The role of Education:
shaping a sustainable future for all of us
Article date: 01 April 2019
Local Community: Global
Facilitator(s)/Advocate(s): Metamorphany Changemakers
Concept and Methodology: Metamorphany’s Youth-Driven Innovation Program in classrooms
Global Impact Path: Metamorphany's International YDI Program, international collaboration network in education & innovation and the international YDI Alumni network
There is no denying that we currently live in an era in which technology, science and consequential societal changes are moving more rapidly than ever before. Fortunately, policymakers, teachers, educational leaders and advocates worldwide, amongst which Metamorphany, are also realizing that in such a time our 'Educational Systems' will have to evolve more significantly too. We already see many inspiring attempts globally—from the birth of different methodologies to entire new schools or even more outside-the-box initiatives.
Over the coming months, Metamorphany will share some of those inspiring initiatives. But first, I’d like to highlight why now, more than ever, Education should evolve towards models that are more human-centred and less content-focussed than traditional education settings.
Bear in mind that we are only at the beginning of what many predict will be a more disruptive and more impactful period than any other in history. With that knowledge, I ask myself and all those active in education: Is 'Education' adapting fast enough? Are we collectively making the right choices that will determine the direction of 'Education' and 'Learning' the coming decade and beyond? And how are we assessing which decisions are better than others, when many variables of our future are still unknown?
We know, however, that our job market will look really different. According to a 2017 research report by the Institute For The Future (IFTF), over 85% of our children in schools today worldwide are preparing themselves for jobs that haven't been invented yet1** click/tap word(s) again to close **
1Institute for the Future (IFTF) is independent, nonprofit strategic research and educational organization. They performed a study for Dell Technologies in 2017, of which this was one of the outcomes. Results have been captured in the report "The next era of human|machine partnerships - Emerging technologies’ impact on society and work in 2030"
for source click here. And our schools and teachers are having to play catch-up to that fact.
Metamorphany and Education
At Metamorphany, we put an emphasis on empowering local community members and training them on innovation methodologies, particularly children, youth and young professionals. We help them develop into the new type of leaders our world needs going forward, as we collectively strive to shape a future in which every individual can maximize his/her own potential. We see 'Education' and 'Learning'—and the (re)development thereof—as a primary pillar in our mission.
Since most of us live in a primarily digital and (social)media-driven environment, I believe that it is likely that the ripple effects of the current and future changes in education will show itself too more rapidly through societal impact than prior changes in education. It is therefore important that we collectively help 'Education' transition in the right direction and where possible help pace it positively too.
Facilitating the transition of Education
When we consider that this transitional decade and possibly the decade thereafter is also going to determine our societal direction, the next phase of Education will be pivotal. This heightens the immense responsibility of policymakers and educators even more. Imagine the weight of such a responsibility and the transitional challenges that schools, teachers and others involved in educating our next-generation(s) must face.
We cannot and should not let them carry the load alone. We all have a role to play in this. Particularly the stakeholders who have a big influence on the direction of Education, yet are not directly teaching our students in the classroom. I’m referring to policymakers, administrators, other educational leaders and of course parents. Many wish to uphold the current standardized traditional systems. This in itself is not surprising, since studies have confirmed that people make social decisions2 based on what we believe to be socially appropriate2** click/tap word(s) again to close **
2Source: Research paper titled "Great expectations: neural computations underlying the use of social norms in decision-making" by Luke J. Changa (University of Arizona, USA and University of California, USA) and Alan G. Sanfey (University of Arizona, USA, and Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands). First published December 23, 2011 in the scientific journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (SCAN), which can be downloaded from Oxford Academic.
for access to the journal click here. This might explain why in certain countries the adoption rate of alternative educational methodologies is higher than in others; why in certain cultures—or communities with a decreased heterogeneity of the population—educational choices and career planning are more often determined by the influence of one’s environment than by a person’s 'dreams' or ‘interests'.
Established nodes require reassessment
In a time where science and technology are moving this rapidly, however, we can no longer hold on to yesterday’s methodologies and our general pace of change. Think about it. Most of our traditional educational systems have evolved in line with ‘The Industrial Revolution’ and the development of corporate structures in all industries. Sure, we owe it to The Industrial Revolution that Education has become available to the mass vs the elite few, and that we have relatively high literacy ratios worldwide. But it has also led to the development of an Educational system with standardized content, teaching methods, books and even a standardized classroom and school design—just like we’ve done with assembly lines, processes and many products and services. Furthermore, the standardization of assessments and admission processes for post-secondary education, have also contributed to the development of standardized curricula in elementary and secondary schools. Curricula that have been skilfully designed in service of either further education or economic needs, but, one could argue, have perhaps undermined our commitment to foster curiosity, nourish problem-solving and inspire a love of lifelong learning.
