Time to face it! The old education system is obsolete and irrelevant

Friday September 11 2020

University graduands during a graduation ceremony. FILE PHOTO | NMG


With a lot of disruption taking place, what is the workplace of the future going to look like?

Different conversations are being had on certificates versus capabilities. What is the future of the university degree as we know it? What of work hours in a world where people are more focused on deliverables than on time spent in the office? What of job titles in a world where people have opted for titles such as director of first impressions instead of a receptionist, director of chaos instead of a service technician, and even a chief getting-stuff -done officer instead of CEO?

The launch of the Google career certificate programme could be a major nail in the coffin of conventional education and college degrees. It is basically a series of short-term trainings in specific skills to help people get high paying jobs. This bypasses the entire college system and could be one of the greatest threats to an outdated education system.

Fatima Al Fihiri, the woman recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the founder of the world’s first degree-awarding university in 859AD (the Al Kaourine University in Fez, Morocco) was not a graduate. Neither were the instructors in many of the early institutions. The primary way of passing knowledge down was through mentorship and apprenticeship.

If this was the original model, where then did the present variety start, where people whose only knowledge of a subject is theoretical are charged with training others? Ancient sages documented their knowledge in books, which were intended to work with — not replace — mentorship and apprenticeship.

Books, unfortunately, gave rise to the intellectuals veering away from philosophical discussion and thought leadership to other disciplines for which they had no practical experience. This is why it is possible to have a business instructor who has never started a business before training people for business.


In this dynamic era, knowledge is being increased daily. When society grows faster than academia, gaps will emerge. The content, context and delivery of what is being taught are problems making the knowledge time-barred. The golden age of the industrial era has been overtaken by the information era.

The world is filled with people who have become experts through watching videos on social media platforms. This is the future and it is already here.

In the past half-century, everything has changed except the classroom and concept of schooling. This is why many of the innovators of today had to drop out of a system that was steeped in traditions of the past.

A system that even regulates how fast you are permitted to learn can’t be trusted to take us into the future. Things that can be learned in three years of apprenticeship take many years of different levels of education. This will not be sustainable with the generation raised on the Internet. That teacher still glorifying their 10-year-old degree, is truly in a bad place. Many studies show that a degree’s relevance does not go beyond five years.

This is the thinking behind the Street University ( where learners and mentors can meet without the containment of the middleman — the school.

Wale Akinyemi is the convener of Street University. [email protected]