In most situations when we have a destination in mind, we want to get the most we can out of the journey, and arrive at the destination as quickly as possible. At the moment, education is an exception to this – but it doesn’t need to be.
It’s well known I personally found school a struggle and wasn’t encouraged or inspired to succeed by the system. On the contrary, it was only when I left school at 15 and started my own business that I began my real education. Of course, this isn’t the right path for everyone. But those who stay in education should enjoy the most useful, stimulating, efficient and enjoyable experience possible.
In higher education, one simple problem that stands out to me is the sheer length of courses. It can take three or four years to get through a course that could be completed in half that time. Holidays are extremely long and very few lectures are spread out across sprawling weeks.
Shorter courses with more focused, challenging structures, would free up more time. Young people would more quickly be able to move onto starting their own business or contributing to existing ones. What’s more with the earnings they’re making, they would be able to participate more in the real world; playing organised sports and enjoying a more fruitful social life. Shorter courses would also reduce costs, cutting the amount of harmful debt students are saddled with at the end of their studies.
There are some universities beginning to see the benefits of shorter courses. In the UK, more than 10 universities now offer two year degrees. In Australia, Bond University also has shorter breaks, getting through more coursework in less time. By fast-tracking their educations, I’m sure students on these courses will get just as much out of their studies as their peers on longer degrees – and will save more time and fewer money troubles at the end of them.
In the five decades since I found the school system unfit for purpose, very little has changed. We need more real life learning. Great entrepreneurs like Andrew Carnegie and Thomas Edison had little or no formal education. The likes of Walt Disney and Steve Jobs dropped out of education. I think their frustrated was often to do with impatience. Rather than letting talent waste away in stale classrooms, we need to equip people with real-world skills, and get them out into the world using them more quickly.
For those who are entrepreneurially-minded, our not-for-profit Virgin StartUp can provide government-backed Start Up Loans and one-to-one mentoring and support.