Preparing for futures unknown
“Knowledge is changing so fast that we cannot give young people what they will need to know because we do not know what it will be” Guy Claxton.
This, by now, well-known quote in many ways sums up the challenges faced by education today. From a personal point of view, it is what inspired the reworking and relaunch of Values and Visions.
Dr. Simona Popa of the UNESCO International Bureau of Education talked recently of “preparation for the unknowns”, the “fast-changing context” and “an unknown future” or, as UNESCO says, ‘futures.’ Dr. Conrad Hughes looks at this in more depth in his latest book, Educating for the Twenty-First Century: Seven Global Challenges. He speaks of, “International organisations such as UNESCO and UNICEF, grappling with challenges and problems at an international scale, “(Hughes, 2018).
Attempts have been made to address these challenges. The twenty-first century competencies are a case in point, summarised as the four Cs: collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity. In another initiative, in partnership with UNESCO, the International School of Geneva’s La Grande Boissière has devised the Universal Learning Programme which has developed seven competencies: lifelong learning, self-agency, interacting with others, interacting with the world, multi-literateness and trans-disciplinarity. They advocate teaching for deep understanding, assessing competencies and creating social impact (Hughes, C., AIE Geneva, 2019).
In my opinion competencies and the above approach are a major step in the right direction and should definitely be at the heart of the curriculum, but they are not enough. We at V&V believe what young people need is inner strength to help them find meaning and purpose in the volatile world in which we live and into which they will step when they leave school. Let me elaborate on this.
Using a V&V activity called “Today’s World is…” I have asked a number of educators to brainstorm words to describe today’s world. Some of the words that have come up are shown below.
I then go on to ask, “If you could give your child one gift or quality to engage actively with this world, what would it be?” Countless teachers, governors and parents have been asked this over the years. Some of their responses are shown here.
In one whole-school workshop on globalmindedness, we clustered the qualities that emerged and came up with nine which we then prioritised with ‘empathy’ coming out on top to become the focus of the semester’s work, threaded through curricular and extra-curricular activities.
Through the debriefing questions we offer in all our activities and, more importantly, the eight tools of reflection we have devised and practise, we believe we do prepare young people for the hitherto unknown global transformations they will face.
Food for thought, I hope. More on how we do this in our next blog.
Hughes, C. 2018. Educating for the Twenty-First Century: Seven Global Challenges. Leiden; Boston: Brill Sense
Hughes, C. 2019. Rethinking education: the Universal Learning Programme, paper presented to 2019 – Rethinking International Education – Values and Relevance, Geneva, 18-20 October 2019.
Popa, S. 2019. Opening remarks, paper presented to 2019 – Rethinking International Education – Values and Relevance, Geneva, 18-20 October 2019.