Former Apple CEO John Sculley: 'The way we are educated is going to radically change'

John Sculley, President of Apple Computer, talks with Apple co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak as they introduce the new Apple Iic computer at a conference at Moscone Center in San Francisco on April 24th, 1984.
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The world has changed quite a bit since Apple was founded in 1976.

Computers, phones and the internet have radically transformed when, where and how we work. But how we prepare to do that work has remained largely unchanged. Except, perhaps, for the cost.

In 1976, public college, including in-state tuition, fees and room and board cost the modern equivalent of $8,250. Today, the cost of attending public college is closer to $21,370.

According to John Sculley, who served as Apple's CEO from 1983 to 1993, how we educate workers is due for disruption.

"The way we are educated is going to radically change," Sculley, currently chairman of pharmacy benefit management company RxAdvance, tells CNBC Make It. "It's incredibly outdated in my mind that we tell students that they're going to have to spend $200,000 for a four-year education. You're basically going into a system that was designed 50 years ago or longer."

Steve Jobs and John Sculley pose with the new Macintosh personal computer, on January 16th, 1984.
Marilyn K. Yee | New York Times Co. | Getty Images

Sculley, who attended Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design for his undergraduate degree and Wharton for his business degree, argues that just as the workplace has changed — with emails and telecommuting, start-ups and incubators — education will be transformed as well.

"The experience of what work is like in new corporations is dramatically different than what work is like in big, long, established corporations," he explains. "The same thing is going to happen in education."

Specifically, Sculley imagines a world where young people gain exposure to in-demand skills through hands-on experience, which he says is the key to both short-term and long-term success in business.

"What do Bill Gates, Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Mark Zuckerberg all have in common?" he asks. "They all went to Montessori school. What is Montessori? Hands-on learning. There's nothing more powerful than hands-on learning, and particularly in the sciences."

John Sculley speaks onstage at the Kairos Society Global Summit At One World Observatory on April 21, 2017 in New York City.
Brad Barket/Getty Images

Sculley predicts that while some universities may adapt, much of the education transformation will happen outside of the classroom in the form of video games and social media.

"It's not just getting kids to take STEM courses in school. It's coming up with alternative ways they can spend their time together in teams, in associations and clubs," he says. "My sense is that people are going to naturally become knowledgeable about STEM, much like how young people are naturally knowledgeable about social media.

"I was involved with the inventing of a lot of these products kids today play with — at least the early versions — and they know far more about how to use an iPhone or how to do social media than I'll ever know, because it's the world they live in."

Sculley's hope is that young people will absorb new understandings of technologies through their everyday lives; through the video games they play, the phones they use and the YouTube videos they watch.

"I don't believe that college in the traditional sense is nearly as important as your curiosity, who you hang out with, what you're interested in and what you learn by doing things yourself," he says. "In many ways, it's more powerful than the 'normal' college experience."

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