instead, central teaching centers will be established. These might be combined with distance learning when the course is suitable for this.

As courses will be offered at different levels, people with a learning delay/disability will also be able to enroll. Besides that, the possibility of distance learning will partially relieve the pressure on traffic and public transport. Thus, education will be made more accessible for disabled people and for people in sparsely populated areas. On top of that, it will lower pollution caused by traffic.

By merging secondary education, higher education and continuing education in central teaching centers, enormous budgets can be invested in the quality and diversity of the courses.

In addition to that, technological innovation can be used to take work pressure away from teachers. If they film themselves giving lectures and provide these to students of their courses, they no longer have to be physically present to teach. They can then invest all their time and energy into doing research, create new course material and support students with remedial teaching.

The urge for a new educational system

In a time of flexible contracts and job hopping, flexibility is vital to anticipate the ever changing labor market. The current educational system in the Netherlands -and possibly also in other places- fails to do so to a satisfying extent.

By merging secondary education, higher education and continuing education, a budget can be found to update the educational system.

In my e-book Invisible Limitations, I go into further detail about what the new educational system could look like. You can download it here for free.

Are you satisfied with the educational system in your country? Let me know in a comment below!

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