We talk a lot about preparing our students for the world they will inhabit. All schools do. But do we know what that world will look like?
A child in Early Years will be at the peak of his/her career in 2050 - 2055. Do we have any idea what the world will look like in 2050? These days, looking even five years ahead is a perilous endeavour. The truth is that we have little idea what 2021 will look like, let alone 2050. And when we try to predict what 2021 will be like, it's usually pretty scary!
2050 will be different. That much is certain. It will be different in ways we cannot imagine. The noted futurist Ian Jukes claims that the quantity of information in the world doubles every 73 days (i.e. five times a year). So this time next year we should be in a world with 32 times as much information - that's a little disquieting. In two years time, 1,024 times as much information - that's a bit frightening. If you do the Math, by 2050 the world should contain two nonillion (that's two, followed by thirty zeros) times as much information.
And that's if the current rate of increase in information remains the same. According to Jukes, it's accelerating, and will continue to do so. So two nonillion is a conservative estimate!
How do we prepare children for this future when, to be honest, we haven't a clue what it will look like? We cannot prepare them for a specific set of conditions because we don't know what those conditions will be, but we do know they will be very, very different.
We must prepare our kids for a constantly and rapidly changing world. We must make them into confident, creative and adaptive learners who will thrive in a rapidly changing environment. We must teach them to be joyful learners, so they never stop learning.
And I believe we should look at what will not change. I believe that things like integrity, humility, compassion, courage and perseverance will serve them as well in thirty years time as they do now. I think that good people will still be good people.
I believe that content-based curricula will disappear. So much of what we are currently teaching will be irrelevant. It's happening already. I can use logarithm tables to help me with multiplication and division. Not very useful. I was taught to use a slide rule - why? I can do long division. I never do, but I can. I can recite the first two lines of the periodic table.
It's fun to read about some of the next-generation technology possibilities. Driverless cars - we're all used to that idea, although I must confess I'm not sure about how they would work in Mumbai. What about micro-chip processors that can be implanted in the nasal passages, and allow us to simultaneously translate spoken foreign languages? Will they come? Should we continue to teach French?
At a conference recently, I was in a group of heads that was asked "What things should we drop from our current curricula?" A lady I have enormous respect for responded immediately "Anything that can be done by a machine".
I can see where she's coming from, but my conservative nature makes it hard for me to agree with her. What are your thoughts? I'd love to hear your comments.