What does the future of learning look like?
Our Trustee and Education Director of financial education charity MyBnk, Sharan Jaswal, shares her insights on what the future of learning looks like, and what role the Abram Wilson Foundation has to play in shaping it.
How long have you been working in the education field and what have been the biggest changes that you’ve witnessed during that time?
I’ve been in education for 15 years now, and things have changed so much!
Pedagogy and technology – When I was at school it was very much ‘chalk and talk’, we had one computer room with one PC connected to the Internet. Since then pedagogy has developed to incorporate growth mindset (the belief that intelligence can be developed) and project based learning. This has been combined with the introduction of smart-boards, laptops and Internet research, which now dominate schoolwork. Personally, I find the UK quite behind in adopting and taking advantage of new technology, with limited opportunities for ‘blended learning’ (combining online digital media with traditional classroom methods) and laptops for all.
Stifling of creativity – An increased focus on attainment, exam results and league tables has led to creativity being stifled for both students and teachers, with the latter leaving teaching in their droves. School budgets are being cut by 8% leading to cut backs in staff, maintenance and welfare services. Almost all are cutting back on the curriculum. One academy chain has already made music an after-school extra; others say they will follow.
The Internet’s impact on young people – Finally, young people have changed. They have exposure to the wider adult world more than ever before through the Internet. This means they’re learning quicker and earlier, but potentially their childhood is cut shorter. Their values and interests have evolved – with social media and associated peer pressure increasing, and attention spans decreasing.
As a leader in your field, what do you think are the most valuable things when it comes to learning?
Resilience – With the world changing at such a rapid pace, young people need will need to have resilience in order to be flexible and adaptable for jobs that currently don’t exist. This requires a grounding in academic skills, but most importantly young people will need transferable skills.
Real-world learning – If we’re going to successfully develop the higher-order skills that young people now need, they must engage in meaningful enquiry-based learning that has genuine value and relevance to them and their communities. This means real-world experiences merged with sustained engagement and collaboration.
Fun – Learning should be fun. However, the ‘transmission’ or lecture model still prevails as the dominant instructional approach in education throughout much of the world (Saavedra and Opfer, 2012). This approach typically leads to indifference, apathy and for most learners, boredom.
To combat this, students need to be active learners rather than spectators. This means being able to interact with their mentors and peers and have regular opportunities to practice and apply their newly acquired skills and knowledge.
This is where the Abram Wilson Foundation’s approach to skill development excels, their focus on the development of the 5Cs (Creativity, Confidence, Collaboration, Communication and Critical Thinking) through practical arts based learning is exactly what 21st century learners need in order to develop vital transferable skills and be prepared for the future job market.
Where do you see the future of employment heading and how will this affect learning?
Automation – We now live in a global, tech filled, 24-hour world where anything that can be automated will be. This means that low skill labour will probably become redundant faster than we realise as automation increasingly takes over. This is going to create a very big challenge around future employment for large swathes of the population. It questions the nature of work entirely. I believe that the kind of income flows we’ll see are either those that are earned through using the mind to analyse information, create new ideas and adapt to new circumstances, or those that are earned through dealing with people, for example the service industry.
Longer life expectancy – In addition to a potentially looming employment crisis, we are likely to see our life expectancy go up over the next 50 years, probably into the 100s and working lives spanning 70 to 80 years. This means that a one-shot education preparation at the start of somebody’s life is not going to be enough. We will need to think about flexible ways that people can come back to learning, return to the workforce and repeat this process over and over again. We are looking at multiple careers – a first career, a second career, even concurrent careers.
Anything else you’d like to add?
The number of pupils taking arts subjects at GCSE has fallen to the lowest level in a decade, as schools encourage bright students to shun “soft” subjects. I would argue that the arts and creative learning are fundamental to every child and young person’s education and that learning should be multidisciplinary, collaborative, informal, personalised and most importantly magical!
Our most vulnerable young people are being left behind as a result of unequal education and employment opportunities, heightened by the lack of effective schooling and life skills development. Coupled with the stresses and distractions that they face on a daily basis it will require care and creativity to capture their imaginations and create safe environments where they will learn and thrive.
Social enterprise is growing, and there is opportunity for innovation within free schools and apprenticeships to create more vocational learning opportunities that involve creating networks, mentoring and meaningful personal development.
Finally, we need to raise conscious citizens that can react to global challenges and use their skills productively for the greater good of humanity.
If you’d like to find out about how you can support the future of learning through our arts education programme, Achieve Your Greatness then please consider becoming one of our regular supporters aka an Abram Wilson Foundation Trailblazer. You can find out more HERE.