The Future of Education: A re-evaluation of existing paradigms
This was the topic of discussion at the Principals Symposium held at Chandigarh by MacMillan Publishers early this year. The event witnessed a conglomeration of Principals who gathered at the Taj Hotel Chandigarh, to discuss how education must adapt to the volatile economies of future.
From the Gurukul to the Takshila, from the IITs and IIMs to the IGNOU, we have come a long way, planting several revolutionary milestones in the arena of education. Yet, we are faced with a question worth pondering – What is missing?
Presided by key-note speakers, Simerjeet Singh, who spoke of how the existing assembly line model of education must gracefully give way to a newer more dynamic individual-centric education model that helps foster innovation, original thinking, creativity and risk taking, and Dr. Aruna Broota, who emphasized on value-based education, the Symposium wrapped up in a conflux of the new and the experienced, the contemporary and the traditional.
Simerjeet Singh kicked off the event with a few pertinent questions –
“What is school for?”
“Why do most children hate going to school?”
Perhaps the best answer to these questions is summed up by Mark Twain, who said schooling is not education. True, and education, in turn, is not static. It’s like an eternal river that needs to change its course along the line whenever the need/obstacle arises.
The traditional assembly line model of education has been based on cramming, grades and subjects. Students were expected to follow their teachers’ instructions, copy down dictated notes, and produce the same in their exams. This mass model that thrived largely on producing millions of students year after year, who had gone through the rut, and were absorbed into the industry by hordes, worked brilliantly in the bygone era that was just being introduced to the Industrial age. This era required obedient workers who conformed to the norms and did what was told across manufacturing units that produced replaceable machines. They were not allowed to think, question or create. The same phenomenon was witnessed during the software revolution that produced software engineers and computer graduates by masses.
Today, we see smart schools that impart hands-on training to students and offer them a plethora of options in terms of careers. Entrance Test trainings are started on early in their schools, to make them ready to face the entrance tests of various courses. Online training and learning by experience has become the new norm. Dual Degrees and backup diplomas are offering students a security that just might try to assuage the risk posed by the economy today.
Yet, there is a gap. In fact, there are two.
Knowledge has lost form, turning into bits called bytes while paper has given way to virtual data. Managing this requires a re-thinking of everything that we once learned. To produce knowledge workers who sit in their cubicles and strategize in-depth plans to take over the virtual world, like the Google guys did, we need a ‘different’ mode of education that encourages students to ‘think’ like the big guys out there, and to ‘act upon’ their hunches.
Simerjeet Singh identifies the fist gap as the recess caused because of a rigid system of education that refuses to tailor itself to an individual’s capabilities. Teachers do not want to move from being mere teachers to facilitators, consultants and advisors. The format of schooling, the syllabus, the grading system – everything is still the same – a cause for concern, for it does not encourage innovation and creativity. Schools don’t encourage kids to question the status quo. Students accept what is taught by default.
While the proud father of the-billionaire-before-30 Mark Zuckerberg was quoted as having had a difficult time answering the endless questions of Mark, it was this very quest for answers that helped Mark inch closer to the ‘Facebook’ Fame.
That spirit of enquiry is what’s missing among students – the second gap.
Giving examples of Sir Ken Robinson, author of bestseller The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything and speaker of path breaking TED talks that went viral in 2006 and 2010, Simerjeet Singh stresses the need for educating children to create rather than to cram, to question rather than to accept. He believes that education and economy are closely linked, and the recent upheavals in the world economy warrant an entire game change in the schooling scenario. Twenty years ago, an engineer was much sought after. Twenty years hence, we will be producing robots manufactured to think and work like engineers. Do we have an education model that offers smart kids today, a knowledge base that they can use to plan smart homes and solar panelled roads that can charge vehicles as they pass by? Can they learn to be leaders and entrepreneurs that early in life?
What did Sanjeev Bikhchandani, founder of naukri.com do differently? He thought out of the box – by bringing the job seeker and the employer under one single umbrella – a job portal. He built a database of jobs out of listings and turned a website into a multi-billion business. It is important to note that he achieved success after years and years of perseverance. Are we teaching children to never give up?
Ishita Swarup, founder of 99labels.com, sourced big brand rejects and sold them online on discounted rates to a remote consumer base that had no access to brands.
They are path-breaking young entrepreneurs. We need to nurture more of their kind.
Schools need to introduce live projects in their syllabus that prod students to think differently. Cultivating their entrepreneurial spirit at that age is bound to turn these little minds into budding entrepreneurs. Let them take risks, let them experience the difficulties of entrepreneurship while at school, so that they can face their real lives confidently. Let them lead at school, so that they can turn into great leaders in life.
35 year old Sal Khan opened Khan Academy and enabled global access to world class training videos on every subject in the school book. He dared to dream of filling up a huge recession in the access to quality educational content by offering a free library to all. That is the kind of enterprising model that the student of tomorrow will demand.
Henry Ford’s assembly line model solved the problem of mass production, thus building up an automotive empire with a huge investment but repetitive workers doing a fixed job over and over again. It flourished on the foundation of conformity, obedience and routine – at the cost of creativity, innovation and novelty.
On the contrary, the Internet revolution boasts of Mark Zuckerberg, who started off with a nominal investment, a computer, an internet connection, and information technology, and hit it big with Facebook. Or the legend Steve Jobs, who, in spite of having dropped out of college, went on to form Apple Computers from his family garage. Each one is a legend with a novel achievement – one that cannot be duplicated.
Can we churn out young entrepreneurs today?
Can our schooling system teach kids to have the courage to take risks?
Can we tell them it’s okay to make mistakes and be wrong once in a while?
Can we help liberate students instead of turning them into “frantic workers” mindlessly pursuing a monetary goal?
Does our schooling allow students to think differently?
Tomorrow’s education calls for creative minds that host the courage to question the norms.
Do our students question “Why?” enough number of times?
Can they seek new answers to the same old questions?
Can we lead them on the path less trodden?
As the world contracts into one connected global class room, are our existing models of education revamping themselves to conform to the speed and the dynamic needs of a rapidly shrinking world?
Simerjeet Singh has conducted workshops, faculty motivation programmes and guest lectures that aim at inspiring, empowering and helping his audience see the same world in a different light. To find out how you can bring his transformational programs to your campus, please visit our official website or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org