‘Expect More of Yourself and of Your Country’
The Vice President of Education for Microsoft, Anthony Salcito, gave a lecture at the Higher School of Economics on ‘Career in the Era of Education Transformation and Digital Economy.’ Below, the HSE News Service provides highlights from his talk.
Why Aim Higher
More than 20 years ago, Bill Gates spoke to a large group of Girl Scouts and told them about new computer technologies. After listening to the head of Microsoft speak, one of the girls asked him an extremely practical question – how will these new technologies help the Girl Scouts sell cookies? (This is typically how they raise money to finance their activities.) Bill Gates responded: ‘There’s this thing called the internet. Some time will pass, and you’ll be able to use it to find buyers.’
In the early 1990s, this kind of answer might have seemed implausible, but Gates turned out to be right. Information technologies in education make you believe that anything is possible. Both in school and at the university, one mustn’t settle and instead strive for the best. We have to develop students’ creative skills. In the end, these are the skills that will allow them to change the world for the better.
This is why the main piece of advice that Anthony Salcito gave students was to expect more of yourself, your instructors, everyone who surrounds you, and your country.
Why We Must Invest in Science and Education
There is empirical evidence showing that education can completely change a country’s way of life and entire economy. Jamaica and Singapore gained independence almost at the same time, but they decided to use it differently. Singapore chose a long-term strategy when it came to developing education, while Jamaica decided to use natural resources (they were immediately available after all) and develop in the tourism sphere. Now the GDP per capita in these countries varies considerably.
Another example is when, during a visit to the Kenyan minister of education, Anthony Salcito unexpectedly saw two photographs of Seoul, South Korea, one in the 1960s and one now. ‘This is what my country looks like now,’ the minister said, showing Mr Salcito the first photograph. ‘And I’m working to make it look like this one,’ she added, pointing to the modern photo.
How People and Jobs Find Each Other
The learning process has fundamentally changed. This is because the way people communicate has changed, as have society and culture as a whole. But in addition to this, jobs and what employers expect of employees have also changed, while the hiring process itself is shifting. Not only are people moving in order to find work, but jobs are also ‘moving’ to find the right employees. And if a worker stops learning, then it’s time for him or her to change their career.
Technology transforms the economy, and this is a serious challenge that simultaneously represents new opportunities for both developing countries and current world powers. According to some estimates, the IT industry will gain 6.2 million new jobs over the next five years. By 2020, there will be 1.3 million unfilled jobs in Europe alone, and the majority of these will be in fields connected to cloud technologies. Different nations’ education systems have to somehow fill this gap.
What to Expect from Universities
The changes taking place in the economy and in education are putting more and more pressure on universities by calling into question the value of their diplomas and even the entire purpose of their existence. What can traditional universities offer when online education is developing rapidly and while business is developing professional standards and issuing its own certifications to meet these standards?
Universities will likely reach a point where their main purpose is not preparing bachelor’s and master’s students, but creating the conditions that will allow students to solve important problems like curing cancer, conserving energy, etc. The university experience will give students the skills to work on a team and contribute to projects – not only at the university, but also beyond.