We all agree on this simple fact, that it’s past time we introduce fundamental changes in education system.
What is it that we want to see change?
Is it the rudimentary practice of making kids memorise information in an age we are flooded with nothing but information.
Is it sticking to rules and conformity when our world is changing at an exponential rate and the riskiest thing today is to stay safe and follow rules?
Or is it about teaching compassion instead of competition, when we live in an age where we are connected than ever but lack real human relations.
This article is based on the ideas shared in the Book Stop Stealing Dreams by Seth Godin.
Now, let me ask you a question.
Which started first? the school or The Factory ?
Factories didn’t start because there were schools; schools started because there were factories and they needed trained workers.
In the 19th century industrialized Europe the need for training factory workers to fill in the worker positions was the need of the economy.
Hence school was started to train kids into workers and to encourage people to move from their farms into the city and work in the newly formed factories.
Now how can we best describe a factory worker of the 19th century?
The ideal worker was the one that followed authority, didn’t raise much questions and did what he was told to do in the most efficient way.
This is the same way kids are brought up in our schools. To no surprise, ideal student is the one that follow rules, obeys people in authority. Do as they are told and don’t ask too many questions.
The issue with this model of factory education is that our economy no longer demands complaint mediocre workers. It needs people who can think on their own. who can solve problems creatively.
Do this or we’ll laugh at you, expel you, tell your parents, and make you sit in the corner. Do this or you will get a bad grade, be suspended, and never amount to anything. Do this or you are in trouble.
We have all heard this in our schools. This fear that schools use as a tool to administer their students is toxic. It kills the passion we all share to explore and learn.
Fear is easy to awake, easy to maintain, but ultimately toxic.
The other tool to fear is passion. A kid in love with computers or football or travelling is going to learn it on his/her own. He / She’s going to push hard for ever more information, and better still, continue to learn more
Many of us fear failure. Passion is the only tool that can overcome fear, the fear of losing, of failing, of being ridiculed. So isn’t it time embrace passion instead of fear in our schools.
I grew up in Kerala, as all Indians me and my friends, we were crazy about cricket. We ate drank and dreamt cricket. We knew everything that you needed to know about cricket. The rules, the statistics, the techniques, and of course to play. But none of us learned it in the standardized industrialized model. If we would have we probably would’ve hated cricket.
Back when I was a kid I used to get punished for talking in the classroom, I hadn’t given much thought about it back then.
But why would you want the students to not talk sit quietly and do their work
There is a reason for it, this is exactly what the economy back then needed
Workers were supposed to not talk and listen to their training
And the more time they worked and not talked meant more productivity.
But the economy that I grew up into is different. The world no longer values factory jobs. Factory jobs are easy to automate and companies did the same.
But what the economy valued was the ability for people to talk, express their ideas collaborate with their peers. To act as a team and produce solutions for unstructured problems.
OK, so now lets talk more about the 21st century economy the United States-based Partnership for 21st Century Skills has identified these 4 Abilities as the skills that the 21st century economy needs.
They are Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking /Problem Solving and Creativity
But still we teach our kids not to communicate. We separate them. We test them individually for a system of churning out predictable, testable, and mediocre factory workers.
As we progress more into the future the work that is structured will be automated and the work that is valued more will be instructed work.
This shift in the economy has led to massive levels of unemployment as the youth today possess the wrong skills that are not suitable for the 21st century.
This recent Economist Article says
The share of the American workforce employed in routine office jobs declined from 25.5% to 21% between 1996 and 2015. The single, stable career has stepped away
Automation and artificial intelligence fills in these positions.
Just 16% of Americans think that a four-year college degree prepares students very well for a good job.
No matter how much politicians promise you to bring back the old factory jobs they can’t. Some people argue that we have to become the cheaper, easier country for sourcing cheap, compliant workers who do what they’re told. Even if we could win that race, we’d lose. The bottom is not a good place to be, even if you’re capable of getting there.
Look at Kodak it was a company that enabled capturing and sharing pictures with your friends for an entire century. It employed 185,000 people to do just that and now 13 guys working together can do just that. They are called Instagram.
These are the kind of changes happening in our economy.
But still if you do a job where someone tells you exactly what to do, he will find someone cheaper than you to do it. And yet our schools are churning out kids who are stuck looking for jobs where the boss tells them exactly what to do.
So the question is, the post-industrial revolution is here. Do you care enough to teach your kids to take advantage of it?
I want to end this with Sir Ken Robinson’s words
If you get to make kids do hour after hour of low grade clerical work. Don’t be surprised if they start to fidget.
Because kids are more than that. They thrive on challenges.
And remember kids who join elementary school today will graduate more than 20 years from now. So let’s think differently on how we should approach education