Diversifying Learning Pathways for the 21st Century

Grad girlEarlier this week, it was reported that Michigan, on the urging of the local school and business communities, was looking to change high school graduation requirements.  Specifically, the state is seeking to add computer coding and to require specific “21st century skill” credits for students to secure their diplomas.

In New Mexico, state leaders are exploring accelerating the college graduation process, reducing the number of credit hours to secure a college degree. The reason? To provide the local economy with more college graduates more quickly.

Both of these examples tell the same story. The U.S. economy is hungry for students with degrees and 21st century skills. States are recognizing that the ways of the past don’t necessary align with the needs of the future. And that postsecondary education takes many different forms, depending on the learner and his or her desired outcomes.

More simply, there is more to K-12 than just reading, writing, and arithmetic. We expect more from our students, and that means expecting their high school diplomas to mean more.

With regard to college, the era of college being a four-year (or six) year slog is also a thing of the past. As employers look for different things from their future workforces, colleges must adapt to ensure students possess the needed skills and knowledge.

States like Michigan and New Mexico are further demonstrating there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach when it comes to education. And as data from ERCA and others suggests, it is more than just the business community demanding such changes. In reflecting on the thoughts and aspirations of today’s students, young people want those same options too.

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