In the mid-1800s, when operating steam-driven machines required a skilled workforce, education helped the working class emerge from a period of stagnation. Later, high school helped ease the transition from the farm to the factory and office. We find ourselves straddling two eras again. The world economic forum estimates that sixty-five percent of children today will end up in careers that do not exist yet.
Our goal is to double the world’s GDP. That’s a very audacious goal. But education is the only thing that has ever done it in the past. It can jumpstart entire economiesSebastian Thrun – Chairman and co-founder of Udacity
So here we are again. Education must emerge as the bridge between eras. It must ensure that those educated embody the qualities and competencies essential to life in a society different than our industrial past.
Yet, as this Article states, the pandemic forced an aggressive move to digital, but it was a replica of what was done before. According to Justin Reich, director of the MIT teaching systems lab, very few places saw structural changes to how they organize schooling. That’s a problem, as the current learning and education paradigm were built for a different era. In a world where information and knowledge are abundant, dumping information is still the core of our education and learning system. The article referenced above explores the challenges with transforming education.
Reich has a telling story about one high school principal who bought piles of physical textbooks, even though his classes were trying to move to digital versions with online videos and quizzes, because most of his kids’ parents expect to see books when they visit. It was easier to build a Potemkin village of expensive textbooks than proudly tout new tech.Chris Taylor – How to build the classroom of the future
There are some encouraging steps in a transformational direction. For example, funding for education technology startups around the world has nearly tripled in two years. while we can point to tangible progress, this emerging era requires a bridge, not small steps. It needs a focus on nurturing right brain characteristics and moving away from left-brain dominance. We need to enhance our ability to interact with each other interpersonally, instill compromise as a virtue, and focus on how to be humane and moral. The article stresses the need for critical thinking plus critical researching. It also underscores a key issue that ripples across every domain: there are going to be more interruptions in the future. MIT researcher Justin Reich says there will be more fires, more floods, more freezing, more pandemic events, more tropical diseases migrating. Therefore, when it’s unsafe to travel, kids should be able to switch to remote learning for a week or two.
The bridge takes us to a paradigm where hiring is based on skills, not credentials. Where business and traditional education collaborate effectively, and apprenticeships are a major part of the paradigm. Importantly, there would be fewer MBAs that foster short-term, shareholder, and balance sheet-oriented thinking. The article references some progress in pockets. They reference the world-class Finnish school system where school starts later and official classes end around 2pm, allowing more time for a range of extra-curriculars. Slowly, in their second decade, kids get to drop the subjects they’re least interested in, with no restrictions on which ones they want to combine.
Much like headwinds that stalled the energy transition through the years, education faces a similar challenge. Players with entrenched positions continue to resist. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that those positions may not be on as solid a foundation as they once were.