When it comes to education, Massachusetts has always been a land of firsts. We launched the nation’s first college and its first public school. Today we’re first in the United States in K-12 student achievement. Now we should take our leadership to the next level, and find a bold new way to prepare our children, our people, and the Commonwealth’s economy to prosper in a global context.
Suffolk Downs should host a Global Eduplex, a comprehensive education, research, and corporate partnership complex that would operate 24/7, integrate public education with top minds from our universities, and be intricately connected to the entire world.
The timing is right. Innovative charter schools, the rise of online and hybrid learning, and growing interest in experiential learning are pushing the boundaries of what education can be. The Global Eduplex would bring together the best of these models into a single campus consisting of innovative K-12 schools, higher education programs offered by leading global universities, and partnerships between universities and forward-looking firms from all over the world, including startups, established companies, and even nongovernmental organizations.
The result would be an entirely new form of education and research hub. For people who live in the Boston area, it would put the world’s best minds to the service of teaching our children, creating new knowledge, and powering our state’s economy. For businesses and universities, it would be a catalyst for collaboration, emphasizing “use-inspired” research—practical solutions to urgent problems, such as security and sustainability, as well as advances that incubate new ventures and industries.
Since Massachusetts is already a leader in life sciences and biotechnology, we have a strong foundation for such a venture. We could build on—even surpass—the example of New York, which sought bids from throughout the world to set up a new applied sciences and technology campus on Roosevelt Island. To ensure that the Eduplex places the interests of the Commonwealth first, state leaders should require applicants to come up with specific plans to attack our most nagging educational and economic problems—for example, closing persistent achievement gaps between higher- and lower-income students, or building better pipelines of qualified employees in the science and health care fields.
Innovative education, pioneering research, and a stronger economic future for Massachusetts: That’s a trifecta worth betting on.
Joseph E. Aoun is president of Northeastern University.