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Why lifelong learning is the international passport to success
The university model needs to evolve.
Picture yourself at a college graduation day, with a fresh cohort of students about to set sail for new horizons. What are they thinking while they throw their caps in the air?
What is it with this thin sheet of paper that makes it so precious? It's not only the proof of acquired knowledge but plays into the reputation game of where you were trained. Being a graduate from Harvard Law School carries that extra glitz, doesn't it? Yet take a closer look, and the diploma is the perfect ending to the modern tragedy of education.
Why? Because universities and curricula are designed along the three unities of French classical tragedy: time, action, and place. Students meet at the university campus (unity of place) for classes (unity of action) during their 20s (unity of time). This classical model has traditionally produced prestigious universities, but it is now challenged by the digitalisation of society – which allows everybody who is connected to the internet to access learning – and by the need to acquire skills in step with a fast-changing world. Universities must realise that learning in your 20s won't be enough. If technological diffusion and implementation develop faster, workers will have to constantly refresh their skills.
The university model needs to evolve. It must equip students with the right skills and knowledge to compete in a world 'where value will be derived largely from human interaction and the ability to invent and interpret things that machines cannot', as the English futurist Richard Watson puts it. By teaching foundational knowledge and up-to-date skills, universities will provide students with the future-proof skills of lifelong learning, not just get them 'job-ready'.
Some universities already play a critical role in lifelong learning as they want to keep the value of their diplomas. This new role comes with a huge set of challenges, and needs largely to be invented. One way to start this transformation process could be to go beyond the 'five-year diploma model' to adapt curricula to lifelong learning. We call this model the lifelong passport.
The Bachelor's degree could be your passport to lifelong learning. For the first few years, students would 'learn to learn' and get endowed with reasoning skills that remain with them for the rest of their lives. For instance, physics allows you to observe and rationalise the world, but also to integrate observations into models and, sometimes, models into theories or laws that can be used to make predictions. Mathematics is the language used to formulate the laws of physics or economy, and to make rigorous computations that turn into predictions. These two disciplines naturally form the foundational pillars of education in technical universities.
Recent advances in computational methods and data science push us into rethinking science and engineering. Computers increasingly become principal actors in leveraging data to formulate questions, which requires radically new ways of reasoning. Therefore, a new discipline blending computer science, programming, statistics and machine learning should be added to the traditional foundational topics of mathematics and physics. These three pillars would allow you to keep learning complex technical subjects all your life because numeracy is the foundation upon which everything else is eventually built.
According to this new model, the Master of Science (MSc) would become the first stamp in the lifelong learning journey. The MSc curriculum should prepare students for their professional career by allowing them to focus on acquiring practical skills through projects.
Those projects are then intertwined with fast-paced technical modules learned 'on-the-fly' and 'at will' depending on the nature of the project. If, for instance, your project is developing an integrated circuit, you will have to take a module on advanced concepts in microelectronics. The most critical skills will be developed before the project even starts, in the form of boot camps, while the rest can be fostered in tandem with the project, putting them to immediate use and thus providing a rich learning context.
In addition to technical capabilities, the very nature of projects develops transversal, social and entrepreneurial skills, such as design thinking, initiative taking, team leading, activity reporting or resource planning. Not only will those skills be de facto integrated into the curriculum but they will be very important to have in the future because they are difficult to automate.
In short, the new MSc diploma becomes a portfolio of accomplished projects and a list of technical skills learned in modules. This portfolio is open-ended and must be updated throughout life, as technologies and their applications change faster than ever.
After the MSc diploma is earned, there would be many more stamps of lifelong learning over the years. If universities decide to engage in this learning model, they will have to cope with many organisational challenges that might shake their unity of place and action. First, the number of students would be unpredictable. If all of a university's alumni were to become students again, cohorts would be much bigger than they are now, and it could become unsustainable for the campus in terms of both size and resources. Second, freshly graduated students would mix with professionally experienced ones. This would change the classroom dynamics, perhaps for the best. Project-based learning with a heterogeneous team reflects the reality of the professional world and could therefore be a better preparation for it.
