Preparing Learners for the Future…
The unprecedented rate of technological change causes real problems for the school curriculum.
The school curriculum, is, by its very nature, conservative as it carries all the government’s and society’s expectations of transmitting the cultural DNA of the country. This is inevitably a backward looking exercise in mapping out the history of the country in the best possible light as a historic drama or folk tale of great moment.
Everyone has their list of “essentials” to be included in the curriculum. It carries all the items that those educated previously consider to be significant elements of either ‘a well-rounded person’, ‘a well-educated person’ or ‘a person able to make their way economically’, with ‘a fundamental understanding of arithmetic, algebra, geometry and trigonometry’, or any combination of the above.
Compounding the problem of the curriculum is the position of the teachers. Many teachers made a seamless transition from classroom to university and back to classroom without having sampled making a living in the modern world (I was one of them). Consequently many teachers are unable or unwilling to challenge the structure and delivery of the traditional curriculum.
Having gone on secondment from a senior leadership role to the local Learning and Skills Council, I found myself negotiating between schools, colleges, employers, parents and students. I was asked by the local University’s Regional Labour Market Observatory to translate their economic forecasts into a format that could be understood and digested by schools, parents and students. The idea being to guide them towards sunrise rather than sunset industries and to inject them with some self-belief as lifelong learners.
In embarking on this work I was struck by the mismatch between the world as it was evolving, and the static world that schools seemed to be preparing young people for through the classroom and the examination system.
A term I coined for this mismatch in my talks to senior leaders was “you are preparing young people for jobs that are yet to be invented”. This future came to pass in my elder son’s case.
Luke loathed the traditional curriculum on offer at A level in school and moved from there to an educational establishment, which was also a professional recording studio in Nottingham, called Confetti Studios. This experience lit his imagination and he went on to study Music Technology and Innovation at University. There was a brief hiatus whilst the job market caught up with him, but he is now employed in a company that live streams concerts to social media.
Both the ‘live streaming’ of media and the concept of ‘social media’ are constructs of the last decade. Indeed the term ‘media’ expands constantly. Ten years earlier it would be impossible for anyone to even dream of such a role. It could be that in the coming decade the current definitions of both those terms will have moved on beyond all recognition, and Luke will be looking to make the leap to a newer and even more profound technology to secure his future well-being.
Luke’s journey is in fact the global technological one for today’s young people.
What can schools do to help to give their students the attitudes, behaviours and competences to make such leaps of imagination? Certainly a curriculum which is excessively based on knowledge transmission will not, of itself, be a sufficient grounding on which to build a sustainable future.
Jessica Glazer drew this paradox of preparing young people for jobs that don’t exist into sharp relief for me in this infographic from 2014…
source: LinkedIn, Infographics Daily