by Dr. Guy Claxton, Learning 2030 Advisor
I may have missed something, but I believe that the necessary starting point for thinking about the school of the future can’t be to tinker 'away from' what we have.
We need a clear vision of what young people want (and need) outside of school, in order to be able to flourish in the 21st century, and to move toward that.
Then the whole apparatus of books, timetables, buildings, teachers and exams is up for debate.
The true test of a good education
It seems blindingly obvious to me that the 'valuable residues' left behind in young minds after all those years in school is not certified knowledge, but the skill and confidence to cope well when ready-made knowledge is absent or insufficient.
To paraphrase the great psychologist Jean Piaget, students need to become experts at knowing what to do when they don't know what to do.
In other words, they need to love learning, and be darn good at it. Not the kind of learning that's involved in preparing for tests, rather the kind that needs curiosity, perseverance, imagination, conviviality and self-awareness.
Out with the old…
School's bite-sized approach to knowledge is old hat. Carving learning up into little bits that have right answers, which can be 'delivered' in an hour and tested 'objectively' develop exactly the wrong skills for life in the 21st century.
Kids need to develop the mindset of courageous, ingenious explorers, not the ability to parrot back dead facts on demand.
They need to be able to think for themselves, think on their feet, ask good questions, challenge what they are told, imagine new possibilities and make good friends.
What we really need to do for the learners of 2030
It’s not about 'getting more kids to college.' It’s about figuring out how to develop minds that are strong and supple enough to thrive in a tricky and turbulent world; and how to develop spirits that love to turn that real-world intelligence on to projects that are personally satisfying and socially worthwhile.
That, as far as I can see, is the only game in town. Anything less is just wallpapering over the cracks.
Professor Guy Claxton is Research Director at the Centre for Real-World Learning, University of Winchester and is an Advisor for Waterloo Global Science Initiative's upcoming Equinox Summit: Learning 2030.