Sound like science fiction? In many countries, part-time studying is not exceptional: on average across OECD countries, part-time students in 2016 represented 20 per cent of enrolment in tertiary education. In many countries, this share is higher and can exceed 40 per cent in Australia, New Zealand and Sweden.
If lifelong learning were to become a priority and the new norm, diplomas, just like passports, could be revalidated periodically. A time-determined revalidation would ease administration for everybody. Universities as well as employers and employees would know when they have to retrain. For instance, graduates from the year 2000 would have to come back in 2005.
This could fix the main organisational challenges for the university, but not for the learners, due to lack of time, family obligations or funds. Here, online learning might be an option because it allows you to save your 'travel time', but it has its limits. So far, none of the major employers associated with online learning platforms such as Coursera and Udacity has committed to hire or even interview graduates of their new online programmes.
Even if time were not an issue, who will pay for lifelong learning? That's the eternal debate: should it be the learner's responsibility, that of his employer, or of the state? For example, in Massachusetts, the healthcare professions require continuing education credits, which are carefully evidenced and documented. Yet the same state's lawyers don't require continuing legal education, although most lawyers do participate in it informally. One explanation is that technology is less of factor in law than it is in healthcare.
Europe has many scenarios, but the French and Swiss ones are interesting to compare. In France, every individual has a right to lifelong learning organised via a personal learning account called compte personnel de formation that is credited as you work. In Switzerland, lifelong learning is a personal responsibility and not a government one. However, employers and the state encourage continuing education either by funding parts of it or by allowing employees to attend it. A report on the future of work for the McKinsey Global Institute found that 89 per cent of companies in Switzerland in 2015 supported further training courses, and 44 per cent of all those employed by companies with at least 10 employees took part in training courses.
Universities have a fundamental role to play in this journey, and higher education is in for a change, similar to that experienced by the French classical theatre model in the 19th century. In 1830, Victor Hugo proposed a Romantic tragedy, Hernani, that would overturn the three unities. To ensure that the censors would not prohibit his play, Hugo assembled a 'romantic army' by gathering enough of a crowd for the opening night. Not only was Hernani allowed but it had 100 performances, breaking the monopoly of the old model. Just like classical theatre, the old university model produced talent and value for society. We are not advocating its abolition but rather calling for the adaptation of its characteristics to meet the needs of today.
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A new study finds that dogs fed fresh human-grade food don't need to eat—or do their business—as much.
- Most dogs eat a diet that's primarily kibble.
- When fed a fresh-food diet, however, they don't need to consume as much.
- Dogs on fresh-food diets have healthier gut biomes.
Four diets were tested<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTU5ODI1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NjY0NjIxMn0._w0k-qFOC86AqmtPHJBK_i-9F5oVyVYsYtUrdvfUxWQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="1b1e4" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="87937436a81c700a8ab3b1d763354843" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="960" />
Credit: AntonioDiaz/Adobe Stock<p>The researchers tested refrigerated and fresh human-grade foods against kibble, the food most dogs live on. The <a href="https://frontierpets.com.au/blogs/news/how-kibble-or-dry-dog-food-is-made" target="_blank">ingredients</a> of kibble are mashed into a dough and then extruded, forced through a die of some kind into the desired shape — think a <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_extrusion" target="_blank">pasta maker</a>. The resulting pellets are sprayed with additional flavor and color.</p><p>For four weeks, researchers fed 12 beagles one of four diets:</p><ol><li>a extruded diet — Blue Buffalo Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe</li><li>a fresh refrigerated diet — Freshpet Roasted Meals Tender Chicken Recipe</li><li>a fresh diet — JustFoodforDogs Beef & Russet Potato Recipe</li><li>another fresh diet — JustFoodforDogs Chicken & White Rice Recipe.