TEDxMonash: It’s time to challenge the current education system

Professor Peter Wagstaff spoke about the need for education to be unbundled. Picture: Evelyn Chu


University education has become an industry where students feel like they are buying a degree, a Monash marketing academic says.

Professor Peter Wagstaff, a senior lecturer in the Department of Marketing at Monash Business School, said the current system disadvantaged students. 

“Students see themselves as being involved in a transaction, paying money to receive a degree, as opposed to the idea of building a life-long relationship and passion for learning,” he said.

“Such a practice has the disadvantage that students can’t plan far enough for their careers, they only have one direction and may lose opportunities that are out there.”

He was speaking at TEDxMonash University last week, a student club licensed to run TEDx events, which hosted several speakers on how to think out of the box, covering topics from gender equality to seizing the moment.

Prof Wagstaff recommended unbundling education, using the example of how illegal file-sharing service Napster forced the music industry to unbundle their product. 

“People weren’t just using Napster only because it was free, but because it was unbundled, available in convenient mp3 files, to people when and where they wanted it,”  Prof Wagstaff said.

“It forced the music industry to transform, through the process of unbundling, to satisfy consumer needs to do it on demand and in convenient way.”

Prof Wagstaff said this way of thinking should be applied to university education.

“The current education bundle has content such as three-year degree, three-month semester and three-hour lectures, they are all long-form compare to the way we as consumers receive content these days,” he said.

“Maybe we should unbundle education, rather than saying you’re 19 years old, study three or four years and then you get your career.”

Prof Wagstaff said that such strategy enabled students to think about when they had a need for skill and knowledge throughout their life.

“Think of when you have a need for skills and knowledge throughout your life, it’s not just in your early 20s,” he said.

Eliza Li spoke about the need for entrepreneurship to be introduced into high schools. Source: Evelyn Chu

Monash student Eliza Li – founder of Reach In Education, which teaches high school students about entrepreneurship – spoke about the need to fundamentally change our education system for the 21st century. 

“The factory model of education that we are receiving now is still unfortunately industrially based from last century. Unfortunately, this system of priming us to be workers for the labour economy has reached its expiry date,” Ms Li said.

Ms Li said that as we are entering into the era of big data, entrepreneurship should be incorporated in high school education.

“As we step into this big data era, the next generation of education needs to keep up. Entrepreneurship is the mindset of constant problem solving, it’s the capability to turn a problem into opportunity,” she said.

“By teaching my students to think like entrepreneurs, I’m shifting their mindset from focusing on achieving success to focusing on learning from failures.”

Ms Li said entrepreneurship needs to be introduced into high school because young people are a major force to create social change.

“Young people are more powerful than ever today, but also they can no longer afford to not take action. Right now, over 50 per cent of the world population is under 30,” she said.

“In the process of becoming an entrepreneur, young people can transform themselves into lifelong infinite learners. Being an infinite leaner, means more than just a life long journey, it means that you are also open to learning from anyone anywhere.”