Like many of you, I spend a lot of time sitting in traffic. As a way of amusing myself, I have started to note what I see on the sides of school buses.
- Excellence in education and all round development
- Ready for the world, ready for the future
- We inspire our students to write their own future
- Enthuse enlighten empower
- From knowledge to life
- An educreative way
- Dare to dream….learn to excel
- Illuminating all with the lamp of knowledge
- Growing learning minds
- Dream learn serve
(no shortage of lofty aspirations!)
“Learning for the future” is a part of the strap-line of many schools, as well it should be. There is no point in educating for today’s world because our kids will be in the world of the future, and I think we can all agree it will be different.
So we all “educate for the future” – or at least we claim to. But we can’t see the future, so what we’re doing really is educating kids for our “best guess” at what the future will be like.
Now, I’m in charge of educating your kids for the future, so it would be reasonable to ask about my “best guess”. These are my thoughts:
1. Change: I think the future will hold constant change, and I think that change will happen at an ever-increasing rate. Change is happening right now. Our washing machine at home broke down recently, so the repairman came, with his laptop. He plugged it into our machine, typed away for a while and the machine was fixed. Washing machine repairmen used to bring a screwdriver, now they bring a laptop.
The skills are changing, but the values are not. What is good now will still be good in the future, and what is evil will still be evil. The challenge for educators and parents will be to balance valuable traditions with necessary changes.
2. Technology: I think computers will continue to get more powerful and more accessible (perhaps until component sizes get down to a molecular level). I think Moore’s Law will be with us for a while yet. I find the notion of artificial intelligence a bit disquieting. When I hear that my smartphone will, within ten years, have more intelligence than the combined intelligence of every person on the planet, I worry. Are we, educators and parents, doing enough to prepare our children to use this enormous power responsibly?
Already, the conversations are changing. Last week our JKG kids were discussing “Is Alexa living or non-living?” One little girl pointed out that Alexa can make jokes, and only living things make jokes. A little boy disagreed with her. He thought non-living because Alexa does not go to the washroom!
3. Employment: Robotics and artificial intelligence will bring a level of automation that will improve productivity and reduce employment. We’re all aware of this scenario on the manufacturing assembly line, but it’s not restricted to there. Look at the growth of medical apps, teaching apps, look at how we book flights and hotels. Jobs are disappearing, and new jobs are appearing. Will there be enough jobs to go around?
A recent study by the McKinsey Global Institute estimated the segment of the working-age population which is unemployed, inactive or underemployed to be 30-45% globally. The data on unemployed recent university graduates in the UK and USA is alarming. Developed countries are reporting a growing population of second and third generation unemployed. We have unemployed people with PhDs.
Are we (educators and parents) developing young people with the ability to pick up the skills and attributes they will need to be gainfully employed, and the agility to move between professions? 85% of new jobs in the UK last year were in the creative industries – is STEM still the answer? Are we doing enough to enable our children to use leisure time productively and creatively? There is much to indicate that they will have more of it than we did.
4. Information: Ian Jukes, the Canadian futurist, estimates that the amount of “information” in the world doubles every 72 days. That’s five times a year. That means
32 times as much information next year
1,000 times as much in 2021
1,000,000 times as much in 2023
There is going to be so much “information” – I use quotations because not all of it will be true. Fake news! Should our schools focus on learning information, or learning to evaluate information?
Recently, one of our MYP classes was set an interesting homework assignment. The students had to gather evidence for a presentation they would give the following day to support the hypothesis that the world is flat. The students found plenty of evidence – so much so that a couple of them were beginning to doubt if it really was a globe. It seems that, whatever you want to believe, you will be able to find evidence to support it.
5. Networks: I grew up in an analogue world, my son grew up in a digital world, and the OIS students were born into a connected world, where everyone has the potential to connect with everyone else all the time. And the power of the networks generated by this connectivity is awesome. This is how I think it works:
Suppose I have something really important/interesting/funny/hateful/enraging to say, so I send it out to my 500 social media friends (Yes, I know, I don’t have many friends). If half of them find it noteworthy enough to pass on to their (say 500) friends, my message has already reached 125,000 people. If half of this group passes it on to their (500) friends, my message will have reached 31,000,000 people.
Are we doing enough, in school and in the home, to develop our children’s communication skills and attitudes to enable them to leverage the power of digital connectivity productively and ethically?
6. India: India is seen as a developing country because that is exactly what it’s doing – developing, and deciding how it wants to develop. I think that India has the opportunity learn from the way other countries have developed. Perhaps India will never have to address questions like “Should we give our teachers guns and train them to shoot bad guys?”
What will India be like in 20 years, or 50 years? I think it will have the largest population (and people represent a country’s most precious resource), the largest economy, and it will be growing and developing at a pace we cannot imagine. I look forward to the day when India’s abundant sunshine will be providing electricity for the world, and when affluent Indians will not be sending their children to American universities any more. Instead, affluent Americans will be seeking admission for their kids in the top Indian universities.
The one thing of which we can be certain, is that our kid’s world will be very different to ours, and the way we raise and educate them needs to respond accordingly. As John Dewey (one of the truly great educational thinkers) put it, “If we teach today as we did yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow”
(It’s more than a little disturbing to note that Dewey made this statement 101 years ago!)
So, this is my “best guess” at the future. I’d be really interested to hear yours (email@example.com).
Head of School-OGC Campus