The education of yesterday is not the education of tomorrow. Today’s youth’s generation needs an educational system that works for them and not one that they have to work within and mold themselves to. Gone need to be the days of rote memorization of math facts or the drilling of remote grammar rules into students’ brains. Education today needs to be fluid, relatable, and pertinent to the direction the world is trending.
When was the last time you had to use a pencil and paper to do a long division problem? When was the last time you needed to use a dictionary to look up the definition of a word? Now, these skills are certainly foundational ones to have and are worth learning, however when you can reach into your pocket and pull out a device that can do all of these things for you in a split second, the question becomes what exactly should students learn that is truly irreplaceable?
Experts have estimated that nearly half of the jobs that exist today will be automated in twenty years. In shifting the focus to teaching the future, we are creating a workforce of competent individuals armed with the right skills to make their world better than the one left in their hands.
Education Reform 101
If you were to step foot in a classroom today, 2021, you would see teachers teaching the same content that was taught in 1921. Math, science, reading, writing, history, and so on. What’s notable is that methods of teaching have improved and changed drastically, especially since the introduction of technology, and the conversation regarding methodologies is constantly changing and delivering new ideas. Conversations about WHAT is taught, however… *crickets.*
To prepare students for the future, do we continue teaching them about photosynthesis, Mesopotamia, logarithms and Shakespeare? Or do we progress towards classes centered around problem-solving, creative thinking, innovation, computer science, digital literacy, coding, internet safety, collaboration and communication? Think about which of those subjects above are ones you have called upon in your real, everyday life. My guess is it’s not a line from Hamlet.
Sure, it may be important to teach what, on the surface, may be considered “useless topics,” but the shift should be in making those topics applicable and relatable to real-life problems. Teachers are already great at fostering good communication and collaboration in their classrooms, but it needs to be taken a step further in identifying actual real-world problems that actual modern students can solve.
Welcome to the 21st Century
The leaders in education today should make room for the curriculum of the future. It’s ironic how in today’s schools, the subjects that will be most useful to students throughout their lives are allocated to after school clubs or for a fee. Robotics, debate, computer science, online coding… these are the topics and skills required for the future, and 21st century educational leaders need to get on board and incorporate these into the everyday curriculum.
Think like a Coder
The field of coding and computer science is absolutely booming and becoming a large permanent fixture on the workforce landscape. In fact, experts predict that most industries will require digital literacy in their employees in the near future. Many companies have emerged that teach students step-by-step how to write and understand code, but it is important to take this a step further and teach students how to think like a coder.
Programming language changes constantly. The code you learn and understand today could be completely different from a code that you learn about tomorrow. Learning code is one thing, knowing How to learn new code is what’s important.
Metacognition is a phrase that psychologists use that means “thinking about thinking.” This is a highly useful skill to have to understand how you learn and process new information, and directly applies to the reforms in education today that will better prepare students for the future. Teaching students how to process their thoughts and determine how they reach different solutions to problems will be applicable throughout their lives as well as will be a huge benefit to society.
When we think to the future, we can only hope that it is a world filled with strong communication and collaboration among all of its citizens. It all starts with our kids and what we choose to teach them. Figuring out what types of skills cannot be replaced by automation and passing those on to today’s youth will hopefully make 100 years from now, 3021, a wonderful era to live in.