Designing 21st Century Education (Part 2)

Back in our olden days during the 20th Century, there was widespread propaganda dictating the importance of making progress for our human kind. We could see the rapid development of technologies to increase our life quality and the growing importance of knowledge for helping one in climbing the career ladder of success. However, the 20th Century which idolized technological advancements and knowledge power has come with worrying drawbacks. There exists a great disparity between the poor and rich; the highly educated and illiterate…with the minorities who are disabled or simply different being sidelined.

The 21st Century which has arrived with its new trends, concepts and ways of doing things is certainly for good reasons. It is no longer about making progress by adding to the current body of knowledge. It’s instead about transformation of our understanding towards the existing body of knowledge. We shall not spoon-feed our younger generations by pouring knowledge into their brains or training them how to do things. We should instead educate them how to live in the now and then by being a self-reliant, life-long learner. In fact, we are preparing them for jobs that have not existed.

The qualities of 21st Century learners should include creativity, intuitiveness, critical thinking, cooperativeness, empathy, imaginativeness, leadership and adaptability to changes. It’s time for us to develop a new mindset that real progress is not just judged by our university rankings and league tables but how well-prepared our younger generations are for the future, unknown world. It is not about predicting what the future holds and make preparations for it. It’s more important to generate a pool of talents who are engaging, passionate learner who are eager in taking actions now and then in transforming our current paths for better futures.

One good example is environmental education. Climate change is real and current. We should act on it from now onwards, instead of waiting for this issue to get worse globally. The good starting point of environmental education is in every classroom. Gone are the days when we need to develop specialized knowledge or expertise. Now, it is more important to learn how to see the connections of theories and concepts from various disciplines for informing our current practices. One great example is the blueprint laid down by the Sustainable Development Goals which are relatable to people from various disciplines like doctors, engineers, scientists, architects, teachers, journalists, politicians, policy makers and others.

We should envision an inclusive future which is for everyone with diverse socio-cultural backgrounds, belief systems, social classes, learning preferences, physical attributes and others. It should no longer the one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, we should let everyone decide when, where, what and how they want to learn with the aid of technologies. It’s not about creating different tasks for different learners. It’s about taping into task complexity that allows each student to learn at their own pace within an environment that is conducive for effective teacher-student feedback practices.

Students should make sense of their own learning, find meaning in it and set new learning goals while teachers should explore and experiment with new teaching methods as directed by the overall goals of educational institutions. It’s a lifelong learning for everyone. So, happy learning!

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