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21st Century Education

22nd May 2014

‘Education is what’s meant to take us into this future that we can’t grasp.’ Sir Ken Robinson

Simply speaking we need a better education system which will prepare the workforce of the 21st Century. We can no longer get away with just iteration, we need to start creating. However, creating something new for a future that is highly ambiguous is something schools do not educate on. Most schools only pass on data but not the relevant skills to analyse it, so they can use it to solve problems, or even interpret it. For the first time in our evolutionary history the problems we are facing are highly ambiguous and complex. Many problems do not have a process based solution, in other words, we do not get to the solution by following steps. It will require three things; a system based perspective, ability to be comfortable with ambiguity and a philosophical mindset. Many of the problems will indeed even require new laws and ethics, which means that we will have to develop our current as well as create new philosophies. These skills are currently not seen as a priority within the common education system and therefore are not being taught at any level of education. In Philip Mirowski’s book ‘Never Let A Crisis Go To Waste’ he recounts the story of his colleague refusing to discuss the 2008 crisis in his economics class as it would deviate from the course. That is denying students the very thing we need the most right now, the ability to think, problem solve, and interpret data. However, this is not the whole picture as we pivot and create a new culture the workforce will need other softer skills such as the ability to collaborate, emotional intelligence and how to contribute to society.

Education reform, however is on the rise, and governments and education bodies to see the need for change. We need schools to teach more than just reading and writing, it needs to teach students how to think not what to think. We need to leave the ideas of age and education behind us, and realise that education should not be correlated with a specific stage in our life, but instead should be a constant and agile. There has been a sharp increase in the variety of learning opportunities, such as open source programmes like Coursera and Khan Academy, but also self organisational knowledge exchange programmes like Journey / School in Peckham, to new structured corporate education outlets such as Université Total. These new movements in education are necessary to teach need new tools, skills, philosophies and mental concepts which allow us to navigate our future better and make superior choices.

As learning doesn’t have a starting nor ending point, continuing to bring further education to workspaces makes learning more agile and democratic. The dissemination of knowledge within our local community has never been so crucial, as the more people are equipped with knowledge the better we will collectively be at solving the problems we are facing in the 21st century.