Future of Education: 3 key ideas to improving Education, globally

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I left home 8 months ago already… having interviewed teachers, educators, entrepreneurs, headmasters around the world, I witnessed a world full of inspiring innovations to solve one or several Education issues. The problem is to make them spread beyond their immediate environments. That, is the goal of HundrEd, a non-for profit organisation that discovers, researches and shares impactful and scalable K12 innovations with the world, for free. I interviewed HundrEd’s founder and creative director: Saku Tuominen, in Helsinki, Finland on the Future of Education. 

Key takeaways of this post: 

  • “The way we measure Education (PISA for instance) does not take into account crucial 21st-century skills such as soft skills
  • “We should start asking ourselves key questions such as why we do what we do but also “what is the purpose of Education?” and “why”… 
  • 3 keys ideas to improve Education, globally: 
    • 1- Increasing cooperation at an international level to cut out the silos.
    • 2- Improving the bottom-up approach by giving more freedom to the teachers.
    • 3-Changing our mindset and accepting that not everything will work…

Saku Tuominen, Hundred.org

Anaïs, What If Spirit: What are the key components for the Future of Education according to you? 

Saku Tuominen, Hundred:

First of all, when we think about the Future of Education, I wish we asked ourselves “why”. I think, that, generally speaking, it would be a great idea to ask ourselves “why” no matter what we do. For instance, why are we teaching this way? Why are we learning? Why do we need those skills?

Whenever you are discussing how to improve Education or helping schools change, you should always think about a fundamental question: “what is the purpose of Education?”

So if you ask me, the purpose of Education is to “help every child flourish in life no matter what happens”

 

So, when we are developing Schools we have to think, “how can we help every child in 2030, or 2040”. The quality of Education is not measured only when the child is leaving school, but it is measured also in 10 years, or 15 years after leaving the schools. What kind of skill sets do we provide them with?

So the question then is: what will the world look like in 2030 and 2040?

And that is really complicated because the changes that are happening in society, all over the world, in every continent are probably bigger than before partly because change is not linear but exponential. And nobody knows for sure how Artificial Intelligence (AI) will change the game.

The key thing for me is to understand how will AI will the workplace and the skills needed in 2030? Therefore, I think we should:

1- Increase cooperation at an international level and cut the silos

And then, we should be able to educate our children so they can flourish in that kind of life. The essence of improving schools I think is to make the schools more agile. Everything is Education is happening in silos… Finland is a silo, France is a silo. And there is little cooperation, for instance between Finland and France, or Finland and Sweden.

2. Improving the bottom-up approach by giving more freedom to the teachers

If you are not giving the teachers freedom, or any trust, a sense of ownership, or autonomy…well what happens is that the best one will eventually leave, they think “why should I stay here, nobody is trusting me, I am always told what to do”

And then you have to ask yourself, what kind of people flourish in any occupation not only in Education? It is people who have some sort of feeling of autonomy: “I can decide what is the best way to teach” and that is the case in Finland but as I mentioned earlier the challenge is to have great quality teachers.

There is a need for 30 million teachers. No one knows where to get them. So, how to get ownership to someone you don’t even have?

These are not easy questions…

3- Accepting that not everything will work

If we want to improve, if we want to make new things, then we have to accept that not everything works.

But now, at the moment, when we are developing Education, the main question is “how do we make sure that this works”?

But the main problem with this one is that, no matter what you do, you don’t know if it will work.

One of the problems we are facing with Education is that the way we are educating our kids, at the moment, is not working if you are thinking about the workplace in 2030. Indeed, the whole Education system, in every country of the world, is based on the Industrial world which means that we are not trying to encourage the individualism within each and every human being, we are trying to make them as similar as possible, but we are trying to assess them in the same way.

But, when you read about what are the skillset required in the future of work in the future is almost the opposite… Instead of doing your own thing, you have to be able to cooperate, instead of knowing the right answers, you have to be good in asking the right questions…

You need curiosity, creativity and all those skills are not the essence of our schools today.

We all know we have to make a huge leap. But when we are doing this leap, we have to understand that it will be messy, not everything works, we have to be brave, we have to iterate, we have to develop, it is constant development, process. 

Anaïs, What if Spirit: What do you recommend me to be looking for when interviewing people during my journey around the world? 

Saku Tuominen, Hundred: 

1. Implementation: concretely, how? 

I think the main question is always “how”.

I have been visiting many countries now, and there is always that discussion “we need to change the schools, we need to be teaching 6CS, 4Cs and so forth and everyone seems to agree, but the main question is “how do you make the change happens, so it is fast enough and it is not messing up the entire system? So the main question we should have in any event is about implementation questions.

How can you make the change happen on a global scale and fast enough? 

2. Ask the students, how do they see the world? 

Whenever you go to any Education event, there is one group of people lacking and there are students. That is why we are really trying to be opened to the opinion of students to have a dialogue with them. We are talking about their lives, so maybe they have an opinion for themselves. Most of the countries are missing this opportunity.

We don’t ask them questions.

  • 77% of them think that we are not given them the skills they need in tomorrow’s world,
  • 56% schools think that schools could be teaching more about sustainability for instance. Those are strong messages.

Anaïs, What if Spirit: Can you tell us more about Hundred.org? 

Saku Tuominen, Hundred: The goal of Hundred is to be the world’s leading expert on scalable education by 2020.

We are focused on researches that bring answers to questions like;

  • What kind of skills should you teach?
  • How should you teach mathematics, STEM, etc.
  • How should you assess those skills?
  • How to re-educate teachers? How to create new kinds of models to help teachers to teach?
  • How do you assess new kind of skills?
  • What does a beautiful environment look like? How do you use cities as an environment?
  • How do you improve communications between parents and organisations?
  • How do you lead the change? 

We are also looking for innovations in those categories and try to put a spotlight on them, to promote them.

So if you are any teacher, an expert from anywhere in the world wants to know for instance what are the best ways to teach coding or robotics for instance or prevent bullying… we should be the expert who knows what is happening.

We have been going through to almost 2000 Innovations from 160 countries in the world, we have operating project all around the world, we are discussing with teachers, with headmasters to identify what is already out there.

Innovations don’t spread magically, you have to also kick-start them. So we are also providing services for governments also and so. So if they are a problem, for instance, let’s say the topic is “how can we teach empathy”? We identify what is out there and what could work in that provided context, in that country, with the kind of budget and this kind of schools…