Bringing learning back into education
Humanity today faces all sorts of challenges – an increasing gap between the rich and poor, global warming, rising violent extremism, growing nationalism and intensifying lack of understanding for diversity and culture. The divide between countries all over the world has never been greater.
The task of tackling these challenges appears rather daunting. However, we must together find a solution that can help these issues from mounting into a larger global crisis.
The future lies in the hands of the young, who offer a tremendous opportunity for solving the issues that face us. It is critical however that the young be provided with the right platform and be equipped with the right skills in order to collectively work towards achieving this and therefore bridging the increasing divide. In this, education will play a key role.
“the focus of education must go beyond facilitating development of human capital and instead focus on human flourishing”
Over the years, a large difference has developed in what education traditionally set out to achieve and what it now provides. The goal of our present education systems has been driven by the need identified at the start of the industrial revolution- the need for skilled workers in factories to contribute towards the growth of wealth measured in monetary terms. This means we measure the outcome of education not by ‘happiness’ or ‘well-being’, or ‘know-how’, instead by the amount of wealth that has been generated. This is in turn measured as the human capital of a country.
In order for future generations to be living in more peaceful and sustainable societies, the focus of education must go beyond facilitating development of human capital and instead focus on human flourishing. This will require an overall development of young people who are intellectually stimulated and are also ‘good’ human beings; individuals who are empathetic and compassionate, in a true spirit of solidarity.
Further, the focus needs to be brought back on ‘the learner’, wherein the learner’s individual strengths are recognised and pedagogies are designed to cater to individual learner needs. We need to shift the focus from creating factories of workers to empowering human beings, who work towards human flourishing. Learning should be personalised and self-paced instead of merely focus on drilling in the same type of information or ‘knowledge’ to everyone at an exogenously defined pace. Moreover, there is a crucial need to develop everywhere a mother-tongue-based multilingual education.
Technology can play an imperative role as a facilitator of this change and transform the traditional method of classroom training . Today, knowledge is accessible at the click of a button. There is immense potential for technology to be used to make learning fun and accessible through games, interactive textbooks, e-publications and digital books. Through assessments, analytics and artificial intelligence, learning can be customised to suit the learner’s pace and style and optimise learning pathways for a student. The interactive content, immersive experiences and collaborative tools the young are consuming are also being used by them to build content. The possibilities are limitless and technology will empower the learner in ways such that no child is left behind.
These changes are not simple to implement and involve re-looking at existing education systems in entirety. Since systemic change is required, a collaborative effort needs to be undertaken by various stakeholders including educators, policymakers, curriculum designers, learners themselves as well as technology experts.
Many say that this is a rich country’s agenda. I would say otherwise. In fact, the equity gap between the haves and have-nots will increase even further if we do not embrace this technological revolution. The cost of technology is dropping exponentially. The penetration rate of mobile technology in Africa is a case in point. And what’s amazing is at which the speed the young absorb this new technology.
The Transforming Education Conference for Humanity (TECH), organised by the UNESCO MGIEP and the State Government of Andhra Pradesh, India held in December, 2017 provided one such platform, in which experts, policymakers and the youth congregated to discuss the future of learning. More such platforms need to be developed and lead to concrete actions that result in creating education systems that are more ‘learner centric’.
It is indeed the right time for us to work towards bringing back ‘learning’ to education. I hope UNESCO will take the lead on this in the near future.
H.E. MR. ADAMA SAMASSÉKOU