Education, especially higher education, has developed into an industry itself. It operates like one, is managed like one and in many ways has transitioned its societal function from 'educating within a larger societal context' to 'specific job/skill training'. We see an Educational and Research industry that is closely aligned with industries and corporate markets, which in return has influenced the curricula in many colleges and universities worldwide. Longterm, such a trend harms a society3** click/tap word(s) again to close **
3Take for example medicine, where future doctors learn much about diagnosing patients and treating with drug intervention, but disturbingly little about helping patients and society with 'prevention-approaches' that ultimately eliminate the need for drug interventions. Topics such as 'lifestyle medicine' that covers things like nutrition, counselling lifestyle changes, etc. Ultimately, such a focus does not foster a healthier society in which people make better choices; it tends to foster a drug-dependent society with increased health costs, and a greater socio-economic divide in many cases too.
For some sources click below:
Health @ USNews overall.
Change means new opportunities
The world around us is changing so swiftly that some predict that within the next decade(s) intelligent machines4 will be able to perform many of the tasks today done by people, and answer almost all questions4** click/tap word(s) again to close **
4One of these visionaries is Kevin Kelly, founding executive editor of Wired magazine, and a former editor/publisher of the Whole Earth Review. In his latest book ‘The Inevitable’ he forecasts the twelve technological forces that will shape the next thirty years. He highlights ‘questioning’ as "one of the larger forces that will completely revolutionize the way we work, play, learn, buy and communicate with one another". He writes: "in the future, with all data, information and knowledge on intelligent machines, almost all questions can be answered inexpensively. The challenge and the task that computers will likely be able to perform last is asking a good question. A good question is not concerned with the correct answer but one that challenges existing answers, creates new territories of thinking, and that can be a probe, a what-if scenario." He states that in the future "Question Makers will be seen, properly, as the engines that create the new fields, new industries, new brands, new possibilities, new continents that our restless species can explore."
click here for a copy of the book inexpensively. This makes it even more important that Education repositions its primary focus on truly fostering the curiosity5** click/tap word(s) again to close **
5A 2018 study for example by researchers from the University of Michigan links curiosity in young children with later academic success.
click here for source, creativity5 and eagerness for learning5 that all children are born with. Many lose this natural-born ability in the predetermined educational journey we've created for them. The new educational methodologies should purposefully facilitate students to explore entirely new territories of thinking, even if this ends up being in directions that our teachers themselves have not yet been prepared for. We cannot hold on to the ‘traditional’ thought that ‘teachers’ always have to be more knowledgeable about a subject. In fact, I argue that the best teachers are not those that have the most content knowledge, but those that have the ability to inspire their students and recognize what each individual student requires to maximize his/her potential—like we see in top-level sports. The best coaches are not necessarily the best players, but they know what the player(s) individually and as a collective need to maximize their potential and group outcome. In our digital age, in which access to content and informational knowledge can almost instantly found, this applies more than ever. A teacher's skillset in alternative methodologies that facilitate outside-the-box thinking, nurture an entrepreneurial mindset and encourage 'questioning' will be the differentiator in what future we'll be able to shape for our students—and consequentially our societies.
“The young people of this 21st century represent our planet now. They have the ability to bring about change. Even as climate change increases in intensity, they can work together in the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood to find and share solutions. They are our real hope.”
— His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama —
Buddhist monk, spiritual leader of Tibet, man of peace, receiver of over 150 awards, honorary doctorates, prizes, etc. and (co-)author of more than 110 booksHas been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize holder in 1989
Personalized teaching and learning
I feel that Education needs to strengthen its edge in inspiring a love for (lifelong) learning more; offer more room to students of all ages to develop their individual identity, and; help them truly discover what they love and are good at. Many institutions and Governments have come to realize that we should not teach our students what to think, but how to think, yet most are still insufficiently equipped to effectively act on the discoveries from the fields of neuroscience and cognitive psychology for example. As mentioned, Education still primarily follows a standardized and content-driven approach. Even after many studies have shown that our brains6** click/tap word(s) again to close **
6Every individual has a unique brain anatomy, according to new research from the University of Zurich in Switzerland; and this uniqueness is the result of a combination of genetic factors and individual life experiences.
