Fundació Jaume Bofill Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC)

Thinking about future challenges of education in Catalonia

World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students

About the speaker

Yong Zhao

29/11/12 06.30 pm

Presidential Chair. Associate Dean. Professor, Department of Educational Methodology, Policy, and Leadership. University of Oregon

Audio (in Catalan)

What is a good education? One that does well in PISA studies?

  • China took part in the PISA study for the first time three years ago and the results were excellent. They came first in mathematics, sciences and languages. Despite these good results, the Chinese didn’t celebrate because they feel they need to be more creative and entrepreneurial. They need figures like Steve jobs and what they actually have is a large poorly-paid workforce. China accounts for 20% of the world’s population, yet it only produces 1% of the world’s patents. The Chinese education system produces good students, not talented ones.
  • The United States is the country that obtains the worst results in international tests, but many innovative and successful companies are American.


Are universities key to success in the labour market?

  • Everyone believes that going to university is very important. The aim is to get good results so that you can go to university. But, then, many university graduates can’t get work. In South Korea, for example, 53% of graduates are out of work. And the same is the case in other countries like Spain.


Is the current education system “making sausages”?

  • Some education plans set subjects that everyone has to pass. The aim is to pass standardized exams to accredit students’ having acquired knowledge. Zhao compares this type of training “making sausages”. It is a type of training that was valid for the industrial age, where a large standardized workforce was needed. But we are now in the post-industrial age. Robots have replaced the workforce. Many processes have been automated. We are at a point of economic readjustment. Facebook doesn’t need the same kind or number of workers as General Motors does.
  • But we are still educating to “make sausages” when that is no longer needed. In productive sectors, it is the creative and super-creative jobs that are growing fastest. We have to move away from being employees towards being entrepreneurs. In general, all countries continue to want good “sausage” students. It’s like asking ourselves how many horse-drawn carriages we need to reach the moon.


What is the reality that education has to adapt to?

  • Human nature is diverse and there are diverse kinds of intelligence. We cannot be good at everything. Nonetheless, universities punish difference and reward the people who obey best. It is not a mechanism for education, it is a mechanism for selection.
  • The economy has changed and talents that weren’t useful before are now. We are living in a state of abundance. We have created lots of things that aren’t necessary for survival, but which everyone wants. Products are created with highly psychological content. And that’s why we need talent.
  • Information is everywhere. Students can find more information on the web than their teachers can. What you need is to know how to look for it.
  • We live in a globalized world. We now try to compete to be better than other countries, but the trend should be towards collaborating.
  • We need entrepreneurs in all walks of life – people who don’t wait for solutions to be handed to them, but who go out and look for them and create them.


What sort of education do we need in this new paradigm?

  • We don’t need to promote curriculums, we need to promote personalized education. We need to work on emotional intelligences: the ability to take risks, empathy, the ability to make the most of an opportunity, etc. Human talent is useful. We don’t need so much knowledge. We need students to be more inquiring and to have more belief in themselves.
  • Students have to do real things. They have to create and develop the process to generate a product (whether it be music, drawing, writing, etc.). They have to learn that each child can make a new product.
  • We need to make the most of technology to work in a world of global collaboration. We can learn from other experiences and we can create experiences that let other people learn. 


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