During a panel at the 2013 SXSW Interactive conference, Austin educators discussed whether education should be used to help fill jobs in the technology industry.
“I'm not sure it's education's job to fill jobs,” said Donald Christian, dean of the College of Business at Concordia University Texas. “[It's] being able to think, add to the community and [to] be a whole person, but that may or may not fill jobs.”
Christian quoted University of Texas President Bill Powers, who discussed at a previous panel whether it is higher education's job to fill jobs of today or prepare future leaders.
Christian was joined by Pauline Dow, Austin ISD's chief academic officer, and Austin Community College President Richard Rhodes. Nathan Green, the founder of Campus2Careers career community that connects college students and graduates with small- and medium-sized businesses for entry-level jobs, moderated the panel.
Panelists also focused on standardization of testing and how early college programs and massive open online courses—free online courses available to anyone—affect traditional degree programs.
On the topic of early college programs in high school, Rhodes said that with the right environment, opportunity and incentive, students will step up to the plate.
“It's not for every student, but we should provide the opportunity for every student who wants to take advantage of it,” he said.
Christian said he does not believe the quick completion of college is for everyone because many students acquire skills by going away to college and having the social experience.
“I wrestle with that rushing it through too quickly, but it also depends on the purpose of education,” he said.
Dow said she proposes to flip the high school experience so that students would take most of their elective courses as freshmen and “begin to explore things that are interesting to them.” She said that by the time students are seniors, they will have taken their more challenging courses and possibly have internships lined up.
Green asked the panel what educators need from the tech community to close gaps between the local economy and the schools. Rhodes said it is good to get feedback from the community and have everyone work together on new exposures for students to be successful.
“Our faculty does great job of teaching, but there's nothing like having experience in the workforce blended with what you have in the classroom,” Rhodes said. “That's the best exposure.”
Dow said she would amplify the idea of enterprise learning and create meaningful partnerships with the community.
“Our loyalty is not to corporations but to the kids,” she said. “How do we focus on the student in way that gets them excited? ... The industry needs to help us move away from telling kids they have to [learn] in a certain way.”