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What is the "value" of Formal Education?

Updated: Apr 11, 2019

I think one of the challenges with education is that there is no method of assessing the value that education provides.  We rely on intrinsic and referential metrics that tell us retrospectively the value of an educated person is more likely to succeed then one who is not.  The current thinking on education is that it prepares the mind to accept knowledge with domain knowledge and competencies to accelerate the adoption curve for an individual who needs to perform a job.   After a few years of practical (hands on) work most individuals have learned the job sufficiently to perform at a high level of competence.  Very few jobs require significant education to perform the actual work.  Even with higher education, not all folks perform a given job with an acceptable level of skill (we've probably experienced a few doctors & lawyers who need more practical experience...).  Organizations are limited by their inability to predict how well an individual (with or without formal education) can perform a given job as evidenced by their reliance on the resume and education to provide insights for making hiring decisions.  Unfortunately, the hiring process has not evolved sufficiently and appears very inefficient and many times ineffective.  Perhaps what organizations need is a way to measure the value of human potential (to perform a job).  Might be an opportunity for applying creative thinking and innovation.

Regarding the ability to think out of the box, I don't think that requires significant investment in formal education, rather it's a skill level that is easily obtained (reference De Bono).  I'm not aware that this type of skill is provided by formal institutions.  What you might acquire with formal education is more domain knowledge and/or contextual understanding.  That combined with the ability to recognize patterns in other domains and situations may allow you to more easily abstract concepts and apply them in new ways.  I think we refer to that as "creativity".


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