When I learned programming, the internet did not exist and all of the programming languages used on the internet, such as Java, did not exist. Despite this, I was able to successfully programme for internet use in these languages. How could I do this if my university had not taught these languages to me?
Simply in the same way that people have been doing things that they haven’t been formally taught for thousands of years, by teaching themselves.
The job of any university is to prepare their students for the jobs of both today and tomorrow. To do this, universities have to provide a theoretical framework so that students can learn each subject from first principles. In doing this, the students have not memorised facts and figures, but rather they deeply understand the subject and can recreate the knowledge at will because they have learned how we know what we know about that subject.
This deep level of understanding makes any subject interesting and ignites a passion for knowing the subject.
This deep level of understanding makes any subject interesting and ignites a passion for knowing the subject. With this type of deep knowledge, students then use the most important thing any university can teach them; how to learn on their own. As technology, society and jobs evolve, it will not be possible or practical for most people to go back to university to learn the newly required skills.
They must, as I did with Java, learn on their own. Universities must use problem-/project-based learning to compel students to learn skills and synthesise knowledge on their own and in teams. By teaching each subject from first principles and using problem-/project-based learning to teach the students to learn on their own, the universities not only prepare students for the jobs of the future but also create lifelong learners.
— The writer is CEO of Transnational Academic Group Middle East, the education management services provider to Curtin University Dubai