What if? The Future of Education

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How many times have you heard someone say that education is outdated and schools are not preparing children for the reality of their present, let alone their future? 
So, why are schools like this? Why are they not changing, and what if they could change?

We all know that the system of schooling was created to support the needs of the industrial revolution, yet the system is still fundamentally the same today. 

A few thoughts to consider:
  • 65% of children in Primary School will enter a job that does not currently exist (World Economic Forum)
  • It is likely that Primary children will never need to drive a car as an adult
  • Children currently in school will probably never see a check-out person in a supermarket. 
  • Already today, the average adult goes 41 days without writing by hand
  • The Gig Economy is the fastest growing industry sector
So what should the purpose of school be today? Surely education has to be very different from schools of 50, or even 10 years ago. This is supported by the fact that we now know far more about brain research and how children actually learn. Unsurprisingly, the most powerful learning does not come from remembering facts and then regurgitating them for a test. This traditional model is ‘passive learning’ where education is done ‘at the learner’. All of the research points to the fact that a more active model of education, where students take responsibility and ownership of their own learning, is far more powerful. 

I have had the privilege of helping many schools around the world redesign their learning. When I ask teachers, students or parents what they believe are the most important skills, attributes or values students need to learn, everyone says similar things:
  • Leadership skills, especially ethical and service leadership
  • Entrepreneurial skills, especially the importance of learning to fail and being resilient
  • Critical Thinking
  • Creativity
  • Collaborating, locally and globally
  • Communications skills
  • International Understanding, an ability to work on a global stage. 
Interestingly, no one has ever said that the Aztecs or Quadratic Equations are the most important things to learn. In fact, can you remember the last time you used quadratic equations?

Of course, this doesn't mean that some of the traditional elements are not important, But, according to David Perkins (Harvard), it does mean we should be extending our students beyond:
  • Beyond basic skills - 21st century skills, concepts, values
  • Beyond traditional disciplines - hybrid, new areas
  • Beyond discrete subjects - interdisciplinary, real-life
  • Beyond the classroom - local and global perspectives
  • Beyond content - Big Ideas. Using content as a lens to think about big ideas
  • Beyond prescribed content - personalised
  • Beyond school - partnering with industry to solve real-life problems
Here at the International School of Belgrade, we will always focus on high standards and examination results at all levels. But, at the same time…. 

We have a duty to prepare our students for their fast-changing, globally connected, technology-rich future. We must help our children develop the contemporary Values, Attitudes and Attributes that prepare them to be successful in their world…..
…..to be the leaders in our future world
To be globally good not just locally good
To be able to create a job not just get a job
To have the capacity to learn, unlearn and relearn
To focus on human centric abilities, social and ethical values.
As an example of what this might look like, imagine a class of 7 year old students working on a unit of study in which they have to design and build something new and of use to the medical industry. Industry experts come into school to work with, and guide the students. They focus on design skills, entrepreneurship, and especially failure. Every first idea has either already been invented, or will not work, so inevitably, the students fail to start with. This is vital, because it teaches students about the importance of failure, failing forwards and pivoting their ideas. In addition to their design models, often 3D printed, students also need to create a financial plan, a marketing plan and an executive brief, ensuring that the traditional Math and English elements are covered. The results are always astonishing. 

If we can do this successfully with 7 year olds, imagine what real-life learning could look like for High School students. 

If education is about lighting fires….
   ….It’s about time we got out the matches
Andrew Derry
Director, International School of Belgrade.