How the future of education, and work, look to an Argentine university rector.
BUENOS AIRES — On a recent trip to New York, I saw hundreds of people of all ages waiting in line to buy the latest model of a cell phone. This device has become a person's most intimate possession. It's the main, and sometimes only, link to other people, and it's frequently updated. We live in a society that moves at a frightening pace and that demands constant change.
Anyone trying to teach children, who are used to only technology interfaces, comes up against the terrible reality that students simply don't respond to traditional teaching methods in classrooms. It looks like there's no going back.
Teachers need to immerse themselves in the learning experiment alongside their students. They need to ask their students to investigate something of interest to them and share the work they produce on social networks. This can both help students learn to discern which sites have reliable information, as well as develop the latest communication skills and, alas, even acquire knowledge.
Keeping this in mind about learning techniques in general, can physicians and healthcare workers really be trained like they have been in past decades? The discussion goes beyond the current debate about whether college education should be free or whether medical students require help learning skills like coping with exhaustion and patient violence.
Instead, we must begin by noting how the career decision-making of young people has evolved. There's more choice than ever thanks to dizzying social, technological and economic changes. Nine out of 10 children do not want to follow in their parents' professional footsteps even when they believe their parents are happy with their jobs. It's not easy making a career choice when traditional jobs like those in medicine are perceived as less prestigious and lucrative than before.
There are too many options on offer today and youngsters are becoming disoriented. Everyone wants to pursue a career that will make them happy. While a positive idea in principle, it may not only produce unmet expectations but also underestimate the efforts required to yield results. The prospect of short, easy careers is a modern fallacy in a demanding job market.
Today, young people are as intelligent as before even if they often lag in oral and written skills and have limited knowledge of history and geography. Instituting entry exams merely highlights the problem without solving it. One way to resolve this problem is for schools to offer young people what many lack today — the ability to speak, write, study, and understand texts. To acquire these skills, they must take the help offered to them.
The college degree should certify that its holder is a citizen with the theoretical and practical knowledge needed to pursue a certain profession. Master's and doctoral degrees should not be pursued lightly. They should be steps taken to further a quest for knowledge and innovation. A career is one of the most important elements in creating our personal identities. We need to have the skills to pursue it.
*Rubén Torres is a physician and chancellor of the Universidad ISALUD in Buenos Aires.