LEGO Foundation Speaks About Education and Quality Jobs at OECD in Paris, France
2 June, 2015, Paris, France: Why is that the educational system do not prepare us for tomorrow’s jobs? However excellent your education was at school and how well you were rewarded for your memorising knowledge, within a few years of entering the workforce, a gap will be opening up between what you need to know, what has recently been discovered, and what you were taught while at school.
Picture the exam hall, which marked the culmination of your school career. What is in here?: Rows of chairs, work sheets, multiple-choice tests, a pencil, silence, nervous students concentrated and deeply isolated from each other. What is this about; being rewarded for how effectively you can:
- Memorise knowledge – as though the Internet does not exist
- Work individually and independently – rather that in collaborative teams
- Answer pre-written questions in a fixed format – rather than manage their own time and work to achieve a goal.
- Give a “right” answer to a question – rather than a creative solution to a problem
This exam room is setup to reward almost exactly the opposite skills to those that employers most want in their young workforce and today’s education systems are not preparing children for the reality of tomorrow’s jobs.
However excellent your education was at school and how well you were rewarded for your memorising knowledge, within a few years of entering the workforce, a gap will be opening up between what you need to know, what has recently been discovered, and what you were taught while at school. The pace and volume of change in just about every major discipline means that lifelong learning is no longer an option, but absolutely essential.
But why worry? Want a university level course on, say, “understanding the neurobiology of everyday life” or “the role of global capital markets”? They are available free and now, provided you have access to a computer (visit www.coursera.org for example). In just 20 years, the content of the best libraries has been made available to us through the internet and on mobile devices in a matter of seconds. The consequence is that we can grab content whenever we need it.
However, easy access to all the content in the world does not make us good learners. Taking advantage of lifelong learning opportunities demands certain skills. We need to be motivated to learn, without the constant supervision and support of a teacher. We need to be able to ask questions and relate the knowledge gained to real-life challenges. We need to stick at the challenge even when the work gets hard. We need to be prepared to try something; fail; adapt; then try again until it works. We need to network with other students, sometimes virtually, often across cultures. We need to critically analyse and evaluate the content we find in seconds on the internet, not memorise it. We need to play creatively with ideas and solutions.
These skills are founded in early childhood. Therefor we need to carefully consider how we can best nurture the skills that prevent the current gap between the outputs of our education system and the needs of employers. There is a growing understanding that the gap is not a failure of the last few years of formal schooling alone, but the cumulative consequence of years of education built upon a foundation set down in early childhood. In other words, the problem–and the answer–starts early.
The youngest children have an in-built curiosity to learn and ask questions, to learn through play. When a toddler repeatedly asks “why” or works with other children to create a city using building blocks, they are setting down the basic foundations of inquiry-based, active learning. They are learning by asking their own questions rather than learning rote answers to other people’s questions. This is the foundation of lifelong learning, an approach that should continue throughout school, not stop at the kindergarten.
It is time to reduce the content demands of national curriculum, and to encourage schools to use some of the time saved to focus on developing the skills for lifelong learning. It is time to measure school success not just by children’s ability to answers exam questions, but also by the extent to which children demonstrate a passion and capability for lifelong learning based around their own questions and challenges.