September 23, 2019

AI Disruption in Formal Education

By: Larry Bridgesmith

A major change in the goals and means of educating the digital workforce is taking place in unexpected places and unanticipated ways.

“Bricks and mortar” educational institutions continue to build “bigger barns” out of a traditional mindset of on campus real time face to face instruction as the primary or sole means of education. The soaring expense of this model has outpaced its value in economic terms. Student debt continues to exceed the employment “payback” formal education has historically provided to graduates.

A U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics study of price increases over the 20 years from 1997 to 2017 discloses an almost 200% increase in higher education costs (second only to healthcare) in contrast to an overall inflation rate of 55%.

At the same time, digital transformation of the skills needed in a rapidly changing workplace is leaving formal education less relevant than ever. No curriculum being developed today can anticipate the skills needed for a workplace five years in the future. These are not low level positions, but executive, professional and technical work necessary in a global economy.

We are approaching a time when relevant skills based training may be of greater value in the workplace than diplomas and even graduate credentials.

When formal education embraces this challenge, it is noticeable and commendable.

As reported by Bhumika Khatri, India’s Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has demonstrated just such a vision and the commitment to realize it. In a partnership reached with Microsoft, CBSE models how formal education can prepare teachers, students and society for the workplace of the future. Khatri reports:

In its partnership with Microsoft India, CBSE is looking to conduct capacity building programmes for high school teachers with an aim to integrate cloud-powered technology in K12 teaching and inculcating digital teaching skills in educators through curriculum as well as extra-curricular training. The programme for teachers of grades VIII to X will be conducted in 10 cities across the country, starting September 11.

“Further, CBSE said that the teachers will also learn about digital story-telling, creation of personalised learning experiences for diverse  learners, use of Teams for virtual lessons and how to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) tools to create bots and how to demystify concepts around AI through course curriculum.”

India estimates that AI applications can augment the national GDP by $957 Billion. However, the talent gap is huge and an AI centric learning model at the secondary level is essential to lessen that gap. Higher education must learn and teach the same lessons.

The national economies that follow suit will not find themselves wanting. Those that don’t are facing serious consequences.


Mr. Bridgesmith has over 40 years experience in legal professional services and numerous business ventures involving digital technologies. He has represented, trained, and consulted with organizations large and small in most industries. He is currently a Managing Partner of Accelerate InSite with a focus on AI Strategies.