'We Must Teach Our Children To Be Joyful Learner
All schools talk about preparing their students for 'the future', for 'the world they will inherit', for 'the world of tomorrow', for 'a global tomorrow'. It's essential rhetoric these days, but do we really know what that world will look like?
Do we have any idea what the world will look like in 2050? Even a five-year plan is a perilous endeavour, because the truth is that we have little idea what 2021 will look like, let alone 2050.
The Canadian futurist Ian Jukes claims that the quantity of information in the world doubles every 73 days (which is five times a year). So this time next year we should be in a world with 32 times as much information, and that's a little disquieting. In two years time, 1,024 times as much information, and that's downright terrifying. If you do the math, by 2050 the world should contain two nonillion (that's two, followed by thirty zeros) times as much information.
And that's if the current rate of increase in information remains the same. According to Jukes, it's accelerating, and will continue to do so. So two nonillion is a conservative estimate!
Confident kids in a connected world
2050 will be different. That much is certain. It will be different in ways we cannot imagine, and our kids will be there. How do we prepare children for this future when, to be honest, we haven't a clue what it will look like? We cannot prepare them for a specific set of conditions because we don't know what those conditions will be, but we do know they will be very, very different.
We must prepare our kids for a constantly and rapidly changing world. We must develop them into confident, creative and adaptive learners who will thrive in a rapidly changing environment. We must teach them to be joyful learners, so they never stop learning. They never can stop learning, because the world will never stop changing.
We must prepare them for a global world, a connected world. They will need to be collaborators, people who can be team builders and team members. They will need to be networked globally. We must teach them to be divergent thinkers. We must stop teaching them the 'right' solution. We must enable them to explore all possible solutions.
And I believe we should look at what will never change. I believe that things like integrity, humility, morality, compassion, courage and perseverance will be as important in thirty years' time as they are now.
Goodbye textbooks, hello microchips!
I believe that content-based curricula will disappear, and so much of what we are currently teaching will be irrelevant. This is not a new phenomenon. I can use logarithm tables to help me with multiplication and division - not very useful. I can use a slide rule - what's a slide rule? I can do long division. I never do, but I can. I can solve quadratic equations. I can recite the first two lines of the periodic table, I can tell you the value of pi to five decimal places, Avagadro's number. My mind is cluttered with useless stuff I learned at school.
In years to come, will the children in our schools be saying the same thing?
It's fun to read about some of the next-generation technology possibilities. Driver-less cars -- we're all used to that idea, although I must confess I'm not sure about how they would work in Mumbai. What about microchip processors that can be implanted in the nasal passages, and allow us to simultaneously translate spoken foreign languages? Will they come? Should we continue to teach French?
A colleague of mine was recently asked to suggest topics which ought to be dropped from the curriculum. Her answer was immediate, "Anything that can be done better by a machine". Computers are going to get smarter and smarter. Will they be able to think for themselves? I am told they will, and this bothers me a great deal.
Because when I consider the manner in which so many children in this country are force-fed information under the guise of "education", I am compelled to ask myself a question:
"Does it make any sense to have machines that can think for themselves and people who can't?"
Author - Neil McWilliam, Head of School, Oberoi International School