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E-interview with Mr. Dale Stephens

Dale J. Stephens, founder and CEO of UnCollege (www.uncollege.org), is a sought-after education expert. UnCollege is a social movement changing the notion that college is the only path to success. It provides resources for students that wish to define their own educational paths, whether in or outside of traditional higher education models. Stephens' first book, Hacking Your Education, was published by Penguin in March 2013. He has appeared on major news networks including CNN, ABC, NPR, CBS, Fox, and TechCrunch. His work has been covered by the New York Times and New York Magazine to Fast Company and Forbes. He speaks regularly at conferences around the world. In 2013, Forbes recognized him as a 30 Under 30 Leader.

What type of knowledge, skills, values and capacities does Uncollege seek to develop in students?

UnCollege teaches the types of skills you're supposed to learn in school but that no one ever bothers to teach, such as time management, social capital, motivation, negotiation, and more. These skills are useful across disciplines and are essential that every adult master. We call these meta-learning skills.

What is the difference between the focus of traditional education and the approach of UnCollege?

Traditional education focuses on teaching content. UnCollege focuses on helping people become better learners. By becoming better learners, UnCollege fellows will be able to more quickly master hard skills.

What would you consider as the ideal system of education and how would it differ from what is offered in universities today?

I think an ideal university system must be relevant, iterative, and accountable. I want to see a system that teaches useful skills, that frequently adapts its curriculum for the world, and is only kept around if the curriculum helps its students find success.

What capacities are needed in 21st century career market and how can youth best acquire them?

The kinds of skills UnCollege teaches are the exact capacities that are needed: building social capital, communicating effectively, giving and getting feedback. These skills can be learned over time, but focusing on learning them expressly in a program such as Gap Year is far more efficient.

How might the UnCollege approach, if widely applied, impact on the problem of unemployment?

If the unemployed were to become better learners, then they could teach themselves the required skills instead of waiting for someone else to do it. As it stands, we don't motivate the unemployed to learn - we simply encourage them to do what they already know how to do, which is a remarkably bad idea seeing as they are likely unemployed because their current skills aren't valued.

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