Friday, April 15, 2011

Interesting approach to higher education

Gales of Creative Instruction by Jerry Bowyer starts with:

Two-hundred thirty-five years ago Adam Smith reflected on the very dissatisfactory years he had spent as a student at Oxford University. He concluded that the poor quality of instruction was a natural consequence of a change in the school’s business model.

Old Oxford was a marketplace. Students paid tutorial fees directly to teachers. The teacher was the provider, the student was the customer and the college was merely the exchange, a kind of medieval Nasdaq for pure intellectual capital.

Some such as the influential Francis Bacon (in a rare misstep) argued that the system engendered too much loyalty between student and teacher, which led to excessive intellectual fragmentation. For this, and no doubt other less noble reasons, the model was eventually abandoned and Oxford became a centralized cooperative bureaucracy, the prototype of the modern university.

What a fascinating idea!  It sure would make each teacher more motivated to provide the best educational experience they could.

Jerry's article goes on to speculate how increasing competitive markets and computer technology are distroying the classic univeristy system.

Our children may be the last generation that pays a lump sum to some college and goes off to school for four years.

Hat tip: Instapundit.


Homeschoolbytes said...

I'd love to see the model change. Why wouldn't you want to pay say a successful businessman for lessons on how to do what he did, instead of a professor who couldn't make it in the business world and decided to teach instead?

Choosing which teachers to pay makes me smile as I think back on my education up through med school. That would have been so much more fun! Though which teachers the kindergarten kids would pick . . . :-)


Jean said...

That is an interesting idea, but I hear an awful lot of professors saying that their students already treat them like that: "I'm paying, you're my employee, so give me what I want or I'll tell the dean." Only what they want is usually easy A's and no requirements.

If you did it as Smith suggests, I would suggest that each professor would have the right to refuse to take on unsatisfactory students. That would probably lead to lawsuits, I don't know...but one problem teachers and professors both have right now is that they usually have no right to eject disruptive or awful students, no matter how bad. The administration nearly always gives in to student demands. That cuts down academic quality for all students.

jugglingpaynes said...

In a way, my daughter is doing that now at community college, and I remember doing it in my college days. If you found a good professor, you tried to take as many classes from him/her as possible.

I have been surprised at the lack of work from students in my daughter's classes. It always seemed to me that if you are paying for a class, you should try to get the most out of it. In some of the required courses, many students don't even bother to show up, they just turn in a lump of homework and papers at the end. Waste of their money, whether they are given a passing grade or not.

re you comment: What you need to do is get one of your kids interested in your hobby, then they can do it with you when they are old enough. You always have time for your children's interests! ;o)

Peace and Laughter,

Henry Cate said...

Misty - "...instead of a professor who couldn't make it in the business world and decided to teach instead?"

That is a great line.

Jean - I know that at the high school level many teachers suffer from that attitude. I hadn't been aware that it was a bit deal at the college level.

And I agree. If we ever moved to a system which had students paying directly, there would have to be some way to allow teachers to back away from problem students.

Cristina - I think part of the problem with higher education in our society is too few students are paying for it. You don't value what you haven't had to earn. And especially after twelve years in government schools being told they had to learn, most students go off to college with the thought that someone is suppose to entertain them and make it fun, not that the students have to put in any work.