The new education system part 3

Today Information-Technology is the critical enabler for economic growth. The fact is technology can create more jobs than any others and keep the economy to stay competitive. Therefore, technology should be a priority teaching in all college education programs.

The question often asked is: “What do students need to learn?” As mentioned in the previous blog, elementary school students need to know how to use the computer; high school students must know how to use the computer to do some works, but college students need more. There is a difference between know how to use a computer and understanding the science and the application of technology which is a subject that should be taught in college. Another question often asked is: “Why? Not all college students are studying computer science or engineering? Why do a literature or art students need to know about technology? The answer is: ALL future jobs will REQUIRE the use of technology and All students will NEED to use technology in their jobs, regardless of what the jobs are, SO THEY SHOULD Learn about technology NOW.

There is a significant change in current education but few people are noticing that. In the past, college students are often taught in an “isolated field” as their field of study is independent of the rest. For example, science students rarely know something about other areas such as business, or literature or history. This isolation creates graduates who specialized in their area but with limited knowledge of others. Today college students need to understand that a knowledge in a specific area can be applied to other areas, and innovation is a combination of multiple fields that complement one another or “Cross disciplines.” For example, today students must learn to apply mathematics in finance, accounting, business, science, and technology. The same principle is valid where students can apply computer technology to economics, business, finance, and science, etc. In this “connected world,” many fields are integrated, and technology is the “glue” that connects everything.

For example, today architect companies do NOT hire people who can draw by hand anymore but people who can use computer and software called Computer-Aided-Design (CAD) to do all the drawings. All architect students must learn at least several computer classes and know how to use CAD before they can graduate. Most manufacture companies are hiring people who can use computer and software called Computer-Aided-Manufacturing to design products from a simple model to complex circuitries of an electronic board. With 3D printing technology, companies can “print” anything they want so they need people who know how to design and use the 3D machines. Today you can “print” a house, or a car, or a flower and even a real human body parts. The use of this technology is expanding fast from manufacturing to architecture construction and even healthcare.

Today many top universities have combined several fields into a “Cross disciplines” new field where innovation can be created. For example, I am teaching a combination of Biology and Technology into a new field called Biotechnology. I also combine Computer Science and Biology into a field called Bioinformatics or Computation Biology. Other professors combine Computer Science and Statistics into the Big Data analysis field, etc. Today college students must be taught that certain principles within an area can be combined with others and organize into a framework where they can apply and create new things. That is why in the near future, there will no longer be any isolated field but a combination of many fields into new academic fields.

In the past, many students work their way through school by memorizing a lot of information in each grade level. They can pass tests but are they really learning? Basically, this type of teaching does not promote critical thinking and deeper understanding of the concept. Many graduates can recite the concepts but do not know how to apply them to solve problems or know how to design or create products from these concepts. Many of them become “Bureaucrats” who prefer to sit comfortably in an office and talk about things but could not do much. The focus on memorization and standardized testing are obsolete in this information age.

If we can change the education system that focuses more on learning by doing where students do not have to memorize but know how to apply the concepts, they will leave school with a much richer and better education. Learning “deeper” and apply knowledge to solve real situations is the foundation of a new modern education systems.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University