“If we agree that the core purpose of schooling is learning and if learning is about making sense of new information, we need to consider how that process is best supported by schools. What is – or could be – the advantage of schooling? What is its unique selling point? We also need to think about what we value and what we want to take forward into the future.”
In a forward-thinking article published in 2014, Prof Kate Myers set out to address the question: Do we still need schools? She concludes by suggesting that we look towards a more flexible and pupil-led model of schooling which embraces the new possibilities offered by technology and digitalisation and occurs beyond individual institutional boundaries.
Since its publication, it’s uncanny how much of Myers’s leading-edge thinking has come to pass and in particular, how the prolonged period of the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the development of learning and schooling well beyond the traditional classroom.
NEW LEARNING THROUGH NEW THINKING
The challenge for those involved in the schooling endeavour isn’t simply a technical one of content and delivery, however. It is also a moral one which requires us to accept that there seems little point in trying to preserve a schooling system which is predicated on knowledge transfer and retrieval. It simply will not prepare adequately our children and young people for the rapidly changing world into which they will step having completed their schooling years.
As Charles Leadbeater concludes, “Reproducing knowledge will be increasingly automated by digital technologies. So being able to do that will not in itself be a critical skill. Instead, what will be valuable is applying knowledge in inventive ways in novel contexts. Whereas in the past we have seen education as providing people with access to a fixed stock of knowledge; now it is much more about getting people to find their way into flows of knowledge that are constantly changing.”
Clearly, Leadbeater isn’t suggesting that knowledge will become unimportant. He is simply emphasising that in times of rapid change and an uncertain future the most valuable skill will be learning how to learn rather than simply reciting a set of facts and procedures. Put another way, we need to think again about the content of our curricula, not just the way they are delivered. This clearly poses a significant and profound challenge to all those engaged in the learning endeavour from policy makers to practitioners. What is required is a fundamental re-think of the purpose of schooling and the role of schools together with the acceptance that continued adherence to the singular value of knowledge-based pedagogy will not serve our children and young people well in the long run. Given these challenges, this thematic will explore:
- The educational challenges of the 4th Industrial revolution
- A curriculum for the 21st century
- Blended schooling
Each of these themes offers support materials in the form of think pieces, articles, videos and podcasts which we hope we will stimulate discussion, encourage reflection and question practice.
Anton Florek (Series Editor)
“It’s beyond doubt that education is at the heart of preparing present and future generations to thrive. As a result, it’s vital that we have an education that develops human potential rather than pits it against machines. An education system designed for an industrial economy that is now being automated requires transformation, from a system based on facts and procedures to one that actively applies that knowledge to collaborative problem solving.”