The danger of students doing what they’re told

I spent the week at events linked with education futures and New Zealand Ministry of Education announcements. They all included presentations that talked about future trends and reports from the world economic forum. This of course lead to lots of discussion around jobs and skills required for the near future (next five years) and how schools were not adapting quickly enough to the changes taking place. For example, if Google and Facebook combined to put the other 50% of the planet on the Internet within the next five years, what impact will it have on the world and what does it mean to the skills and dispositions your classroom needs to be developing in its learners.

via Wikimedia Commons

A poignant example of this is that within the last five years I have had people start conversations with me about the devaluing of both handwriting and typing skills and yet I write this post by voice. Voice recognition as a form of interfacing with computers will see a huge reduction over the next five years in the amount we use and are addicted to our screens. This itself is just a small example of how assumptions within schools about what’s important are being so rapidly challenged.

FIVE YEARS from now, over one-third of skills (35%) that are considered important in today’s workforce will have changed. – World Economic Forum

Before we had the Internet, most jobs involved workers who would carry out routines or instructions issued by the business, be it a factory, an office, or a service. So having every student in every classroom being told what to do and when to do it made perfect sense as this was good preparation for the world outside. But if you consider the World Economic Forum’s top 10 skills for 2020 (left) you’ll hopefully notice none of them relate to having received instructions from someone else. They all require engagement and original input from the individual.

Expecting to contribute at all moments of the day is a mindset that all school cultures need to develop in students. But most of a school day for most of the students in the world still involves waiting to receive instructions about what to do next and not having any impact on how things will be done. This is developing a generation of exactly the opposite to what the world requires by 2020. This is highlighted when I speak to the average school leaver at the age of 18 and they cannot articulate their own strengths and skills. They have hardly ever been asked to consider themselves within any learning situation.

The more teachers continue to issue instructions to learners about what to do and how to do it, the more we develop completely the wrong mindsets and dispositions for the world in 2025. The world is now exponential and schools need exponential change to happen now. There is no longer time for the traditional analog and linear systems that school use when planning for change. It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee! it’s time for school administrators to reconsider how planning and decisions are made and acknowledge that within the new context, the industrial education model is now damaging our children’s future opportunities.

Even the nature of qualifications is now being seriously challenged and I believe schools have five years to start making changes or they face very rapidly becoming irrelevant. In the context of these changes taking place around the world, a report from Oxford University highlighted that within the next decade public outrage is unavoidable. Let us try to ensure that our current students when faced with this challenge to adapt are not aiming their outrage towards their schooling because it ill prepared them for the world multiple organisations warned us was coming.

Thanks to Frances Valentine, Sue Suckling and Drew Minock for this week’s inspirations.

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