Future of Formal Education : Self vs Formal Learning?

Self Learning vs Formal Learning? What will lead the future?

As we sail through the current crisis, I have been reading and thinking about some of the fast changing trends, specially in the last 45 days, which have probably shaken up most of us, but one of the biggest question mark is for the Educational Institutions, specially the ones who were running it as a business.

E-Learning platforms and online courses aren’t new. They have been there for quite sometime, and some examiners and entrance examinations have been taking place online for a while. I was amongst a few entrepreneurs in India who decided to launch an e-learning company in second quarter of 2007. I knew it would be the future and would make life simpler. It was a combination of assessment engine and group discussion platform through video conferencing. A slight glimpse can be accessed here. PS: Dont judge me, that was my first ever video interview. :/ I had spent alot of time, resources and investments on building technology and backend engines however it failed due to low adoption back in the days. Being futuristic is good, however too futuristic leads to death at some point. 🙂

Years passed and finally we started hearing more about Khan Academy, Udacity, Coursera and UpGrad (Our Indian e-learning startup). They all were innovating solutions for making access to knowledge simpler and more open. They all were producing brilliant content and allowed the under served, or the undeserving people (supposedly defined by our formal educators) to subscribe and learn new skills and adopt to the knowledge. Things had started changing.

However fast forward to March 2020. All education institutions decided to shut indefinitely. US announced closure of educational institutions till August 2020 atleast. Rest of the world soon followed. All classes moved online and we are getting to hear the adoption of Zoom, GoToMeetings and other video conferencing solutions being used to deliver lectures and promote group learnings.

My friends and cousins have returned back to India after paying thousands of dollars to acquire a degree. A degree which doesn’t even guarantee a job any more. A degree which is failing to even justify its premium, and a degree which is also failing to justify that investment. I just read an article written by a girl who returned back from the US stating she paid $60,000 to come back to India and take online classes. 😀

Today as we move towards the new normal, a new world and new understanding, the bigger question is on the role of this formal education. While many critic’s believe that traditional learning cannot be replicated. Traditional learning is nowhere comparable to online learning. However do we really need it any more? Specially when Stanfords and Harvards of the world are providing free courses.

Being a self taught entrepreneur, I have always learnt skills on the go. I would always keep my gadgets updated, even if I won’t be using them much. Thats a common argument my friends and family would do with me. Why do you need all the latest gadgets? Is it just to be in the race or what? It was always difficult for me to justify this to them all. But what everyone learnt over the time was my ability to automate my processes and organisations using some of the modern tech tools. Things were changing fast as technology has been developing too fast and you have to move at the same pace.

It was always difficult to make people believe you can make a difference without formal education. You can learn way too much outside a formal learning environment. It all depended on your ability to learn and adopt to new skills and environment. After sustaining 17 years as an entrepreneur, I can confidently vouch for it.

Do you think this would be the answer to bridging equality? Do you think this would be an answer to providing more open knowledge. Finally the scores wont matter and neither would the competition. We could possibly be in a free world where the deserving ones would start solving the real problems.

What do you think would be this future? Give it a thought, as I continue with my introspection…

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