The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently released the first position paper from its “The Future of Education and Skills 2030” project. In a nutshell, the aim of this project is to identify the key skills for the future and show how the (school) education system can deliver them.
To start with, the OECD correctly identifies the biggest challenge schools face:
“Schools are facing increasing demands to prepare students for rapid economic, environmental and social changes, for jobs that have not yet been created, for technologies that have not yet been invented, and to solve social problems that have not yet been anticipated.”
The OECD working group developed a number of “design principles” for changing our broken education system. I won’t list them all here, but I’ll highlight four of them here:
- Student agency: The curriculum should be designed around students to motivate them and recognise their prior knowledge, skills, attitudes and values.
- Transferability: Higher priority should be given to knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that can be learned in one context and transferred to others.
- Authenticity: Learners should be able to link their learning experiences to the real world and have a sense of purpose in their learning. This requires interdisciplinary and collaborative learning alongside mastery of discipline-based knowledge.
- Inter-relation: Learners should be given opportunities to discover how a topic or concept can link and connect to other topics or concepts within and across disciplines, and with real life outside of school.
I’ve chosen these four because they share a common theme: They are about aligning education with real-world needs.
Far too much time is currently spent teaching things that won’t have any use later (“Miss, when will I ever use this again?”) or that are taught solely to pass an exam (“Will that be on the test?”). The biggest impact will come from changing the system so it links in-school learning to real-life application.
As the OECD report goes on to say:
“Students who are best prepared for the future are change agents. They can have a positive impact on their surroundings, influence the future, understand others’ intentions, actions and feelings, and anticipate the short and long-term consequences of what they do.”