Wednesday, 30 October 2013

What will schools be like for children born in 2013?

The question of 'what will a school "fit for the future" look like' has preoccupied educators for many years. Despite grand ideas little has changed in schools; likewise, the expectations of what schools should do have remained the same.
I have reported on various ideas and sources, such as from the International Baccalaureate Heads Conference in Buenos Aires, our own work on Preparing Learners for the 21st Century, from Ken Robinson, and our own list of 2st Century Skills in "If you are not learning how to solve problems...".
There is a feeling that the time is right (or ripe) for change.

The Equinox Summit - Learning 2030 took place under the Waterloo Global Science Initiative from the 29th of September to the 3rd of October, 2013, in Ontario, Canada. The goal of this summit was to identify the "beacons of change, assemble them into a coherent vision of learning, and map out a way to make this vision not just an occasional reality but the norm". Their communiqué (pdf) takes as the starting point that a child born today will graduate from high school in a world very different from today's - in a world where facts will have "little value" and education should equip learners to:
  • think creatively, independently, rigorously, and collaboratively
in full awareness of themselves and their social context.

This summit, hosting "current leaders in education, teaching professionals, researchers, and policymakers", represented six continents and with a "truly global and inter-generational perspective". Their findings will be presented in a road map for how to achieve this in early 2014 (The Equinox Blueprint).

The communiqué listed the attributes that high school graduates will need to have by 2030:
  • lifelong learners who can identify and synthesize the right knowledge to address a wide range of challenges in a complex, uncertain world
  • literate, numerate, and articulate
  • creative, critical thinkers
  • able to collaborate effectively with others, especially those of different abilities and backgrounds
  • open to failure as an essential part of progress
  • adaptable and resilient in the face of adversity
  • aware of the society they live in and able to understand the different perspectives of others
  • self-aware and cognizant of their own strengths and limitations
  • entrepreneurial, self-motivated, and eager to tackle the challenges and opportunities of their world
There are no surprises here. I think that we would all agree with this list - perhaps I would have emphasised the issue of international mindedness more since I believe that working with and understanding other cultures (not just backgrounds) will be crucial in the coming years.

So, what is proposed? Replacing traditional concepts of classes, courses, timetables, and grades by more flexible, creative and student-directed forms of learning. They state that this would develop deep conceptual understanding, which can be applied in other contexts.
I am not sure that this necessarily follows. 

The paper ends by listing seven aspects of the new system - and I list the main headings here:
  1. Learning focuses on the development of lifelong learning practices and a sense of self, rather than facts and figures. 
  2. Students learn through cross-disciplinary and often collaborative projects. 
  3. Students connect with each other in fluid groupings that are dictated by their needs at any given moment. 
  4. Teachers and other learning professionals serve as guides or curators of learning
  5. Learning progress is measured through qualitative assessment of a student's skills and competencies that document the learner’s entire experience, rather than measuring a discrete outcome. 
  6. Decisions that affect the learning environment are made by stakeholder groups comprised of learners, teachers, governments, and parents, with learners and teachers playing a central role in decision-making. 
  7. Schools empower both students and teachers, encouraging them to experiment with new ideas and fail safely, so that they develop the confidence to take risks. 
The full Blueprint should be available in early 2014 - and I wait for it with great interest.

(I was disappointed in the Times Educational Supplement's article on the summit - what did they pick up on? Just point 5, with the heading "Scrap exams to create schools of the future".
Come on, TES, keep to your motto of Think*Educate*Share and drop the sensationalism. You are writing for professional educators...)


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