Business education has become a growth sector in recent years. Is this simply a response to market demand and, if so, does the YFJ have any problems with this?
YFJ does not have a problem with educational providers adapting to a changing society and providing needed programmes. However, educational programmes always serve a double need: that of the learner and that of society.
Lately, there has been a lot of concern in public opinion about ethics in business and how irresponsible behaviour, for instance in banks, created a severe economic downturn. Therefore business education should not only provide the skills to manage companies so that they are as profitable as possible, but as well have a strong ethical component about social standards, sustainability, green entrepreneurship and fair trade.
Are there any drawbacks to greater involvement of private colleges in education?
There is a difference between private as in non-state organised and private as in profit-seeking companies and whether they function within a state-controlled frame or set their own curricula and programmes freely.
If a private college gives value for money for both the learner and society, everyone benefits. Academic institutions have more tasks than just teaching, such as research or intellectual leadership and development within a society. It is therefore important that there are sufficient and strong non-private universities who can fulfill these roles. It is further important that these colleges don't lead to an elitist education for the few that can afford it, as this would aggravate social differences.
At the European Business Summit this year, business leaders suggested industry should have more input into college curricula. Is this a concern?
Industry should not have direct input into college curricula. This is a task for the state and society at large. And it is important that educational providers are embedded in their society and have strong links to cultural, political, civil and economical actors. There needs to be an open and public debate about what we want education to do and what type of educational provider can best provide the required competences.
For example, youth organisations provide practical learning experiences for skills such as a sense of initiative, teamwork, responsibility and creativity. It is important to go for a more holistic approach to education, where young people learn different things in different settings, and not to expect formal education to be able to provide for all the different needs.
In general, will closer links between industry and academia compromise the independence of the education sector?
It is imperative that academia keeps its academic freedom and is aware of possible challenges to this when entering into cooperation with industry. Academic institutions therefore need to be funded through public means, as they need stable funding to fulfill their educational and fundamental research tasks.
If academic freedom is guaranteed, cooperation with industry can improve research or provide new learning opportunities for students through internships and similar programmes. As in vocational education, some things you can only learn in the workplace. This is true for skills as well as how companies function, what values they have, etc.
Do you have any suggestions for making graduates more innovative and creative? Should there be greater emphasis on teaching creative thinking and entrepreneurship?
It is clear that in a society that always aims to be more knowledge-based, employees and citizens need to be able to think critically and do more than just routinely do certain tasks, as was the case in the industrial time.
Formal education, however, has been slow to catch up and many institutions still favour the study of massive amounts of knowledge over creativity and soft skills. Luckily, there have been a lot of other learning opportunities for young people in the non-formal sector.
What a CEO of a company does is similar to what the leader of a youth organisation does. Unfortunately this has not been recognised sufficiently by either policymakers or the general public. Better support for NFE providers and better cooperation between all educational providers is urgently needed to ensure that the EU reaches the Lisbon targets.