With education systems floundering, big brands are stepping in. Are co-branded diplomas the future of education?
Education as we knew it is no more. In the last six months, virtual courses have been rolled out en masse across the education spectrum as COVID-19 forced over 1.5 billion students to remain home. With traditional education knocked off balance, Generation Z and their parents are questioning the value of universities and the ensuing crippling student debt. At the same time, there is a growing push for life-long learning to keep people employed in ever-changing industries. Recognizing the potential to influence what and how students learn, brands are stepping into the teaching sphere, advancing the future of education.
In July 2020, Facebook announced a partnership with the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) in India which will create a digital tools certification program for Indian children. Aiming to prepare students for existing and emerging jobs, the curriculum will cover not only digital safety and well-being but also augmented reality. Also announcing their partnership with CBSE this month, Google plans to support over 1 million teachers across the country in online education.
As part of their mission to build tech literacy, UK internet provider BT recently worked with Wunderman Thompson to launch a new app-based game called Digital Dash to teach kids new digital skills like coding. Designed in response to research finding that over 2 million kids have done little or no homework since lockdown, the game aims to assist parents in furthering their children’s education in a fun and engaging way whilst at home.
Education isn’t just for children or young adults though. In the US, big tech companies like IBM and Apple are working with the federal government on their campaign Find Something New, which aims to provide resources and education for unemployed workers to retrain for new jobs. In the launch press release, Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, said of the purpose behind the initiative, “Now more than ever, we need to ensure that everyone has the tools they need to succeed and seize new opportunities. To invest in our future, we have to invest in people, in education and the many paths to a well-paying job or starting a new business.”
Although the campaign has been criticized for being out of touch with the current mood of the nation, big tech companies are increasingly aware of the need for specialty trained employees and by being part of this project, they can influence the direction it takes.
The concept of branded education is not new; after all, McDonald’s established their Hamburger University in 1961. However, companies are now looking to get involved in deeper ways, training not just their future employees but all students—be they children or those already in the job market. With the state of schooling being upended by economic, technological and now health forces, forward thinking brands are already stepping in to rewrite the curriculum. Perhaps next we will even have co-branded diplomas—rah, rah, Harvard Google University?