In this article, I share my reflections on a few developments I would consider useful in the field of education. I’ve been interested in this topic for quite some time, but I am not a specialist by any stretch of the imagination. My engagement with the school system is limited to having been a student. The thoughts shared below are personal and just one human's point of view. Other opinions are, of course, welcome.
In today’s world, the space between the present and the future seems to be contracting every day. The pace of innovation propels us forward with increasing speed, producing unprecedented change in our way of life and in how we learn, work and interact with each other. One of the great challenges of education is to keep up with this pace, preparing children and young people for a world that might no longer be the same they grew up in by the time they reach maturity.
Therefore, it is crucial to teach them to deal with change, engaging with the world with a mindset at once curious, flexible, adaptable, discerning, creative and proactive. It also key to equip them with tools to help them preserve balance, well-being and health in both body and mind.
Moreover, in a time as challenging as ours, schools cannot afford to be divorced from the more practical aspects of the world. They must certainly continue to be a vehicle for the acquisition of theoretical knowledge, but they should also play a part in providing children and young people with information, skills and habits that will be useful in all facets of their lives as individuals and as active members of society.
Here are some aspects I believe it would be helpful to incorporate or to strengthen in our education systems:
Disciplines such as meditation, yoga and tai chi could be a great addition to the school curriculum, alongside traditional sports and athletics, which seem thus far to have been the focus of most education systems when it comes to physical education.
These kinds of activities would help kids quiet the mind, focus, pay attention to what goes on inside and create some space between stimulus and response. By generating greater awareness to thoughts, emotions, habits, behaviours and actions, they could improve concentration, help with stress and anxiety management and foster healthier social interaction, especially in situations of conflict.
Though children and young people are often much more familiarised with the online world than adults, it still seems important to help them deal with all its implications, whether that’s Internet etiquette and good behaviour, online bullying, online safety and privacy protection, good judgement in assessing the reputability of information and news sources, or authorship and copyright issues.
Additionally, since a substantial part of commercial exchanges and of interactions between citizens and public services has become digital, citizenship studies could extend to teaching young people about online services they might have to use in the future when exercising their rights or fulfilling their obligations.
However, it’s important to do this in a way that feels relatable to the intended audience. One way to achieve it could be for schools to partner up with content creators, influencers and other people children and young people look up to when implementing these topics in the curriculum.
Creativity and problem-solving
In this last regard, children and young people should be encouraged to use the existing information in ways that are not merely passive (i.e. copying and pasting for homework), but to discover how that information could be applied for practical purposes and to further advance knowledge in a specific field.
This means that, in addition to transmitting knowledge on the answers that have been found so far, schools should also play an important role in encouraging kids to come up with their own questions, based on their lives and experiences, and to go about discovering innovative answers and solutions for them.
Hands-on, learn-by-doing tasks, with field work and use of a broad range of tools, including those related to the online world (e.g. video, podcasting, remote communication software), would be a good way of achieving this.
Now more than ever, it seems important to foster rather than penalise individuality and creativity and to promote the practical application of knowledge to real-life problems and situations.
Dealing with failure
Helping children and young people deal failure does not mean giving everyone a prize or a pat on the back even if they don’t achieve an intended objective. What it does mean is helping them see mistakes and losing as a natural part of life and of learning, while guiding them through the process of taking responsibility and staying calm and focused when trying to deal with any possible consequences of an error.
At the end of the day, most consequences in life are not catastrophic, but rather a chance to improve. This is a message that is crucial to impart at an early age, so that children grow up to be well-rounded, well-adjusted and empowered adults, who are able to face with confidence the unknown and the risks and the challenges that are an integral part of life.
Discovering areas of interest
By partnering up with businesses, public institutions and NGOs, schools could give kids a chance to get familiarised with different areas of activity. Small internships, open days, interviews with different professionals and other similar experiences could all be helpful in this regard.
Again, the more creative and hands-on the approach, the better. To give a couple of examples, students could be encouraged to create a podcast to interview successful professionals in different fields, participate in a simulation where they have to set up and manage their own company or spend a few days in a publishing house helping with small tasks in the various stages of putting a book and marketing it.
These experiences would likely help them gain a better understanding of the areas they are most passionate about and make better career choices when the time comes.
Unless indicated otherwise, all the content posted here was created by me. If you're interested in using it, please get in touch via the comments. Header image credits: @Domz.