</li></ol><p>The two fresh diets contained minimally processed beef, chicken, broccoli, rice, carrots, and various food chunks in a canine casserole of sorts. </p><p>(One can't help but think how hard it would be to get finicky cats to test new diets. As if.)</p><p>Senior author <a href="https://ansc.illinois.edu/directory/ksswanso" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Kelly S. Swanson</a> of U of I's Department of Animal Sciences and the Division of Nutritional Sciences, was a bit surprised at how much better dogs did on people food than even refrigerated dog chow. "Based on past research we've conducted I'm not surprised with the results when feeding human-grade compared to an extruded dry diet," he <a href="https://aces.illinois.edu/news/feed-fido-fresh-human-grade-dog-food-scoop-less-poop" target="_blank">says</a>, adding, "However, I did not expect to see how well the human-grade fresh food performed, even compared to a fresh commercial processed brand."</p>
Tracking the effect of each diet<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTU5ODI1OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3NjY1NTgyOX0.AdyMb8OEcjCD6iWYnXjToDmcnjfTSn-0-dfG96SIpUA/img.jpg?width=980" id="da892" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="880d952420679aeccd1eaf32b5339810" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="960" />
Credit: Patryk Kosmider/Adobe Stock<p>The researchers tracked the dogs' weights and analyzed the microbiota in their fecal matter.</p><p>It turned out that the dogs on kibble had to eat more to maintain their body weight. This resulted in their producing 1.5 to 2.9 times the amount of poop produced by dogs on the fresh diets.</p><p>Says Swanson, "This is consistent with a 2019 National Institute of Health study in humans that found people eating a fresh whole food diet consumed on average 500 less calories per day, and reported being more satisfied, than people eating a more processed diet."</p><p>Maybe even more interesting was the effect of fresh food on the gut biome. Though there remains much we don't yet know about microbiota, it was nonetheless the case that the microbial communities found in fresh-food poo was different.</p><p>"Because a healthy gut means a healthy mutt," says Swanson, "fecal microbial and metabolite profiles are important readouts of diet assessment. As we have shown in <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jas/article/92/9/3781/4702209#110855647" target="_blank">previous studies</a>, the fecal microbial communities of healthy dogs fed fresh diets were different than those fed kibble. These unique microbial profiles were likely due to differences in diet processing, ingredient source, and the concentration and type of dietary fibers, proteins, and fats that are known to influence what is digested by the dog and what reaches the colon for fermentation."</p>
How did kibble take over canine diets?<p>Historically, dogs ate scraps left over by humans. It has only been <a href="https://www.thefarmersdog.com/digest/the-history-of-commercial-pet-food-a-great-american-marketing-story/" target="_blank">since 1870</a>, with the arrival of the luxe Spratt's Meat Fibrine Dog Cakes—made from "the dried unsalted gelatinous parts of Prairie Beef", mmm—that commercial dog food began to take hold. Dog bone-shaped biscuits first appeared in 1907. Ken-L Ration dates from 1922. Kibble was first extruded in 1956. Pet food had become a great way to turn <a href="https://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/choosing-dog-food/animal-by-products/" target="_blank">human-food waste</a> into profit.</p><p>Commercial dog food became the norm for most household canines only after a massive marketing campaign led by a group of dog-food industry lobbyists called the Pet Food Institute in 1964. Over time, for most households, dog food was what dogs ate — what else? Human food? These days more than half of U.S. dogs are <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/03/magazine/who-made-that-dog-biscuit.html" target="_blank">overweight or obese</a>, and certainly their diet is a factor.<span></span></p><p>We're not so special among animals after all. If something's healthy for us to eat—we're <em>not</em> looking at you, chocolate—maybe we should remember to share with our canine compatriots. Not from the table, though.</p>
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Eating veggies is good for you. Now we can stop debating how much we should eat.
- A massive new study confirms that five servings of fruit and veggies a day can lower the risk of death.
- The maximum benefit is found at two servings of fruit and three of veggies—anything more offers no extra benefit according to the researchers.
- Not all fruits and veggies are equal. Leafy greens are better for you than starchy corn and potatoes.