Dev Rangarajan
    Narrowing of Education
    Some disorganized thoughts on post Pandemic Education

    Education has clearly changed forever after this pandemic, and that’s good, change is needed if we’re going to create the next 20 years of innovation and find work for people in an increasingly automated world. I’m going to break down my thoughts on each level of education.

    Graduate Schools - Currently I think grad school is a mix of a. undergrads who aren’t ready to leave college, b. people who want to network with other similar people c. people who want the co-sign of a top institution and d. people who are deeply passionate about research and higher education (including highly specialized fields like med/law school). Grad schools seem the least vulnerable to disruption, because the economics are fundamentally less broken than undergrad and in-person research is still the way to go.

    Undergraduate - Right now, undergrad is very expensive for most people, and 17-18 year olds should not be able to take out 200k in debt before they know anything about the world. There’s tremendous value in being with thousands of other young people for a few years while you transition to being more of an adult. I think colleges will hang on for this reason, because there is no popular close substitute for that experience. Programs like Minerva and other mobile online universities (the cohort stays together but the location they inhabit changes a lot) could provide some insight into what the future here might look like. This can also provide good separation between grad and undergrad programs, and cut a lot of administrative bloat. With the fall of the SAT/ACT, colleges will no longer be able to hide behind arbitrary numerical barriers, and admissions could become a multi year interviewing and recruiting process.

    This brings me to one of my main points: with more online education, you need fewer teachers and more support. The best lecturers and pedagogy experts can design and deliver curricula, with more 1:1 support from AI and other empathetic individuals. Difference at the information level will totally drop out, and the question that differentiates student privilege will be peer interaction, extra curriculars, and facilities. These are still important barriers, and we should continue working to solve them. As with any disruption, the real loser are those invested in the old system. Teachers and administrators will be less important and unable to draw the same amount of money out of education that they used to. I can see some teachers who are in it to improve student outcomes becoming full time tutors/support, and likely doing more hours with more students (and less with planning and preparation). Undergraduate professors who are only interested in research can do us all a favor and stay in their labs.

    Looking at pre-collegiate education, it’s important to address the social and childcare needs that this fills. Social development is arguably more important than learning calculus or European history. At the high school level, I envision more segmenting and clique based learning. Groups of students with some common interest working on their online coursework with some facilitation from prior teachers or a tutor, etc. This could all happen at the new ‘school’ facility, which would be similarly divided (elementary, middle, high school) as it is now, but could look more like a coworking space than a brick and mortar school. More local education facilities could be another option here; places for groups of 5-30 students to work together. I can see a gig economy for tutors that support one of these groups of kids, but with lower qualification barriers.

    Ultimately, this could be a great equalizer for a lot of students. Give every student in America a tablet or laptop and make basic internet free for everyone, and then you have even the most disadvantaged students learning from the best educators we can find for whatever areas they are most interested in. There are a ton of problems and innovations that would be required to make this happen, but it has the potential to improve so many lives and places in the US.

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