The Learning Renaissance

Re-imagining Work and Learning

Although I don’t fully subscribe to the utilitarian notion that the purpose of education is to prepare the next generation for work, it remains a significant consideration in the minds of most governments. The link between educational effectiveness and competitive economic advantage is always a factor in government thinking and President Obama and the Prime minister have both referred to this in recent speeches.

Over a decade ago I was delivering presentations into schools talking about the changing face of the world of work and how some of the cherished notions that schools operated around regarding progression from education to the world of work were being made increasingly redundant. My presentations to parents, teachers and students focussed on the rapid pace of change in the workplace.

I suggested that the notion of the retirement age was clearly redundant as the population lived to a greater age, both personal preference and the social cost of an ageing population would make retirement at 60 untenable. I suggested that a curriculum based on subject knowledge would not be sufficient to span a working life and that the working life of most people would increasingly incorporate redundancy and the need to re-invent oneself to service what became known as a portfolio career.

The suggestion that the future curriculum would need to be more focussed on attitudes, behaviours and competences, rather than subject based knowledge meant that the arrangement of secondary education into subject silos was detrimental to the coherence of learning required of future lifelong learners.

I remember the reaction of most headteachers being a polite thank you for a provocative talk, but that they felt the tone and content of the vision was rather alarmist… one teacher commented, “Whither Shakespeare.” I’m not sure if that was meant as a question or am exclamation. However much of these elements, which were potential changes in 2000, have come to pass, much faster than I had anticipated. Indeed I’m now living the dream/nightmare that is the portfolio career!

To see the parameters of the changing world of work, I recommend this RSA Animate talk by Dave Coplin…

You can also watch and download this video from the RSA website: Re-Imagining Work | RSA Animate, or download a transcript from the RSA website here: Re-Imagining Work pdf

About educationalist04

I'm convinced we can, as a species, do much better than this if we set our minds to being much more positive and productive towards our fellow humans. The solution is learning - creating independent and autonomous learners who can problem solve, innovate and create a better more equitable and sustainable world. My books, Future Proof Your School and Re-Examining Success together with this blog, explore how better learning outcomes for all can be achieved.

3 comments on “Re-imagining Work and Learning

  1. 4c3d
    March 9, 2015

    Perhaps our education system is no longer a product of the working environment but instead we have seen some strange power exchange. A case of the tail wagging the dog perhaps. Perhaps our education system is just he model those who direct “work” want. We have created students who have the ideal attitudes and behaviours to be good employees. Those that feel they must check their e-mails on Sunday, must work harder when not supervised, must look out for the authority figure and appease them at all cost.

    Technology has meant we no longer go to work, work comes to us or rather we slavishly pursue work. The education system we have is doing a great job of creating the working environment we have it is just that it is not a great working environment for many of us. Just like schools are not a great learning environment for many of us.

    I hear all the time about people at work who do not think, who just do. The things they “do not do” include: questioning, showing initiative, notice others, leave their desks (even to eat), work collaboratively, see a bigger picture, volunteer to stay if needed without being asked, enjoy work. The things they do however are clearly pointed out in the RSA “Re-Imagining Work” animate.

    This means not only must we change the way education works so people can learn, we need to change education so people can work. So that they can learn in a way that makes the most of their talents and skills and they can work in a way that allows them to demonstrate their talents and skills. In this way we all benefit and I believe we all recognise this. So why is it so hard to bring about change?

    Change brings about a cost/benefit analysis. What are the costs and what are the benefits? The trouble is its hard to consider loosing something, a cost, when you are not the one to benefit. Loosing power is a hard cost to swallow. The trouble is power is not the seat of creativity or of well being and those in power are unwilling to give it up for something they do not have or understand.

    Something to think on perhaps.

    • educationalist04
      March 9, 2015

      Some excellent points made there sir! I make a similar point in an upcoming post on the failure to grasp radical change in schools, the refusal to contemplate a different set of purposes, curriculum, delivery mechanism or range of outcomes. Perhaps the most corrosive element is the determination to develop an examination which is a quality control mechanism designed to ration academic success in the supposed quest for rigour and quality!

  2. Paul Champion
    March 9, 2015

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