In an age of change where the status quoi is being questioned, how can educators bring anew society into the world? 

HIGHER EDUCATION: A QUESTION OF LEGITIMACY

Higher education as we know it is undergoing revolutionary change. Its legitimacy was long based on two factors that appear increasingly fragile today: diplomas and research. In an age where knowledge is available anywhere and anytime, the value of a degree, and indeed of the teaching required to obtain it, is in question. And if you add the cost of this teaching, whether from the public purse or an individual’s, the math can start to raise doubts.

“ Institutions of higher learning can no longer just deliver knowledge, they need to construct robust responses that serve society. Emmanuel Métais, Dean of EDHEC Business School.

“Teaching serves a purpose, it’s undeniable,” asserts Emmanuel Métais, Dean of EDHEC Business School. “But in a society searching for meaning, to ‘serve’ can only mean making an active contribution to the current transformations. Our students and future students get it.” “The same is true of research,” notes Christophe Roquilly, EDHEC Dean for Faculty and Research. “While the rigor of scientific method obliges us to publish academic papers, this has never been an end in itself. Research should feed debate, break new ground, and suggest solutions to financial players. You know you are useful when you improve a sector’s practices, when you manage to make economic challenges meet societal ones, as with our financial indicators.” “Our role, more than ever, is to accompany and to be incubators,” continues Emmanuel Métais. “What do we offer today to the people who will be building tomorrow? This question takes on greater significance for business schools. If we accept that  business is indeed one of society’s most important vectors for change, the mission of preparing tomorrow’s leaders all comes down to what kind of society we want to see emerge.”

60 to 80% of professions in 2030 don’t yet exist

EDHEC: SHAPING (FOR) TOMORROW

Specialization is still a guarantee of employability for the vast majority of those who attend higher education. But if we accept that 60 to 80% of professions that will be practiced in 2030 don’t yet exist, we quickly realize that expertise alone is not enough, and employability will go hand in hand with adaptability.

“ We need to teach them to be curious and ambitious. Curiosity to question the world and ambition in their desire to change it. Emmanuel Métais

“Our mission is to form composite profiles,” reveals Emmanuel Métais. Young professionals whose main expertise is augmented by multiple reading grids, notably borrowing from the humanities but also from disciplines not traditionally found in business schools. We need to teach them to be curious and ambitious. Curiosity to question the world, ambition in their desire to change the world.” The return of humanities to business school curricula is already a well-documented phenomenon. So will you have to be an accomplished sociologist to beef up that sales pitch? After greenwashing, are we about to enter the age of philosophy-washing? Far from it, if the programs are anything to go by, notably EDHEC’s pre-Master year and the Digital Culture course. The idea is not to squeeze pre-Socratic pondering between two classes on Machine Learning, but more to offer a rich reading matrix, to put things in context, building on hindsight to accustom the mind to multidimensional thinking. Tomorrow’s leader will need to be able to give meaning and offer usefulness to society, to their stakeholders, and to all those they reach. By making the framework between disciplines more flexible and infusing them with each other’s influences, we can foster minds capable of conceiving and injecting sense into things as yet unimaginable.

“ The idea is not to squeeze pre-Socratic pondering between two classes on Machine Learning, but more to offer a rich reading matrix. Emmanuel Métais

Putting students in close contact with research is also a way to feed a thirst for learning. As well as feeding programs with “fresh” material that is leading edge and emanates from the institution itself, research brings a scientific rhetoric and dialectic to problems which may be anything but. Being involved in the process to varying degrees, the students develop a taste for analysis and reading quite early. Likewise, they pick up a failure philosophy of ‘try and learn’, experiencing gradually demystified uncertainty, all of which approaches the very foundations of an entrepreneurial spirit.

 

LEARNING HOW TO LEARN

The value of schools is shifting. “With the upheavals technology is bringing to teaching methods, we need to rethink the role of knowing and where our added value resides,” says Emmanuel Métais. “In education, technology is rehumanizing teaching: thanks to learning analytics, we can know how the student learns, at what pace, and what they retain. The teacher’s role has officially changed into that of accompanying the learning experience: helping a student to make choices and learn how to learn.”

In education, technology is rehumanizing teaching: thanks to learning analytics, we can know how the student learns. Emmanuel Métais