October 22, 2013

Friends from Russia

Sometimes, when you work at something grand, the most unlikely people will appear.

On Wednesday, six Russian educators–professors and lecturers in management, theoretical physics, and health care–came with the US Congress Open World Program to explore innovations in higher education within the US.

Experience Institute was selected to be a source of insight and information as these professionals sought solutions to improve the education model in Russia. We were honored to facilitate the discussion on a topic we’re fully immersed in right now.

Speaking through a translator, Victor shared the story of Ei and its origins in the Leap Year Project. Then, a two-hour discussion ensued with thoughts on traditional systems, experienced-based learning, credibility and accreditation, apprenticeships, mentoring, metrics, and the why behind it all.

Asking these tough questions together was an exhilarating experience. We employed stick-figure drawing on several occasions, and as a sign of international goodwill, these figures were given Russian names.

So, when young “Igor” is dropped into a maze of educational paths, lacking guidance or self-awareness skills to navigate his way, how do we create a system to help?

Could we prepare Igor to be prepared for his professional life by combining a core curriculum that supported relevant experiences in his industry of study?

What if he was ‘graded’ on developing a relationship with an influential mentor that has already walked down the path Igor wants to explore?

Or, maybe two years of a traditional four-year program could involve a diversified approach to a wider range of topics, experiences, projects, and exploration so that students can better know themselves before selecting a major.

As we sat around the table, sharing our hopes for the future of education, we all agreed that there a lot of unknowns, both in the US and Russia. But before parting ways, the delegation commended Victor for the work he is doing with Ei, saying that he has planted a seed for change.

What will grow is yet to be seen, but all of us were inspired by noticing the soft ground around us and celebrating the changes ahead.

-- v

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