In the early 1800s, the Industrial Revolution did more than just change the way we manufactured products. It changed the way the United States approached education. The thought was that school could prepare students for work in a factory. The emphasis was on teaching skills that were deemed necessary to become positive contributors to an industrialized world.
Two hundred years later, in spite of incremental change resulting in pockets of excellence in schools across the world, system change has been hard to realize. Students are still grouped by age. There is minimal variation in the way students are taught a core group of subjects. Many parents and educators are concerned that our young people are not learning the skills they will need to be successful in their future.
Technology Has Changed the World.
Social media, smartphones, and phone applications have not only become a part of our everyday lives, but they've also become industries of their own. Tech entrepreneurs are continually innovating and working and trying to discover the "next big thing." That means that the jobs we are preparing our students for are not the jobs they will be taking after graduation.
The abilities to follow directions and sit down from “nine-to-five” are no longer the markers of a successful employee. Tech innovators rely on an ability to be bold and think outside of the box. They are willing to take risks and dabble in several projects at once. They move quickly and collaboratively. They don’t seek to “fit in.”
The entire American economic system has undergone repeated and drastic changes. Automation is king. Technology is boss. Jobs are more flexible. People work from home. Entrepreneurship is a popular goal.
What Does This Mean for Education?
The problem with the current education system lies in one straightforward fact: it was created for a world that no longer exists. What can the education system do to ensure that more people become entrepreneurial in their approach to work? Or to ensure that we are preparing young people to solve our world’s problems? In the 21st century, a few educational leaders and visionaries say that it is time to shake things up.
It will take innovation – a whole new way of thinking and acting - to disrupt an outdated educational system and replace it with something different. To do so, though, could mark a transition to learning environments that nurture students and prepare them to succeed in the world of the future, as well as the present. Not the world as it was nearly 200 years ago.
What Needs to be Fixed?
Individual schools and classrooms possess the ability to develop learning programs and opportunities to develop skills that can prepare the next generation for a world that we don’t quite know yet. Schools with innovative programs and a desire to think out of the box teach students to do these very things. Independent private micro-schools like Blyth-Templeton Academy are shifting the focus from a content-driven curriculum to a skill-driven curriculum. The idea that students should drive the learning experience itself can change the current education model. Student-centered classrooms that utilize experiential learning strategies and Socratic discussions offer an alternative to existing models.
For example, instead of learning math and science in isolation from each other, with project-based learning students are given a problem and asked to find a solution using both math and science resources. Collaborative working and learning mirror real-life situations and provide students with the opportunity to receive feedback from other learners. Choosing projects or experiences based on personal interest increases student motivation in learning.
The current education model is based on a model that has remained mostly unchanged for the past 200 years. Education has to shift from the institutional delivery model of the industrialized age to an individual model for the information age. As educators, we must do whatever we can to help our students connect learning with real life and to provide them with the 21st century education that will prepare them for success.