What will the world be like in 20 years time?
That is a very difficult question. It is hard to even imagine where we will be in 5 years time. With science changing so rapidly and new threats appearing each year what kind of world will our children have to deal with? Will we be mining metors? Will we be at war? Will global warming have forced us all to live in the Southern Hemisphere? Will we be building colonies on other planets or teleporting instead of flying? What jobs will be available? Will everyone work in IT? Will construction workers be replaced by 3D printing designers? Will we all be replaced by robots?Michio Kaku is a leading string theorist. In this lecture he talks about the future and what he thinks are very real possibilities by 2030. With so many possibilities how can we prepare children for a future that we don’t yet understand ourselves? The answer might just be that we can’t.
So what does this mean for educators?
Well it makes life for us quite difficult. How can you prepare a child for a world that doesn’t exist yet? Technology is moving so fast now that by the time you complete a University course, what you learnt at the beginning would become obsolete or irrelevant by the end. The learning of facts has become outdated. The concept of “reading, writing and arithmetic” as the fundamentals of a good school are becoming a blurry memory. Educators are becoming facilitators for discovery rather than teachers of set curricula. In his award winning TED talk Sugata Mitra discusses his “hole in the wall” experiment. He leaves a computer in a poor community with no teachers and no help. The computer program is in English and none of the children speak the language. What he finds is amazing. With no help the children manage to score a passing mark equal to that of a rich independent school where there is access to better computers and fully qualified teachers. A very inspirational talk on how learning philosophies are changing. Children need to be leading the questions, learning through play, discovering new things, wanting to find out more. They should have access to technology, designing and programming, using computers and nurturing their curiosity and most importantly teaching themselves.
Is maths, the new Latin?
Even more radically, is the notion that many of the subjects that we learn today are becoming obsolete. Most of us, upon hearing this, would think we mean, possibly Music or Art; one of the foundation subjects… but what if I said Maths? Should we be wasting our time with Mathematics? Nowadays we rarely use our brains for maths what with technology solving all our problems for us, organising our daily routine and telling us when the next train will be. So should we be spending a whole hour everyday painstakingly teaching children sums that by the time they are old enough to use them they will probably not need. Time might be better spent learning computer programming, which although has just recently become a core subject, teachers themselves don’t have the qualifications to teach it.
As of now technology isn’t quite ready to discard maths completely and it is still as important to us as ever, but what about in 20 years time? The traditionalists are probably gasping in horror at the thought of not learning maths, but our relatives probably gasped the same way when Latin fell from the list of Core subjects. Maths is likely to survive but it may evolve to use technology more efficiently, in a way that it did when calculators were introduced. The future of learning is changing and for the first time since the Victorian age we are seeing a real change in teaching philosophy. Please take time to watch The Future of Learning; a mini documentary by GOOD which includes some of the World’s most forward thinking educational speakers.
What will survive from the current curriculum?
Another tough question. Will schools still be the same in the future? Will there even be schools as we know them today? Well, ICT will not only survive but will continue to grow. We are likely to see more and more apps and educational games being incorporated into all parts of learning. Design and programming are starting to become more important with more focus being placed on Programming in Primary schools, however the importance of computing still hasn’t really taken hold with the policy makers, despite ICT recently becoming a core subject. Reading is a skill that we use everyday; a necessity and will survive until we can pass information telepathically. However writing is already dying out, with people keeping notes electronically and restaurant orders being taken through computers. It is hard to think of a time when we sat down and wrote anything of any real worth.
The truth is we can’t really predict the future so that is why it is all the more important to teach children to learn by themselves. For the first time in Human history, mother may not “know best”; we might need to listen to our kids a little more.
British Early Years Centre is an International Kindergarten School in Bangkok. For more information please take a look at our website here…