Results from Deloitte LLP’s 2008 “Business in Education” study point to some dissonance between the corporate and academic worlds with regard to how much influence the former should have in the latter. According to the findings, only 12 percent of educators believe business involvement in curricula development within the U.S. educational system would produce definite improvements, whereas 41 percent of corporate executives think it would.
Furthermore, only 14 percent of educators said businesses should definitely help set national standards, vs. 42 percent of executives. Deloitte CEO Barry Salzberg said the discrepancy was not terribly surprising, but he hopes that will change.
“It is natural that educators want to preserve their independence and authority on such intricate issues,” Salzberg told Chief Learning Officer magazine. “And they are right; their expertise and background warrants that they be the ones who lead these types of initiatives. I also don’t believe businesses could ever replace — nor would want to replace — educators or policymakers.
“That said, businesses’ interest in wanting to get involved should not be misconstrued or be looked upon with fear. Businesses can bring new perspectives to the table in a collaborative environment — especially from a practical, workplace perspective. In fact, I would argue that this approach would be very useful to educators, as well as more productive in terms of identifying new solutions to some of our most complex education challenges.”
That’s not to say that increased business involvement in curricula development would be an unqualified benefit. There are potential downsides to this arrangement that must be considered, Salzberg said.
“As far as drawbacks, our survey indicates that 51 percent of educators and 61 percent of business executives believe there may be less emphasis on liberal arts and other non-business-oriented disciplines if businesses were more involved,” he explained.
“However, I think the benefits of getting businesses involved outweigh the drawbacks. In fact, I strongly believe any potential drawbacks can be addressed by establishing a strong collaboration between educators and businesses. That way, we will all benefit from each other’s expertise without impinging on the education process, compromising curricula or challenging the expertise of educators.”
One of the biggest advantages of greater business involvement in U.S. education at all levels would be the increase in applied knowledge provided in the form of case studies, hands-on exercises and other experiences that connect abstract concepts to the real world.
“One of the most visible ways businesses can contribute to curricula development is by incorporating real-life examples/experiences into the classroom,” Salzberg said. “This is critical in preparing our children for the real-world and gives them a well-rounded education that draws from theory, as well as practical knowledge.”