Education must be enriching

We must align education with social economic policies. Learning for life and learning for employability go together

40 years ago the rage in education was Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society
40 years ago the rage in education was Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society

Very recently I was one of the opening speakers at a Conference on Digital Education. Digital technology challenges traditional methods of delivering education, bringing in new methods of teaching and new models of learning.

But this does not and will not solve the problems of a good education versus a bad education. I have often maintained that one of the best documents in education was a report by a UNESCO task force, chaired by Jacques Delors around 20 years ago. Entitled ‘Treasure Within’, this report was presented by the European Commission to UNESCO on Education for the 21st century.

The conclusions were very simple – Learning to Know; Learning to Do; Learning to Be and Learning to live together. These four pillars of education are still very relevant today. OECD recently came out with a document that endorses this approach. It also deals and emphasises the importance of knowledge, competence, character formation and learning to learn. 

I believe that if there is one purpose in education today, this is Meta Learning – an awareness and understanding of the art of learning. There are various models to delivering education and schooling. A dominant system of the schooling system is the ‘Military Model’. This might sound drastic but let me explain. General schooling was adopted by Bismark to open schools for boys and young men to prepare them to fight and die patriotically. The motto then was not to question Why but to Do and Die. The leap from that system to 21st century education with critical thinking, creativity, problem solving and working together is a long way to go.

Unfortunately we still use standardisation as our model. It might be a convenient model because we make people fit into a structure and if they do not, we tend to blame the student and never the system. Whenever there are problems we say that some kids are not good for schools whereas it could well be the other way round – that some schools are not fit for certain kids. We need to move from standardisation to personalisation. Digital technology will make a difference, especially in this area, with which we can make a leap to a more modern educational system.

40 years ago the rage in education was Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society. What he was proposing then is probably happening now and it is particularly striking that over 40 years ago he called for a greater use of advanced technology to support “learning webs”. However the most important message was that of making education relevant.

Education is not just about attending schools but more about making schooling a truly enriching experience. We must develop students’ potential and ensure that they are learning. We must ask what type of education prepares our children for the real world. The real test is preparing our younger generation to face reality and to ensure that education matters. As such, I have often said that we must ‘contaminate’ education with reality and reality with education as much as possible.

Digital Education has to be lifelong. Robotics and a new economy cannot be truly measured without taking into account the individuals that have been replaced. Change is necessary – we have to move ahead slowly but surely although I feel that sometimes we are moving forward at too fast a pace. We must slow down and at the same time prepare ourselves for the next steps forward.

Education alone is not enough. We must align education with social economic policies. Learning for life and learning for employability go together. We need to discuss skills but not as narrow technical abilities but also including cultural skills and ethical behaviour. We still have a long way to go but we must ensure that our aim will be that of preparing our young generations for a meaningful life. 

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