A great EARCOS 2014 conference was had with some very enlightening presentations, here are my reflections from the keynote speeches.
Transforming Learning and Leading in International Schools by Yong Zhao
A wonderfully reflective and engaging opening speech by Yong Zhao entitled Two Education Paradigms: What Defines a World Class Education?
The ‘education system’ has arrived at its current state (like all things) as a result of evolution, but that does not necessarily make it good or right. Unlike biological evolution maybe this beast needs examining and even severely changing.
The key reviewing of the system should be from the future to present in order to redefine it successfully. In other words where do we want to go? What skills will our students of today need for the future? Obviously the answer involves a fair amount of conjecture but there are some strong indicators to point us in the direction of positive change.
In general the current successful end product of our education system is seen to be ‘a readiness for college’ an ‘ability to jump through hoops sets by others’; but is this really a quality education? The ultimate goal should be to enable the acquirement of skills to produce truly independent citizens, financially, socially & personally.
Across the world youth unemployment is rising and it is estimated in the US some 50% of jobs don’t actually require a degree. There is a global talent mismatch and that is a dilemma/challenge to education systems.
The current education model can be thought of as the sausage-making model
We start as Humans beings’
Culturally diverse after leads to
Individual/Multiple Intelligent ————-> SCHOOLING ————-> EMPLOYMENT
Passion and these traits are lost/not valued.
This model has its origins in the Industrial revolution. Not every talent has equal financial reward, technology is quickly redefining these values and education is being slow to respond. For example prior to Gutenberg the ability to read was not a valued skill, farm working was. Henry Ford and his workers knew the skills that were required and would stay in demand for their foreseeable future.
Nowadays robots and computers have replaced many of those jobs, but its not just blue-collar employees. Accountants, bank tellers and even lawyers (thanks to Google) are less in demand. Globalization has moved many jobs off shore; fortunately teaching still remains a difficult one to replace.
So lets investigate some trends and predictions for future in demand skills. Not surprisingly farming talents, which were highly valued in the 1800s, have a very small-predicted future workforce. On the contrary now consider the amount of choice in the world today and how recently that has been with us, for example how many TV channels can you watch? Or ice creams/food flavors/biscuits you can eat? Think online shopping selection. Personalization is the rising star! He who can create choice will be in demand. Service industries are the future. Apple and Facebook (now bigger than General Motors) look for creative, open-minded, entrepreneurs.
Are these traits flaunted/encouraged in schools? As the sausage model illustrates and the data shows as human being we start out with them but after n years of schooling these traits become greatly suppressed.
Schools should nurture and reward creativity, passion, confidence and entrepreneurialism. Curricula need to be more personalized and less restraining. Giving students more freedom of choice rather than forcing uniformity is the direction education systems should be moving. Return ownership of learning to students!
I was heartened by this speech and will try to continue looking for ways my students can be creative within the current framework in which I work. One example is allowing students freedom of choice in Independent Research projects. Students are required to formulate their own research question and then design, perform and record an experiment to formulate conclusions.
Mark Polansky, the three times commander of the space shuttle Endeavor, ran his sessions slightly differently. He narrated over some well-chosen video and then turned it into a question & answer session. It struck me that this format encouraged creativity from the audience as the questions went in many direction, even questions sent in by 2nd graders. Mark is hugely knowledgeable in his field and has the confidence to respond to anything in an instant. It’s evident his claims that his NASA training prepares astronauts for every event is true.
Space is a naturally curious place for humans and you don’t often get the chance to meet people who have been there so his insights were fascinating for me, particularly as a Physicist. He exudes intellect and structured his answers in very appropriate ways. It got me thinking about how I could employ this technique in my classroom. On the occasions I have used it, there is a kind of fascinated, curious hush that descends upon the room and students become super absorbent, hanging on your every word. No tech, no notes, no books just focused verbal engagement and it’s an incredible powerful moment. Unfortunately for students it has a fairly short lifespan, only happens occasionally and the vast majority can be forgotten easily (however you never know who will latch onto what). For adults, if the subject matter is right it can work really well as in the case of Mark’s presentation.
More information from: http://zhaolearning.com