Is School Necessary?
By David Doran and Alec Goldman
It’s no secret that we need to prepare our children for a future that seems to be in a constant state of flux. As a result, it sometimes seems impossible to know what they will need in order to lead in the coming uncertainty. Therefore, it’s time we asked a few key questions about how the educational status quo plans to be able to get the job done.
Will an educational model developed before Thailand has electricity adequately prepare learners for the age of AI and robotics?
Are educators and the institutions that employ them even aware of the impact that emerging technologies will have on society?
Are future-focused facilities in schools available to students in a meaningful way, or is use limited to only an hour per week?
Is incremental change really going to fix fundamental flaws?
To answer these questions, we need to look no further than the available information on future jobs:
We’ve known for a while now that tomorrow’s careers will look markedly different from today’s; experts at a 2017 Institute for the Future (IFTF) conference, “estimated that around 85% of the jobs that today’s learners will be doing in 2030 haven’t been invented yet.” Therefore, is it surprising that education will need to be markedly different as well? Today’s learners are tomorrow’s leaders, and they need to be prepared to adapt to change as it happens.
So, what does a truly future-focused education look like?
Is it the production-line “obedience factories” that pass for most schools today?
Parents concerned about their children’s success in the digital age are aware that traditional education is not evolving with the rapid changes taking place in society, and therefore, not transmitting the necessary skillsets. Most secondary education is far behind the curve when it comes to developing 21st Century skills in its learners. According to a senior education specialist for the World Bank’s IFC, especially in the developing world “rote learning and memorization are firmly anchored in the culture and a college degree is seen as ‘the Holy Grail’, so adapting to a more trans-disciplinary, flexible, skills-based model will require conscious effort.”
While we may not know the exact definition of them, we do know that new skills will be required and that jobs will be in a state of constant change. Therefore, we need to teach kids the cognitive skills they need to evolve and grow with the job market, such as creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, communication (aka “The Four Cs”), initiative, and adaptability. Many employers in the tech sector know they need to search these skills out. As Laszlo Bock, Google’s former SVP of People Operations, said in a New York Times interview, “when you look at people who don’t go to school and make their way in the world, those are exceptional human beings.” Bock is describing self-directed learners with initiative and a passion for learning.
Many of today’s learners and their parents search for options to give their children a competitive advantage, typically subjecting students to long hours of afterschool tutoring and test prep. Yet, according to Bock, Google has found that “…G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless — no correlation at all…”
All of those hours spent to raise scores that the world’s top technology companies find useless.
All of that memorization at the expense of mastery.
All of the resources invested in a process that rarely allows time to innovate.
What does this teach our children?
Is school really necessary?
WeLearn has developed an alternative model which focuses on creating life-long, self-directed, deeply passionate learners who go beyond knowledge to thrive in an uncertain future. This can take the form of supplements to traditional education, or transitioning to a full-time, personalized, accredited learning path, incorporating The Four Cs, flexibility, grit, and empathy. Come see how we can help your learners not only stand out when applying to the best universities, but also possess the skills that will guarantee their success in the digital age.
David Dwight Doran, Founding Partner and Chairman of regional law firm DFDL, is the Founder of EdTech startup WeLearn, whose mission is to make alternative, future-focused education a viable option. Alec Goldman, WeLearn’s Director of Personalized Learning, has been educating and counseling students in Asia and the U.S. since 1995.
- Institute for the Future, “Emerging Technologies’ Impact on Society and Work in 2030” (2017)