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IFC Conference Affirms ITU’s Vision for Industry Relevant Education

edaad941f7c6421fb7d60d18da8f084bITU staff recently attended an education conference in San Francisco, CA. The IFC’s International Private Education Conference offered the University a chance to examine current trends in higher education and benchmark its own progress.

Hosted by the World Bank Group, the two-day event covered the challenges and successes of modern private education. It brought together leading minds in education to discuss and plan for the future of learning.

During the event’s opening keynote, Expert in Residence at Harvard’s Innovation Lab Tony Wagner defined the current issues in modern education and laid out ways schools can adapt to the ever-changing educational ecosystem.

Among his covered topics were the seismic shifts happening in education, how schools can create better workers, and ways to fix the rampant unemployment suffered by millions of recent grads each year.

Redefining the Questions We Ask

According to the Wagner, a vast majority of teachers do not even know the real problems at the heart of education today.

“Too often we seek solutions to things that are not well defined. Answers to questions we don’t fully know,” says Wagner.

During his Keynote, Expert in Residence at Harvard’s Innovation Lab Tony Wagner outlined the changes needed in Education.

During his Keynote, Expert in Residence at Harvard’s Innovation Lab Tony Wagner outlined the changes needed in Education.

The concept of undefined solutions extends to how universities utilize modern technology.  Wagner believes that the rapid growth of the Internet has turned education into a free and open commodity.

“Education, knowledge, is a commodity. It’s like air. It’s free and everywhere with the Internet,” adds Wagner.

As more students head to Google Search instead of higher education, how can universities offer value to today’s youth? For Wagner, educational value is added partly by offering students real-world skills and current industry connections.

Wagner’s vision is shared by ITU. The University has been steadily expanding its student base by promising them modern skills and professors who are tapped into the industry that they teach in.  With Classes led by industry experts and a built-in internship requirement, industry relevance is at the foundation of each program’s curriculum.

Teaching Actionable Skills

Wagner believes that the two major factors involved in creating a viable curriculum are skills training and nurturing student motivation. While some may differ on the definition of those two factors, Wagner gave definitive explanations for both during his keynote.

“Skill is: do you have tools to solve problems? Will is: do you have the motivation to do something?” continues Wagner.

Student skills are not just the technical nitty-gritty of a job, either. Wagner spent some of his speech covering “soft skills”.

Soft skills are defined as the interpersonal, creative, and personality skills that lead to improved communication and more effective working environments. With these skills, students can also improve their own motivation for work through greater self-confidence.

At ITU, soft skills are becoming a growing focus of the curriculum. The University has started to add language and business communications courses to its constantly evolving program offerings.

The language development program, which offers courses in Professional Communication, is just a start for ITU. University leadership hopes to grow the program and expand opportunities for students to improve their soft skills moving forward.

Connecting Students to Business

Unemployment rates for recent graduates have become a major concern in the United States. The growing issue of unemployed and underemployed recent grads may be caused by a growing disconnect between higher education and industry.

Wagner finds that the issue of college graduate unemployment is caused by an inability for universities and businesses to work together. A lack of proper communication between the two sides has left companies without qualified applicants and universities without an idea of what companies want.

“Education and business are like two hostile tribes. They don’t really like each other and they don’t really talk to each other,” says Wagner.

ITU strives to give students the skills needed to achieve real-world success.

ITU strives to give students the skills needed to achieve real-world success.

One way to fix the growing divide between the two parties, according to Wagner, is to make it mandatory for professors to be exposed to the business world. Wagner finds that if professors worked in their field of study, they would be able to see current trends and adapt their teaching model to the issues of today.

Wagner’s view coincides with those of ITU. The University works to make sure each of its professors has real-world experience in the industry they teach in. Professors come from all over the world to share their professional experience with ITU students.

Sharing a Vision for the Future of Education

A key take-away from the conference is that ITU is on the right track. The University’s vision for education is directly aligned with the messages shared by the IFC.

A career-focused and professional-led learning paradigm has always been at the core of what ITU stands for. By speaking, and listening, to conference attendees it has become clear that ITU can be at the forefront of the evolving educational landscape.

It will take a lot of effort, but ITU is prepared to do the work to live up to its motto of: “Global Development through Silicon Valley Education.”

Talk Back

What do you think? How can we fix the current educational model? Do you agree with Wagner’s ideas and views? Let us know in the comments below.