There may be a general feeling that the public education system is in a state of crisis. In conversation with Dr. Tawni Ferrarini, Professor of Economic Education at , Ideas in Progress Host Dr. Anthony Comegna asked if this crisis is substantiated and what were the potential ways we could improve it.
Education in many ways is just a signaling device . . . It’s something that tells the employer that you’re able to know what is expected from you . . . But there’s also this skill-building and this learning piece that people are concerned with and they’re starting to look at that more closely.– Dr. Tawni Ferrarini
Dr. Ferrarini explored the signs indicating struggle among graduated students entering the workforce. After completing a high school diploma, then a university degree, employers are finding that what is required in the workplace is not necessarily taught in our school systems.
“Education in many ways is just a signaling device,” Dr. Ferrarini says. “It’s something that tells the employer that you’re able to know what is expected from you . . . But there’s also this skill-building and this learning piece that people are concerned with and they’re starting to look at that more closely.”
While homeschooling co-ops are an interesting alternative, technology is at a point in which parents can choose to complement their children’s public education or substitute a mediocre one. Dr.Comegna noted the possibility that artificial intelligence could effectively replace the role of teachers.
What does Dr. Ferrarini make of this moment in technology?
I’m excited about the advancements in so many scientific areas, including artificial intelligence and bioengineering, and the list goes on. Because not only do they replace some of what current labor groups do, but they also enhance what it is, some of the people who embrace these enhancements can do.– Dr. Tawni Ferrarini
By reflecting on the printing press and other examples from the past, Dr. Ferrarini explains, we see that these advancements have been key to the progress and prosperity we are presently experiencing.
Returning to the topic of signaling, Dr. Comegna stresses that this mechanism can be a significant part of what a degree represents.
“The signals are really important,” Dr. Comegna says. “and they do help add value to people’s lives when they are able to accomplish a long series of deadlines and follow instructions accurately and get along with other people.”
While Dr. Ferrarini supports this argument, she adds that there are now signaling issues with college degrees. Employers are expected to train graduates to do basic tasks that they assumed would have been taught in college.
“You want to have some type of degree . . . But think about what it is you want to do with the degree. Do you want it just as a signaling mechanism or do you want something that’s going to say, look, this represents the skills I’ve learned, and it provides some meaningful dialogue with the employer?”