4 zany futuristic ideas that could come true

The death of investment banks! Robotic probes of the brain! Big changes are coming to the way we bank, educate our kids, eat, and treat diseases.

Schools learn from businesses

A more market-minded approach is coming to a K-12 classroom near you.

It may start with teachers, who will move up the educational equivalent of a corporate ladder. Forget tenure; educators would instead build to "master teacher" level. (The idea already exists in many New York schools, where they're called "mentor teachers.") "It's not just meant to prune lousy teachers, but also to make them more effective," says Bruce Fuller, a professor at UC Berkeley's graduate school of education.

Testing will become more centralized -- and potentially more important, state assessment exams will give way to national ones, and skills-based testing could fast-track careers. "Credentials based on rigorous certification exams will be more valuable in the job market than a college degree," adds Sal Khan of the education nonprofit Khan Academy.

And corporations, frustrated by the skills gap of high school grads, may open schools of their own. Wal-Mart High, anyone?

--Daniel Roberts

@FortuneMagazine - Last updated January 10 2012: 5:43 AM ET
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