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Friday, July 06, 2007

Tertiary Education: Whose responsibility is it?

I don’t believe I had ever heard the term “tertiary education” until Steve Sherlock taught it to me.

Hello, I’m Rosa Say, author of Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawaii’s Universal Values to the Art of Business. I told Steve I’d be happy to say hello to you while he is taking a short vacation (he’ll be back soon).

If not for Steve, the first time I would have heard the term ‘tertiary education’ probably would’ve been as I listened to The World is Flat on audio, but maybe not even then, for it’s but one small word in a book with a massive 593 printed pages (15 CDs on audio!) and it probably wouldn’t have jumped out at me the way it did; Steve had caused me to listen for it, and then pay good attention when I heard it. Steve was the one who got me to Google it, and roll it around on my tongue until it sounded as pleasing as it did. I live in Hawai‘i, and ‘tertiary education’ is not a phrase one normally hears if you aren’t in educational or scholarly circles.

Too bad.

For now that I have learned it, and know what it means, it’s one of my favorite concepts. You’ll find it on the page for ‘higher education’ in Wikipedia, and the very first page of the Overview says,
“Post-secondary or tertiary education, also referred to as third-stage, third level education, or higher education, is the non-compulsory educational level following the completion of a school providing a secondary education …”
The important part of that to me is non-compulsory, because that means you have to want it badly enough to seek it for yourself, even when you don’t have to. You have to want it, and you have to work toward getting it.

And in my experience, the more you have wanted something, the more you value it once you finally get it.

In my coaching business I teach Managing with Aloha as a managerial sensibility in the delivery of worthwhile work, and my students are adult learners with so many other concerns battling for their very limited attention. They must want to learn pretty badly, for their translation of ‘non-compulsory’ usually means “Great! One less thing I have to do.”

As a management and leadership coach in business, my stance with their employers is this: You are responsible for nurturing, fulfilling, and then rewarding that desire your employees have for tertiary education. If they’ve never heard the term before, be the one to teach it to them, and get them to want it. Give them ample tastes of it, and get them to hunger for more.

I think it is part of the responsibility of leadership.

There’s been some controversy about Thomas Friedman’s book, calling it narrow, but I think it’s great the way he has gotten us talking about what he did include in his ‘brief history of the twenty-first century,” The World is Flat, and perhaps about tertiary education most of all. As simply as I can say it, learners are open-minded; they are still putting knowledge in their brains instead of keeping it out. Friedman says tertiary education is part of our
“muscles … the tools to make yourself more lifetime employable — more able to acquire the knowledge or the experience needed to be a good adapter, synthesizer, collaborator — in the flat world, the individual worker is going to become more and more responsible for managing his or her own career, risks, and economic security, and the role of government and business is to help workers build all the muscles they need to do just that.”
—taken from page 369 for those who may wish to read more.
My playground and workplace is the world of business, and I’m taking up his challenge at Say Leadership Coaching; what about you?

Most people have to work for a living, and at work we get their attention. Let’s fill it, honor it, and respect it with much more tertiary education.

Mahalo nui loa Steve, I’ve long wanted the chance to say thank you for what you do here, saying so in a way that called for more than a comment left for you. This is so critically important, and you give us a forum we need to make much better use of.

Some related reading:
  • If you are a new reader, Steve did an anniversary posting for this blog in mid-June revisiting his reasons for starting to write Tertiary Education, where commencement begins every day; Commencement everyday! Happy blogversary.


Comments on "Tertiary Education: Whose responsibility is it?"


Blogger Steve Sherlock said ... (11:08 AM) : 

Rosa, your words have graced this page. Mahalo!

For those who may not have made the connection. This is the Aloha Rosa:


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