Higher Education Changes & Innovations for the 21st. Century

By Blai, Boris, Jr. | Education, Winter 1993 | Go to article overview

Higher Education Changes & Innovations for the 21st. Century


Blai, Boris, Jr., Education


Anticipated changes in the population as we approach the 21st. century have many implication for postsecondary educational offerings. To improve our education system, the broad academic goals such educational programs should address include:

1- all students should become proficient in both the written and spoken word.

2- all students should learn about today's interdependent world, and the rich, diversified heritage it contains.

3- within the specialized postsecondary institutions offering technical training; e.g., community/junior colleges, technical schools, all students should receive quality (i.e., first rate) technical program instruction designed to prepare them for employment in the Information Age.

4- on-going short-term educational courses for adults, to encourage life-time learning. These should help prepare students to meet their social, civic, and career obligations.

In addition - four questions must be carefully answered in developing any curriculum and plan of instruction to achieve the above-noted four broad academic goals. These questions are:

"1- what education purposes should the school seek to attain?

2- what educational experiences can be provided that are likely to attain these purposes?

3- how can these educational experiences be effectively organized?

4- how can we determine whether these purposes are being attained?" (Pautler, 1992: p.134)

One may compare the curriculum for any program of study with the menu offered by a restaurant; i.e., students make selections from the curriculum as do the restaurant patrons who select from the menu-of-offerings. Those in the college responsible for its operation are charged with making the determination - what are the educational purposes of the institution? Such purposes determinations ultimately lead to the curriculum (menu) offered.

This 'menu' of programs and courses (when timely and relevant to the needs of the clientele; i.e., students) attracts them to the institution. Needless to say, everyone is well aware of what happens to the restaurant offering a dull and uninteresting menu; it looses customers. In the educational setting this 'translates' to - it looses students!

After purposes have been determined, attention should then be directed to the quality of educational experiences which are likely to attain the delineated purposes. Specifically, these are the teaching-learning experiences developed and implemented through the curriculum offered to students; i.e., its programs of study and course offerings. In business parlance, this is basically the 'packaging' of educational content.

The third question to be answered is the degree of orderly structuring of the subject matter taught-and-learned. This entails developing the most effective way to 'package' the curriculum offerings. This step, i.e., the organization of subject matter content, insures that (1) it becomes the actual curriculum taught, and (2) it also becomes the tested curriculum. In addition, unambiguous execution of this third step helps insure that the curriculum, as spelled out, is actually practiced. (See English, 1987; Pautler, 1989, 1990).

The final question deals with follow-up evaluation of results; i.e., are the stated academic goals being attained? The in depth discussion by English (1987) and Pautler (1989, 1990) focuses upon curriculum content; alignments; i,e., the written, taught, and tested curriculums are aligned; and curriculum assessments. They offer constructive, practical recommendations for such on-going assessments of 'results'.

In developing a vision of anticipated changes for the 21st. century, many variables must be considered. World, national, state, and local trends all tend to influence future societal needs & educational requirements to help prepare students for these changes. Variable which must be considered for both short-term and long-term strategic planning include:

1- an aging population

2- longer life expectancy

3- global markets

4- duty-free trading

5- medical science changes

6- population age structure

7- households and families structure

8- changing American values and attitudes

9- religion

10- crime

11- education adaptations to societal needs

12- technology.

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