UPDATED 13:55 EDT / APRIL 28 2015

Education and innovation in Europe | #MITIDE

Jean-Jacques Degroof


As an MIT alumnus, Jean-Jacques Degroof is passionate about education and the potential of new technology to improve the world for our children. Degroof sat down to talk to theCUBE during the MIT IDE 2015 Conference in London.

“I came out of this conference with tons of ideas in my head, of course, but one of them is about the implication of this new digital economy on education and how we need to teach our children.”

Teaching our children about the new digital economy


But before we can change our systems of education to foster more creativity, Degroof said, we also have to find ways to improve retention. In Spain, former home of Degroof’s wife, up to 35% of students drop out of high school, a statistic that is not uncommon in Southern Europe, according to Degroof.

“The way we educate children hasn’t changed much in the last 200 years,” he said, “and is no longer well adapted to this new economy. Our model of education was built when we needed to produce clerks and workers in the food factories, so basically people who repeated mechanically day after day what they were told to do. Nowadays, we need another profile of workers that have more initiative [and] creativity, but the educational methods and models have not much changed. So I think young people are indeed bored at school. So that could be one explanation, but just one small part of the story.”

More troubling is the fact that many families are entering their third generation of unemployment, even in relatively prosperous countries. When young people have never seen their parents or grandparents work, partially due to the de-industrialization in Europe, it breeds desperation. “I hear some of these young people say, ‘Why study if there is no future?’” It’s a logical, if incorrect, analysis.

Embracing the new economy


As for increasing innovation and embracing the new economy, Degroof believes this will take a major sea change across Europe. Currently, universities often try to profit from startups through high royalties or large percentages of ownership, limiting their potential for commercial success. Further, many policy makers think of entrepreneurship only as self-employment.

“It’s not to create, to grab that huge opportunity, create a company, try to make it grow, become a global leader.” There’s nothing wrong with “lifestyle companies” that provide a good living for their owners, but in order to stay competitive, Degroof remains convinced that “what our economies need, what our societies need in Europe, are growth-oriented startups.”

Watch the full interview below, and be sure to check out more of SiliconANGLE and theCUBE’s coverage of MIT IDE 2015.

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