Public Seminar Series: Educating learners for their future – not our past

In a world in which the kinds of things that are easy to teach and test have also become easy to digitise and automate, education is no longer just about teaching students something, but about helping them develop a reliable compass and the tools to navigate with confidence through an increasingly complex, volatile and uncertain world. Success in education today is about building curiosity – opening minds, it is about compassion –opening hearts, and it is about courage, mobilising our cognitive, social and emotional resources to take action. And those are also our best weapon against the biggest threats of our times – ignorance – the closed mind, hate – the closed heart, and fear – the enemy of agency. But how do we build the learning environments to enable those knowledge, skills, attitudes and values? What kind of educators and other people are needed to enact those learning environments? And what can public policy do to support those people best? The presentation will try to answer these questions.

The conventional approach in school is often to break problems down into manageable bits and pieces and then to teach students how to solve these bits and pieces. But modern societies create value by synthesising different fields of knowledge, making connections between ideas that previously seemed unrelated, connecting the dots where the next innovation will come from. In times of ChatGPT, success is not about learning answers, but learning to question the established wisdom of our times.
In the past, schools were technological islands, with technology often limited to supporting and conserving existing practices, and students outpacing schools in their adoption of technology. Now schools need to use the potential of technologies to liberate learning from past conventions and connect learners in new and powerful ways, with sources of knowledge, with innovative applications and with one another.
The past was also divided – with teachers and content divided by subjects and students separated by expectations of their future career prospects; with schools designed to keep students inside, and the rest of the world outside; with a lack of engagement with families and a reluctance to partner with other schools. The future needs to be integrated – with an emphasis on the inter-relation of subjects and the integration of students.

In today’s schools, students typically learn individually and at the end of the school year, we certify their individual achievements. But the more interdependent the world becomes, the more we need great collaborators and orchestrators. We can see during this pandemic how the well-being of countries depends increasingly on people’s capacity to take collective action. Schools need to help students learn to be autonomous in their thinking and develop an identity that is aware of the pluralism of modern living. This is important. At work, at home and in the community, people will need a broad understanding of how others live, in different cultures and traditions, and how others think, whether as scientists or as artists.

The presentation will look at how schools and school systems can rise to this challenge.

Registration to follow.