Why global education systems need to be overhauled
I have worked as a teacher for 18 years and am a Fellow of the College of Chartered Teachers and of the Society of Arts. I have seen many initiatives come and go in UK and international education over the years and have experience of several exam boards, and unfortunately, I do not believe that any truly prepare our young people for the world of work that they will enter.
It is my belief that school curricula that focus on rigid content and inflexible responses to timed exam questions make our young people ill-prepared and not future-proof. When students are faced with such education systems, they and their teachers realise that to perform ‘well’, students should passively rote learn material and even model answers.
There is little requirement for thinking in such systems and yet the future will demand individuals with an edge or an ability to think creatively especially given the inevitability of the dominance of AI in our future lives.
In this respect, our young people need to practise being what makes us human.
This will give them the edge that will be needed in this future context. Rote tasks can be completed by machines and information can be available with one click, so students need to be agile and hone their human skills.
Human Intelligence is defined as the quality of the mind that is made up of capabilities to learn from past experience, adaptation to new situations, handling of abstract ideas and the ability to change his/her own environment using the gained knowledge.
Being able to memorise facts, essays and formulae under timed conditions is not the sum of human intelligence, and yet this is largely what education systems’ measure of intelligence is based upon.
The World Economic Forum stated in 2015 that students require 16 skills for the 21st century, which include the foundational literacies of numeracy, literacy, scientific, ICT, financial, cultural, and civic literacy. These are deemed to be essential for students to grasp how to apply core skills to everyday tasks. Also included in the 16 skillsets are competencies that will help students approach complex challenges.
The four competencies put forward by the World Economic Forum include critical thinking or problem solving, creativity, communication and collaboration. Character qualities are also included in the 21st century skills. These are curiosity, initiative, grit, adaptability, leadership and social and cultural awareness. Such characteristics are essential for our young people to become resilient, thrive and become lifelong learners.
It is the case that many school curricula do not facilitate these skills to the required degree. The Covid-19 pandemic shone a light on education systems and questioned the need for traditional formal examinations where students are in effect, taught predominantly to and for the exam. Teaching and learning is often raced through to get enough content and skills taught so that a student can simply access assessments.
School terms are organised around mock and final examinations. Hours of teaching and learning time is dominated not necessarily by actual learning.
This is because learning happens only when thinking is happening.
Time needs to be devoted to teaching this essential skill and teachers need to be trained in how to do this effectively.
Increasingly some educators and observers are calling for a break away from traditional exam-driven courses and move towards flexible, project-based learning that has at its heart student voice, choice and the development of relevant 21st century skills. It is dispiriting for educators to reduce their skills down to spoon-feeding 5 bullet pointed facts about a topic that is listed in an exam board descriptor. Educators are by their very nature curious individuals who enjoy bringing out the absolute best in their students. They know how to talk to young people, what interests them and what feels irrelevant now and in their futures.
Teachers are integral features of the lives of young people. Some teachers may offer their students constancy, presence, and attention in their lives.
Teachers are important.
They must be trained and trusted to create meaningful and purposeful educational experiences for young people.
While such conversations are encouraging, it is undeniable that any seismic shift in any education system will require time, wide consultation, funding and buy-in from students, teachers, parents, universities, colleges, and employers.
But, we do need to reimagine education…right now.
I have created learning programmes that target directly these needs. Education is reimagined as students are removed from the silos of academic subjects and moved into skill hubs where creativity, problem solving, collaboration and communications are the competencies driving forward the progress and achievement of students.
By applying these 21st century skills to real world issues such as terrorism, food insecurity, astropolitics and vaccine nationalism, students are preparing for the future.
Their future will not be led by memory and rote learning — AI already can do this well. Those with futures will be those that are agile in their thinking, adept at tackling challenges and effective communicators.
Originally published at https://www.hexis21.com on January 7, 2021.