Whenever you spend some amount of time thinking about the future, confronting various trends together, trying to understand how they might interact with one another and trigger other changes, there are a few realizations you seem to always come back to. And the key importance of education is one of them.
Education AND the future
For example, when you think about the future of democracy, the fact that representative democracy is nothing but an elaborate form of aristocracy. When you understand that electing some of us to vote on our behalf every few years is not the only way to take part in the life of the City, that there are many other ways to design a true democracy. And when you observe that we now have some key cultural and technological tools at our disposal to make a more direct democracy possible at scale. Then you always end up asking the same question: but if everybody has the power to decide, we’d better make sure that everybody has all the knowledge they need to make those kinds of decisions. Education.
When you look at the future of automation and you figure out that most of the jobs that exist today will have been automated in less than a generation, and that other jobs we have no idea of today are going to appear out of nowhere. When it becomes obvious that even the notion of a career has already completely exploded, most people staying a maximum of 5 years in a given job or company nowadays. When you understand that more and more of the remaining jobs, and almost all of the new ones have one thing in common: they involve creativity as a key competency. Then you inevitably wonder: what’s the role of education in preparing our kids for this world?
if everybody has the power to decide, we’d better make sure that everybody has all the knowledge they need to make those kinds of decisions
Even more importantly, when you observe the ever increasing speed of innovation, the rate at which these inventions collide and yield completely unexpected discoveries, the exponential growth of mankind’s body of knowledge. And you put that in perspective with the fact that we don’t even have a proper Artificial Intelligence yet. You can’t help but wonder if we’re not living in the dawn of nothing but a new era of our evolution as a species, an era in which simply accumulating new skills and facts is not gonna cut it anymore. An era when we need to learn more efficiently, teach differently, and get rid of old certainties faster than ever in order to make room for new understandings. And then again, education?
Education IN the future
Most of our current education systems were designed after the printing press, and even more after the first industrial revolution, to bring reading and counting to the masses, to create millions of docile workers for the industry, to breed generations of consumers and free citizens to the world… sorry, to their countries. And yes, to turn some of them, a happy few, into those who will be able to design those new systems, others to rule, decide and manage. Those schools were created in a totally different time, and yet for the most part, we still expect them to work for the world we currently live in, which is obviously completely different, and is not going back. And we wonder why increasing numbers of kids are failing in school, why some of them feel so left out that blowing themselves up in the middle of a stadium or shooting people on the street somehow feels more appealing to them than anything else. And we are terrified when enough of them turn an election into a nightmare when they choose someone like Donald Trump as the “leader of the free world”.
We know that the emotional and psychological environment of our schools have a key impact on how much and how fast kids can learn
Yet, alternatives exist. And weaknesses have been identified for a long time. We know that gathering too many kids in the same class with one teacher makes it hard for him/her to take into account the diversity of kids. We know that the emotional and psychological environment of our schools have a key impact on how much and how fast kids can learn. Even though we are still clumsy on how exactly we should use them, we intuitively know that new technologies have an important role to play in evolving how we teach our kids. And plenty of experiences seem to show far better results than anything we are doing so far. In France for example, Céline Alvarez is completely shaking things up after infiltrating the French public education system for 3 years. And her experiments led to incredibly positive results.
We can change education
So we need to change our schools, and we have leads on how to do it. Why don’t we? Well, there is at least one simple answer to that: in schools, teachers are adults who grew up with an education that explained them there is no miracle, that things are the way they are because there is no better way. Most of them accepted the state of things with resignation, and you can see them trying to build the same sense of resignation into the next generation. They are participating in some sort of a vicious cycle, and most parents don’t see any other choice.
I don’t think we should wait for nation states to push for these experiments, because they simply don’t have the financial means to do this research, and because it goes against everything the centralized, vertical and national state was built upon
So what should we do? Well, the first piece of good news is that plenty of things are already happening outside of our schools. More and more kids find a growing part of their education material online, in communities, in MOOCs (Massively Open Online Course), in educative apps, in social networks. Yes, not of all this material is good, or relevant, or qualitative, or positive. But it is in the right format. And so long as we will keep obsessing over delivering the right content in the wrong form, how can we complain about all this wrong content in the right format? That’s why we should support alternative research and experiments in schools and systemic education. I don’t think we should wait for nation states to push for these experiments, because they simply don’t have the financial means to do this research, and because it goes against everything the centralized, vertical and national state was built upon.
We, citizens, parents, scientists, educators, need to take matters into our own hands. Yes, we can create our own education systems, try out new ideas, because there is very little to lose and a lot to gain in inventing alternative ways to prepare our children to be active participants in this new world. And yes, for a while, only a few kids will be able to benefit from those new systems, and it will not be free, but considering that the experience of these little pioneers will bring new educative ideas to the masses and help us understand what the next generation of schools should look like, should we really level everything down to what everybody can do for free? I don’t think so.
An example out of many
If you feel the same way, and you speak French, here is a little project that perfectly illustrates that necessity for experiments in education, and that needs financial help to move forward and expand. Keep an open mind, feel free to contribute in their crowdfunding campaign, even small amounts can mean a lot, and share your remarks and feedbacks in the comments down below.