click here for more info are both functionally and structurally as unique as our fingerprints6; are continuously changing and learning, and; each brain responds and learns differently7** click/tap word(s) again to close **
7Dr Lara Boyd from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC in Canada explains this well in her 2015 TEDx talk "After Watching This, Your Brain Will Not Be the Same"
click here to view her TEDx talk. Numerous studies have also proven that many other aspects outside content and content-teaching facilitate people’s ability to learn. Lifestyle8 and behavioural choices8 such as music, diet, sleeping, meditation, travelling, creating artwork, and many more non-content related matters, influence the structure and connectivity of our brains and influence our ability to learn8** click/tap word(s) again to close **
8Take for example what we’ve learned about neuroplasticity alone. You will find many great resources on this topic and more on the website of the Positive Psychology Program
Other interesting examples are studies like:
- Short-term cognitive training recapitulates hippocampal functional changes associated with one year of longitudinal skill development
- Effects of teaching the concept of neuroplasticity to induce a growth mindset on motivation, achievement, and brain activity: A meta-analysis
- Balancing freedom and limitations: A case study of choice provision in a personalized learning class
- Differences in mathematics achievement according to opportunity to learn
And these are just a few of many examples that highlight how complex and individual our brains operate and learn..
Facilitating positive behavioural decisions
Since all of our behaviour and decisions play such a vital role in the development of our connectivity of the brain and learning retention, Education models should also attempt to incorporate scientific findings that influence our behaviour and decision making. In the realm known as social decision-making for example, we know that many of our decisions are based on expectations9** click/tap word(s) again to close **
9"In a study examining the role of social norms, the researchers used a simple economic bargaining game, where one person proposed an offer and another person responded. While generally, responders were more likely to reject offers as they became increasingly inequitable, responder’s expectations about how they believed proposers would play the game impacted their decisions regarding clearly unfair offers. Simply put, responders who expected proposers to make lower offers were more likely to accept these offers than those responders who did not expect lower offers. In other words, we have specific beliefs about what to expect in different contexts, and we are likely to reject whatever violates these expectations."
Medical Daily—on what we believe to be socially appropriate9. We know that Emotion10** click/tap word(s) again to close **
10Dr Antonio Damasio, a neuroscientist and professor at University of Southern California (USC), Los Angeles and Director of the Brain and Creativity Institute at USC has studied the principle of decision-making and the need of emotion to make decisions for many years now. His studies have shown that if we lacked feeling (as certain brain-damaged patients do), we would become incapable of making a decent decision. He discovered this after he studied people with damage in the part of the brain where emotions are generated. He found that they were all not able to feel emotions, and all couldn’t make decisions. They could describe what they should be doing in logical terms, but couldn't make even simple decisions, such as what to eat. In his studies and books, Damasio has highlighted the importance of emotions in choosing and decision making. In fact, even with what we believe are logical decisions, the very point of choice is arguably always based on emotion. is inextricably linked to and necessary for decision-making10, and that helping people manage their emotions healthily consequently facilitates better decision making and ultimately one would expect better learning.
We also know that ‘decision-making time’11** click/tap word(s) again to close **
11Dr Roozbeh Kiani and his colleagues at the Center for Neural Science at New York University discovered that our brains interpret decisions that take longer as less confident ones.
Medical Daily plays a vital role in how confident people feel with certain decisions. A 2014 study by Dr Colin Torney, from the University of Exeter, has indicated that humans' herd mentality12** click/tap word(s) again to close **
Science Daily—our natural desire to be part of the 'in crowd’—could damage our ability to make the right decisions. This process does not only undermine people's personal decisions, but also the groups' outcome. Groups become less responsive to changes in their natural environment. It is suggested to be due to a "classic evolutionary conflict between individual and collective interest." As you can imagine this in itself has a tremendous impact on societal development and change, and could partly explain why we have failed to take required action on major issues such as climate change. We could and should, in our Educational systems, focus more on helping individuals and groups make healthier decisions that benefit both individual and the collective as a whole.
Bottom line, if we want to shape a sustainable future for generations to come—a future in which we take care of our planet, while we ensure economical and societal growth for everyone—we require more personalized educational approaches, and we need to help individuals and groups make healthy behavioural decisions. When we do this correctly, we will not only help each person maximize a healthy development of their brain and their ability to learn, but we also facilitate a more positive collective decision-making process that will benefit both the individual and the overall societal and economical outcome.
All of this is highly complex and certainly not easily solved. At Metamorphany, however, we believe that when we work together within our communities, we are able to shape such a future. Our Innovation approaches and our Youth-Driven Innovation Program have been purposefully designed to help Educational bodies, policymakers, Governments and local communities find the right outside-the-box solution directions and facilitate the right decisions. Participants in our programs and events have shown inspiring signs of accelerated learning. We are excited to help schools, municipalities, and organizations with our expertise, and help shape a sustainable future of Education.
We look forward to it.