Think about this. How does a telephone one hundred years ago, compare to what is in your pocket right now? How does the car you drive today, compare to the one driven last century?
They are light years apart. Vastly different in both appearance and function. So much so, one barely resembles the other.
Now, consider what a standard modern day classroom looks like against one a hundred years ago. There is virtually no difference.
The same four walls, rows of chairs and tables, information at the front and teacher in control.
The prehistoric teaching methods and models of education have failed to progress with the modern world.
The subjects taught have undergone very little change and therefore are not teaching children the real life skills they need to succeed.
Schools can no longer teach students everything there is to know - the world is complex, volatile and uncertain.
Skills to navigate this complex terrain need to be taught so young people can search for their own answers, ask their own questions and pave their own way.
Literacy in wellbeing, collaboration and creative thinking are far more important than the three R’s (reading, writing and arithmetic).
In their 2015 report on teaching new technologies to students, the World Economic Forum has listed 21st Century Skills. These include financial, scientific, ICT (information and communications technology), cultural and civic literacy.
Character strengths such as perseverance, leadership and teamwork have also featured – the Forum have identified that students need skills, values, and dispositions more than they need specific concepts.
They say the ever-growing emphasis on academic performance and test scores means many children aren’t developing life skills like self-control and motivation.
Focus and resilience, which are far better predictors of long term success than high grades.
Chris Jones, a secondary school teacher who have taught at a variety schools worldwide, believes there “are many elements of contemporary education models that provide life skills that will assist the learner beyond secondary education.” He would suggest that there had been a “positive shift in this direction, however this model needs refinement to better serve the needs of graduating students”.
A LEADING EXAMPLE
Finland is already well on its way in achieving this. The country is drastically renovating its schools, eliminating maths and science lessons. The new method called “phenomenon teaching” involves teaching of a much broader range of topics, combining different skills.
A student might learn geography, geology and language through a lesson, where the class identify different countries on a map and discuss their climates. All in French.
Classes are not streamed by ability. The stronger and struggling students are taught together, so children learn to teach, work in groups and accept diversity.
Abandoning the old methods sounds almost polar opposite to achieving academic success, but Finland consistently tops international league tables for literacy and numeracy.
It is outshone in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) only by countries like China and Singapore, where students are held to punishing study regimes.
TIME TO CHANGE
We cannot know everything that there is to know in the world, but we have to know how to find it out. Victorian schooling lasts for 13 years, from preparatory to senior secondary. That is 15,000 hours.
Perhaps we need to take a leaf from Finland’s book, and move forward in our schooling.
Adolescents should be learning how to save money wisely, cook meals, pay taxes and put together IKEA furniture. Not the value of ‘x’.
It is time for schools across Australia to start teaching skills that will prepare students for their future, not delivering content their grandfathers’ thought was important.