Future of Education: Are we ready for it?
A World Economic Forum article recently said that 65% of all kids who are entering primary school today will have jobs that do not exist today.
That statement, in itself, is massively inspiring as well as deeply scary at the same time. Imagine today's education system being entrusted with the task of preparing these young, primary school attending kids for the future world and future work. Yeah right, it is absolutely incapable - most of us know that already.
A system, a process and a curriculum that is itself not innovative, creative or adaptive cannot instil the spirit of innovation, creativity and adaptability. Today, more than the need for academic rigour, there is a need to identify that helping our kids learn and understand the process of being adaptive in nature so that they can adapt to any situation they face in the future that is going to be visibly different from today.
There are over 25 Crore (250 million) school going kids in India today. That is larger than any other country by a mile. And, given the social setup of the country, the dropout ratio is very high among those belonging to the base of pyramid space. And, one cannot blame it on them. Their family conditions, desire of parents / relatives to have an additional hand in earning for the family coupled with untimely deaths, marriages puts out their desire to learn more. The education system itself, in its current avatar, does not help much. Had it been a tad bit more interesting and oriented towards helping these kids relate to it based on their social setup and future desires, or in short been adaptive to their needs, they might have had the courage to stick it out.
The same WEF article also says that we have about 5 years to change how we learn, earn and care. This means in the straightest possible words that education systems need to support all these changes. There needs to be a paradigm shift on what is taught in schools and how it is taught. Early education, future oriented curriculum, digital education and a change defining habit of lifelong learning are all going to play a very critical role in preparing students for the un-anticipated future.
I wrote in a status yesterday something that I deeply believe in:
Learning = Function(capacity to learn)(intent to learn)
By this, I mean that for every student, for a classroom, for an entire school or university, while the capacity is a nearly defined value that does not change much throughout a learner's lifetime, intent plays a very important role on how the learners learn. Unfortunately, the current curricula, processes, educators and systems don't help much with enhancing or improving the intent of a student. More often than not, it all ends up demotivating a student.
Now, the change that we desperately need can come at three levels:
1) Policy level
2) Core academic level
3) Co-curricular & extra-curricular education level
Changes at policy level are the hardest to make. These involve multiple large juggernaut sized bodies including governments and education ministries. While the final gravity defining change MUST come from this level to actually move forward, it is extremely slow and waiting for this is only futile for education systems that have not changed much over centuries.
Core academic level changes can be brought about by educational institutions. A fairly large number of schools across the world chose to use the Montessori method of teaching as the core curriculum - the fact that it also needs modification given that it is over a century old created for a world that was starkly different is a different story. Some schools across India have adopted J Krishnamurti's methodologies which takes courage to bring it out to a world that is least interested in growth and more in the numerical values of education among kids. But, these adoptions are scarce in the least and more global experts need to create more dynamic curricula and a vast, vast number of schools need to adopt it to the core to make it even a little impactful.
Changes at the lowest level, co-curricular & extra-curricular levels, can be brought about by us - the ordinary people. Parents, local educators, organisations and education start-ups have all started doing their bits here. The problem, though, is that the focus is completely haywire. Most folks are trying to change content - it is a piece that is least impactful. A child will not start learning better just because the content is more colourful or has games replacing books. It needs to go way deeper than that. This is where we all need to understand the value of understanding the intent of the learner. We need to understand that a more engaging ecosystem is needed to improve the intent to learn of a learner. Education has to have a closer link to what will improve future employment. Organisations working in education need to just stop rolling out of 'better looking' content and start bringing out new processes of learning beyond just giving out mobile applications or tablets. They need to re-program and re-wire the way content engages with a learner with the learner at the centre of the learning process.
Everything that a primary school student learns today needs to get them closer to being more creative, more adaptive and more imaginative as they grow up. The window is too small - 5 years, heck even 10 years, is too little a time if we don't start acting today. One just cannot wait for all change to come at the policy or academic level. All of us, working so passionately in this education space in the 21st century, have a moral and social obligation to every kid who is entering primary school today and will grow up to be in a world that will be so visibly different than ours that our failure to usher the change will push them and their world into mass oblivion.
About me: I am the founder of Kidovators that is trying to do its bit in bringing creative thinking among young K-10 learners to make them a more adaptive future human resource.