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New Beginnings

22.07.21

The concept of traditional education has radically changed this past year, but just how easy is it to discount the scepticism surrounding a new futuristic way of learning, asks Naomi Harrington?

Not since World War II have so many countries around the world seen schools and educational institutions rapidly adapting to new ways of imparting wisdom at the same time and for the exact same reason. While we know that the impact of the Corona virus has been far-reaching, what might it mean in the longer term for education?

For a while now, educators around the world have been talking about the need to rethink how we educate future generations. The pandemic has without question been a disruptor – forcing us to question what we need to teach and what we are preparing our students for.

Pupils today, are in the main from Generation Z, a societal cohort that has grown up in a truly globalised world. This can-do talent pool, the oldest of whom are now 25 years old, is now reflecting on the ‘pandemic’ fallout – cue cancelled exams, sporting events and virtual graduations. Defined by technology - the terms FOBA (Fear of Being Alone) and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) express their expectation of instant communication and feedback –effected through apps like Instant Messenger, Snapchat and WhatsApp. This ‘experience’ also includes interaction with parents and educators; a way of being that is amplified with current remote learning.

Generation Alpha, the children of millennials, are the most racially diverse generation across the world, and one in which technology is simply an extension of their own consciousness and identity, with social media a way of life. These young pre-schoolers are also the generation with the most non-traditional family structures, often with “bulldozer parents” who move obstacles out of the way to create a clear path for their kids. While Generation Alpha is at this point possibly oblivious to the future repercussions of the pandemic on their education, the impact will surely be felt even for our youngest learners for years to come.

According to a Dell Technologies report, 85% of the jobs in 2030 that Generation Z and Alpha will enter into, haven’t been invented yet. According to the World Economic Forum, 65% of primary-school children today will be working in job types that do not yet exist.

Without question - Covid has changed our world and our global outlook. But it may well also teach us about how education needs to change to be able to better prepare our young learners for what the future might hold.

An Interconnected World

The pandemic has illustrated how globally interconnected we are – there’s no longer such a concept as an isolated issue or action. Successful people in the coming decades need to be able to understand this interrelatedness and navigate across boundaries to leverage their differences and work in a globally collaborative way.

Redefining the Educator

The notion of an educator as the knowledge-holder imparting wisdom to pupils, is no longer fit for the purpose of a 21st-century education. With students being able to gain access to knowledge, and even learn a technical skill, through a few clicks on their phones, tablets and computers, we need to be redefining the role of the teacher in the classroom and lecture theatre. This may well mean that the role of educators will move towards facilitating young people’s development as contributing members of society.

Teaching Life Skills

In this ever-changing global environment, young people require resilience and adaptability. Looking into the future, some of the most important skills that employers will be looking for, will be creativity, communication and collaboration, alongside empathy and emotional intelligence; and being able to work across demographic lines of differences to harness the power of the collective through effective teamwork.

Unlocking Technology

This past year has resulted in educational institutions across the world being compelled to harness and utilise the suite of available technological tools to create content for remote learning for students in all sectors.

Schools and colleges are now getting to grips with experiencing new possibilities to do things differently and with greater flexibility, resulting in potential benefits inaccessibility to education for students across the world. These are new modes of instruction that have previously been largely untapped particularly in the kindergarten arena.

Most importantly however, we hope that for Generation Z, Alpha and the generations to come, these recent experiences of isolation and remote learning away from peers, teachers and classrooms, will serve as a cautious reminder of the importance of our human need for face-to-face social interaction.

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