I’ve always been passionate about networking and building relationships. It’s sometimes quite astonishing to see how much information you can get if you meet the right people at the right time. A couple of weeks ago, while I was attending one of my close friends’ wedding, I came across some of the other guests who is a teacher trainee. Asking what I’ve been doing, we immediately discussed a topic that is increasingly becoming a more significant issue in the midsts of rapidly changing technologies: Digitalisation and the education system.
According to a Bertelsmann Foundation’s report, released last year, a country like Germany needs to spend at least $3.5 billion to play catch-up in IT-infrastructure and technologies for schools. Policymakers hope they can set up the narrative with the latest technologies: tablets, laptops, fast wifi networks should bring (German) schools back to the forefront in international comparisons.
It’s already common sense that the latest technology is only to be found in the schoolyards, not in the classrooms. Catching up on the things that policymakers have missed for years in terms of infrastructure cannot be the only thing to improve the whole system.
Start teaching competencies. No device will substitute this effort.
The most striking thing that is still echoing in my mind is one phrase: I have no idea what digitalisation means or what implications it will have for the students I am supposed to work with soon.
It’s not enough just to upgrade a school’s equipment. It’s not enough to provide fast wi-fi connectivity. And it’s surely not enough to introduce new technologies, such as VR into classes. A fundamental question will still not be answered: What does ‘digitalisation’ mean for the school I am teaching and what does it mean for the children I am working with? Why does it matter at all?
The German government has paid little attention to this issue. According to a BTIKOM analysis, more than 3 million jobs will be replaced by new emerging technologies. Every fourth company is at risk to disappear from the market in the mid-term.
This is an alarming signal. How many people will be thrown out of their jobs? And how do we ensure that we establish a culture that will incentives a passion for change, adaptive learning to be competitive?
“Prepare your children with the skills they need for the jobs that will exist in 15 years.” But how much emphasis do we cultivate in lifelong-learning in our school systems?
Not only do methodologies hardly change in schools but also its emphasis on the crucial issues. On top of that, education policies usually overemphasise how important grades, benchmarks and performances are instead of the competencies and skills that are required to acquire new knowledge. Learning is a journey, not a destination. Those who will develop a habit to stay hungry are likely to embrace new changes and will stay competitive.
There is no way new devices and technologies can teach children skills and competencies. Surely, they can bring old content in a new way to students to bring fun and entertainment into the lessons. And in some way, this is still required. But a system which is primarily focussed on facts and grades will never unleash the great passion for learning and the desire to expand one’s own horizons.
It’s about being fair to people, so that everyone has a potential to succeed throughout life.
Much has been said about the technological revolution that is disrupting organisations, industries and the labour market for a more significant benefit. Globalisation and digitalisation have become vital pillars of prosperity and growth.
We already see parts of our society that are left behind from this unstoppable evolution. Concerns amongst an increasing part of the population is already a big issue for policymakers.
The notion of a testing-meritocracy has no place in a world where adaptiveness is required to face new challenges in a rapid-changing world.
Nobody can stop any evolution. Becoming comfortable in the uncomfortable, never-ending adaptiveness of today’s world is required. But how much do we already contribute today in our schools?
Unfortunately, still today, too many people are narrowly focused on the notion of a testing-meritocracy: That is, everything is being measured based on grades and how well a child is performing in tests and exams. We have taught our children how to take tests well. But in a fast-changing world, people need the competence to problem-solve well and to think independently.
Not only does the pressure on those children and parents increase as they reach their final years in high school and university. But it’s also sending a wrong signal: Your potential doesn’t matter, what only counts is what grades you are going to have when you graduate from school or university.
We have taught our children how to take tests well. But in a fast-changing world, people need the competence to problem-solve well and to think independently.
Policymakers and related stakeholders have a significant impact on cultivating lifelong learning. Everyone does get a fair go, to maximise potentials, having space and time to reflect and develop an own sense of mind.
Education should be stretched out, instead of being front-loaded. A passion for learning will not be developed in a system that is dominated by examinations and grades. Regardless of grades, occupations or social backgrounds: Everyone should get the right incentives to learn through life, to develop skills and innovations.
If we want to ensure that we add value to the global-value chain, give people chances to create new ideas and companies and ensure enough space to create their own mind of individuality as responsible citizens, then we need to start with the right methodologies, with the right focus, before we start thinking about the right tools, to the right people in the right time.