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21st Century Learning

30 May 2015

The children in our schools today will face a world unknown to us. The careers they will follow, the lives they will lead, and the decisions they will take can’t possibly be imagined.

Schools must prepare children for this new, unimaginable world. We need to ensure our education system is reformed so that it is equipping our children for the future they will face, not the futures that we faced.

Many of the jobs that I have done in my life, many of the decisions I have taken, could not have been predicted by my teachers, were not understood by the society that I grew up in, were not yet invented and were unimaginable. Many of the ways in which I lead my life, such as the use of Twitter or this very blog, are the preserve of this new future that I exist in, unimaginable to the school system of my childhood.

Yet, I have been successful in my career, I am able to make decisions, and I can cope in this unimaginable world of technology.

How on earth did my school manage to prepare me for such a world? And how can we reform our education system of today to ensure that it is readying our children for their future?

This might sound radical, but here is how it is done: make children really bright.

My schooling ensured that I could read and write, ensured that I was mathematically able, ensured that I understood history and could argue and reason, instilled a sense of purpose and hard work, focused exclusively on making me brighter and able to network. Meanwhile, my parents wrapped me in love, imbued in me an everlasting confidence so that I would be able to cope with any change or challenge, instilled in me a drive and determination and a pride in hard work.

It isn’t rocket science. The idea that there is something radical that needs to change in schools is correct, but only insomuch as we need to strip schools back to these core purposes. Head teachers need to be left alone to create institutions focused on creating learn’d young men and women with the confidence to make their way in the world no matter what that world becomes.

Make children really bright. Everything else will follow.

Trying to predict the future and then molding an education system around that prediction is not only doomed to fail (we are awful at predicting the future!) but it is also a foolish starting point. Who cares what the world we become? Why worry about it? Just make children really bright, they will overcome.

Why is it that I am able to communicate through Twitter or write in programming languages that didn’t exist when I was at school? Simple: because I am not a moron. I am educated (in the true sense of the word), which means that I can continue to learn new things and can adapt. My schooling gave me the foundations and knowledge to do so. My parenting gave me the personality and confidence to want to.

So yes, we should reform. We really should. Because between 2001 – 2010 in particular, England deployed an education system hell bent on destroying aspiration and determination. One that believed that only certain types of children from certain types of background should have access to success while the rest would be restricted to a happy-clappy, wrapped in cotton wool experience.

Every single child in every single school should be provided with an education exclusively focused on making them brighter and giving them the ability to network.

Let’s reform education literally. Re form it. Back to a shape when it was about high expectations for all, when it understood that if it didn’t make every child a reader, writer and mathematically literate, then that child would be screwed for life.

Of course, the truth of the whole 21st Century Learning swindle is that, actually, the overwhelming majority of jobs will be exactly the same. But that doesn’t matter either. What matters is that every child leaves school having had the same opportunity of provision (we can’t have opportunity of outcome, that is down to them and parenting).

If we want our children to lead the most successful and happy lives they possibly can, then schools need to re-remember their core purpose: make children really bright.

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