I cannot but marvel at the fact that we live in a world where those in power have made an unholy mess of things and yet they see fit to try and define an education system that will prepare young people for the future that they will face.
These people in power are the very ones that created but did not see coming the World economic crisis. They are the people that have waged war in all parts of the world and have created the environmental problems that the world faces today.
Even worse than all of this is the fact that these people in power have no idea what the world will look like when the present generation of young people become adults.
Imagine that you were an adult that left schooling in 1990. You would have spent all those years being ‘prepared’ for the world. However, that education could not possibly have prepared you for the speed of innovation that has continued to accelerate in the 21 century.
Those in power today were educated in a world devoid of the Internet, mobile telephones, Facebook and Twitter as well as a world where the Soviet Union still existed and where there had not been two Gulf Wars or Afghanistan. It was also a world where the European Union only had 12 member states and where Yugoslavia still existed.
So given that the accelerated pace of change makes it impossible to predict the world for which we train our children, what should 21 century education look like? No one doubts that learning is essential as the challenges of the future become greater and the problems that need to be solved become more complex.
However, we need to understand a few of important things about learning. In today’s complex world there isn’t always one answer. If there were then the world would be a happier, safer place. We should stop trying to ease the job of the educator by doing away with multiple-choice testing and replacing it with multiple answer learning. Plutarch, nearly 2000 years ago said that ‘the mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.’
We start with data but it is the understanding of that data that creates information. That understanding can be different depending on who looks at it and from what perspective they analyse it. Eventually it is that information that leads to knowledge. But, as Einstein implied, knowledge itself is not enough. He said that ‘the true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.’
People throughout history have never remembered a teacher because they taught them algebra or because of a lesson on Boyle’s Law; they remembered the teachers that fired their imagination. Today, more than ever, we need educators that can inspire our young people to use their own imagination to solve the problems of the future. They surely cannot do any worse than those in power!