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Can We Build a School for the Whole World?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

by Tim Lougheed, Learning 2030 In-Camera Blogger

Image © WGSI/Michael Bennett

After a morning of plenary debate in the theatre, delegates are preparing to dive deep into five of the key topics facing education in 2030:

  • teachers
  • learners
  • content
  • implementation, and
  • equality

As the group broke into various sections to discuss these matters, several participants sounded cautionary notes.
One of those was this reminder: while an outstanding education system produces exceptional, world changing individuals, it should also produce individuals who simply want to do their best on a smaller scale.
“What about that woman who just wants to be good mother to her children, or a fisherman who just wants to provide for his family?” asked one delegate. “You’re in danger of overlooking the needs of these people.”

Image © WGSI/Michael Bennett

Avoiding ‘business as usual’

Participants also put pressure on themselves and others in the room to dive deeply enough into this subject so that they return with something more than what has already been put forward by thoughtful educational researchers in recent decades.
“I’m thinking that a whole lot of this is business as usual,” said one Forum member. “I don’t see a whole lot that is new here. We’ve got to challenge ourselves harder or we’re going to end up with a document that’s already been published.”
One of the more challenging aspects of this task goes well past a consideration for the parameters of a preferred educational system to examine how such a system could be brought into reality.

Mammoth efforts to prompt change

“It’s not some fantastic new perspective, but the hard work of rolling-up our sleeves and looking at the implementation of these things,” was how one participant described this part of the process.
It would be nice to think that a new system would simply unfurl itself, but practical realities can get in the way.
They include how the quality of such a system would be managed, how to ensure that it continues to evolve in a positive way, how it can be adapted to widely different circumstances around the world, and how it will interact with existing political, social, or economic factors that govern education.

Is a common worldwide model possible?

The common word in each case is “how”, which raises the stakes of the exercise from an academic undertaking to a project with revolutionary potential.
“It would be horrible if we came out with a global mandate for the future of education,” warned one member of the group tackling this challenge.
“What I would like to do is empower people to make better decisions for themselves. It’s an organically growing, consensual club of the willing.”