The case for dramatic school reform

As a global market leader, Cisco has seen the need for skilled 21st-century workers firsthand. In a report titled "Equipping Every Learner for the 21st Century," the company explains why a shift toward its vision of Education 3.0 is necessary.

Learners are changing

"How can traditional modes of classroom instruction engage and inspire students, when life outside the classroom has changed so dramatically?" the report asks. It notes that in 2007, United States teenagers spent 40 percent of their media time on cell phones, the internet, and computer games–up from 16 percent in 1998.

"For many learners, class is the only time in their day when they completely ‘disconnect,’" the Cisco report says.

More recently, as the Web 2.0 phenomenon has swept the globe, it has enabled anyone to become a creator–such as a filmmaker on YouTube, or an opinion leader on blogs and social-networking web sites. Students who have grown up in a Web 2.0 world are no longer content to sit still through a 40-minute class period and passively take in information.

Employers need new skills

At the same time that learners’ needs are changing, so, too, are the needs of companies as they confront the challenges of the new global economy.

According to the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce: "A swiftly rising number of American workers at every skill level are in direct competition with workers in every corner of the globe. … The best employers the world over will be looking for the most competent, most creative, and most innovative people on the face of the earth and will be willing to pay top dollar for their services."

About 70 percent of new jobs created in the United States from 1998 to 2004 relied on interactions between people and involved judgment, insight, and collaboration, Cisco reports–which underscores the need for workers who can communicate and collaborate effectively.

"Wages for these types of jobs have grown faster than the economy as a whole, suggesting that those who are prepared for an interaction-oriented economy will have a competitive advantage," the report says. This and other trends "have led learners, employers, and global citizens to demand more from their education systems."

Education 3.0 will enable the proper paradigm shift, Cisco says. The ideas behind it are appealing to school systems, but adoption and reform are happening slowly around the country and world. "So far, school system reform is far from universal," according to the report. "It has taken root in a limited number of countries, and in only some districts and schools within them."

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