As a result of globalisation, the issues we face today have shifted from local to global ones. Climate change, global inequality, structural violence, poverty, racism… These issues cannot be tackled nationally anymore. They call for global collaboration. Yet with seven continents, 194 states, 7.6 billion people, more than 7000 languages, such a joint effort can prove to be challenging. I believe that that is where education is crucial.
Although the current education system also has a large focus on hard skills, it is even more successful in providing students with an understanding of their community. When interacting with teachers and classmates, we come into contact with people from various age groups and backgrounds. A miniature version of society is presented to us and we learn from it, incorporating it into our view of the community around us.
The school of tomorrow should shift its focus from hierarchy and authority to a peer-to-peer network where students learn about the world through their peers. Due to the advances in technology, students have the opportunity to come into contact with those from different backgrounds and beliefs, overcoming distance and language barriers. By discussing ethical and global issues together, students would become more empathic and open towards different cultures. This flexibility of mind is crucial for the leaders of the future. Moreover, students will grasp that the only way to tackle those global problems is through international concert.
Students would be in regular contact with peers all over the world, should solve problem sets with them but also discuss casual questions about their daily life. Therefore, this network would be an additional resource to classroom learning - which obviously will be very dependent on technology as well.
As there will be so many new incentives and influences, it is crucial that the teachers provide a stable environment to reflect on all the experiences. Therefore, teachers’ education should focus less on factual content and more on pedagogics. Technology can provide us with knowledge, but empathy and social skills - that is where good teachers are essential.
To illustrate this concept, I built an interactive map where people from all over the world explain what they think is great about their education system or culture and what obstacles they had to overcome. While assembling the videos I noticed two interesting things.
First, each person interpreted the question differently, resulting in answers of different lengths, formats and topics. This diversity of different approaches shows the diversity of people and their culture, and it is particularly that which I want to include in the School of Tomorrow.
Second, the map shows the infinite potential of the School of Tomorrow. Although I live in an internationally diverse environment, it was particularly challenging to find friends from South America to record an answer. It showed me that once you think you are close to meeting the variety of cultures and people the world has to offer, you are not even close. The beauty of the map and the School of Tomorrow is that one can always keep on learning and connecting with people all around the globe.
On the map there are three people whose answer I find particularly interesting. First, Maya from Barbados. She highlights how the way women dress is perceived very different in western culture than in her own. This leads to a lot of misunderstandings towards Bajan culture, although it could easily be avoided by interacting with the culture. Second, Kipras mentions how Lithuanian people can be perceived as being rude and hostile, for him its shows the reserved and peaceful nature of his people. Last, Alanna’s video got me into thinking. She emphasises how Kenyan society is formed and strengthened through tradition. I believe that especially now, when technology is causing changes and even disrupting our everyday lives, tradition can bring people together and strengthen communities.
The map is just the beginning and it should be a proof of concepts which illustrates how much we can learn from each other when we communicate and listen. Hopefully, these short videos are the incentive for meaningful cultural exchanges aiming at worldwide participation. In my case, I was lucky enough to experience a very international education, being able to study in Austria, Lithuania, China and the UK. Nevertheless, I believe everyone should have the chance to have that - and for the first time in human history technology allows us to do that.
But see for yourself!
Click on the video symbol and then on the picture on the left to watch the videos.