Text: Miriam den Heer
Within eighty years, 60-80 per cent of current jobs will no longer exist. So, “To preserve our current education system would be indicative of great administrative disability,” argues the futurist Richard van Hooijdonk. “Innovation is the key. And we need to innovate fast!”
“If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. And what we have right now is not what we’ll need in the future. In the next 20 years we have to educate the new Mark Zuckerberg, the new Elon Musk. We need specialists. People with lots of talent and great imagination; world innovators who shoot for the stars. In the current classroom education system – in which every child receives the same education and needs to score sufficiently on each subject – these types of talents don’t get the chance to develop. We need to start moving forward.” But how? Richard van Hooijdonk has three tips.
Focus on skills
“Previously, the recipe for success was: learn a trade, work hard and follow instructions. The current generation of children needs to possess problem solving skills, be media-savvy, able to collaborate. They need to be able to program, think critically, be adaptable, innovative, investigative, and creative. You will only be able to teach and learn these 21st-century skills if you train the educational system first. The internet makes gathering knowledge accessible to everyone. At any time and at any place, each and every child can permanently possess knowledge, read about other people’s experiences and exchange ideas. But 21st-century skills you can only learn if the education system encourages you to stretch your brainpower, make you more socially aware and sharpen your adaptability. And that means: no classroom learning system where knowledge transfer is central, but a personal training program tailored to the needs of each individual child.”
“Computers, artificial intelligence and learning algorithms can make this personal learning process possible for students as well as educators. Technology removes the work pressure from the teachers. Pupils receive direct feedback from the program and therefore know exactly which skills they need to practice to improve.
Moreover, technology enables teachers to become a coach instead of a teacher. The teacher is there to spot and develop talents. For example, by bringing together children of all ages with the same talents. By working together, they stimulate each other, ensuring that their development takes a big flight. Then, put a specialist, student, artist or young entrepreneur in charge of a group like that, and you have a proper think tank, overflowing with ideas.”
Make the school part of society
“Make sure the school is not separate from society but rather an integral part of it. Look for collaborative projects. An increasing number of companies, scientists, social discussion groups and artists are seeking this connection with children. And children learn a lot from developing new products and services or coming up with solutions to social problems. We should also develop education policies in collaboration with young people.
In 2014, a report was published on how children experience the current education system. Three quarters said they found school boring and uninteresting. Few (in education) have listened to their cry for help. A couple of years later, and 95% of the schools are still teaching as they have always done. Only a handful of innovators have actually started experimenting. But children need these experiments. Explain the subject matter to them and let them figure out – for themselves – what they can do with it. Don’t spoon-feed the knowledge. Ask them after a couple of weeks what they’ve discovered independently and have discussions around their findings. Playfully, they’ll learn to analyse, interpret and present.”
Exciting education, every day
Well done to the province of Limburg where a primary school in Maastricht is able to participate in a ‘smart city’ project. A campus has been set up where schools, companies, and research institutes collaborate to bring talented children into the development of virtual reality. Kudos to a primary school teacher in Rotterdam, who, together with his pupils, designed a new Earth where we can live and work sustainably in the future. Congratulations to the school in Utrecht where pupils, in collaboration with parents and the teacher, wrote and produced a short play and an animated film. And compliments to the school in Zeist where children designed ‘the city of the future’ in the form of a scale model as part of their geography class. Are you a teacher who takes initiative? Your students are ready. Exciting education, every day: isn’t that what everybody wants?