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The Future Of Education: Education Is A Shared, Global Responsibility

31/10/2016 13:29

Helsinki-born HundrED is a global, non-profit project building a vision of education for the next 100 years. The first 75 experiments are being trialled in schools across Finland. Joining these innovations are 100 interviews with global thought leaders, aiming to discover the ways in which education needs to change to prepare children for a rapidly changing world...

In an interview with HundrED, Chandrika Bahadur, director of Education Initiatives for the Sustainable Development Solutions Network in New Delhi, discusses how education needs to help students become global citizens.

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Why is it that children need to go to school? Why is it that we need to educate a population? What the Sustainable Development Goals tell us is that if we're looking to create a future for ourselves - which is a sustainable, prosperous, inclusive future - it is imperative that we judge and evaluate our efforts in education on how well our children are able to cope, and how well they're able to contribute to creating this future.

So the goal is not just numeracy, literacy, or vocational skills. The goal is preparing people to be responsible citizens, to be engaged in global citizenship and to use their skills productively. That's a very big difference, both in ambition as well as in effort, from anything that has been attempted in the past at a multilateral level.

What has changed in the last 10 to 15 years, and what will change moving forward are the economic foundations and the structure on which schooling was premised. We are moving into a world where there will be two broad trends that will stand out.

First, we are likely to see life expectancies go up over the next thirty, forty, fifty years, probably into the 100s. We are looking at working lives which will probably span seventy to eighty years. This means that a one shot education preparation at the start of somebody's life is not going to be enough. We will need to think about ways that people can come back to school or learning, go back into the workforce and repeat this process over and over again. We are looking at multiple careers - a first career, a second career, even concurrent careers.

The second reality, and it is already well on its way, is that anything that can be automated will be. This means that low skill labour will probably become redundant faster than we realise it will, and that creates a very big challenge because it questions the nature of work entirely. In that situation the kind of income flows we'll see are either those that are earned through using the mind to analyse information, create new ideas and adapt to new circumstances, or those that are earned through dealing with people, so the service industry.

These two trends together are actually going to fundamentally change why people go to school and what they do when they're in school. I think the nature of what we see as an education system will change. And that would mean that schools would need to change as well.

Another thing that's going to impact what happens to schools and to schooling is that we are learning so much more about how the human brain functions. We're learning when children learn, we're learning more about how children learn. The field of early childhood development has actually made enormous strides in the last few decades. We know, for example, that children are born with a recognition of all 800 phonemes, so they can potentially learn any language on earth as long as they're under the age of seven. Now that has enormous complications for how and when we teach language. These are things that we didn't know as well as we know now, and that knowledge base is only going to expand. The more we understand about how children learn, the more equipped we are going to be to be able to provide every child the opportunity to learn in a way that he or she wants.

The obligation to provide an education is a shared obligation. It's the obligation of families, it's the obligation of siblings, it's the obligation of society, of governments, of private citizens. Who should provide a school really depends on what sort of a structure of education we're looking at.

There is no country in the world that gives its citizens an equal and an equitable right to a prosperous life without having invested in large scale public education. We just haven't seen that. This model is largely comprised of building out networks of public schools so that every child, irrespective of background, can get admitted to. Children perform differently, both because every child is different but also because backgrounds matter. Where and how children grow up in their initial years matters and these are areas we are learning about very recently.

The next 100 years are going to change education in very fundamental ways. We need examples of this around the world to see how it can be done.

To read Chandrika's full interview, visit our website

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