In 2009 Alberta Education initiated a province-wide conversation about schools and how to make them better. This conversation was called Inspiring Education and it involved thousands of Albertans. Its outcome was this report, which describes an exemplary educated Albertan of year 2030 along with the school changes required to make that ideal a reality.
What will an exemplary educated Albertan of 2030 look like?
According to Inspiring Education, the ideal picture shows “the Three E’s”: an Engaged thinker and an Ethical citizen with an Entrepreneurial spirit. But how would we recognize such a person, what qualities should we look for? To answer this question, I tried to picture a real person behind the description in the report. Here is the portrait that emerged.
This person is an independent thinker with a logical and inquisitive mind. Someone who isn’t just a passive recipient of knowledge but who is inclined to ask why, to seek answers and understanding on their own, and to reason through problems with skill and resolve. This person is open to different perspectives, is sensitive and responsive to the needs of others, and is ready to act on behalf of the larger community and the environment. And they show resiliency and enough confidence to turn challenges into opportunities for innovation and for personal and communal growth.
Why should education strive for the qualities described above? And aren’t our schools cultivating these qualities already?
The reality is that our current education system was designed for people living in a world, which was completely different than the one present-day learners inhabit. Three distinctive features of today’s world have direct bearing on the case for changing education.
- Knowledge occupies a new role in our present-day society, as a vital resource in creating economic value, and we require new ways to handle it.
- Today’s world functions increasingly as a global community where we must collaborate across cultural, linguistic, and religious barriers.
- Economies and everyday lives change at an accelerated pace, and we must be ready to change and adapt constantly too.
Once you’ve acknowledged these trends, the motivation behind The Three E’s from Inspiring Education should become obvious. But what exactly needs to change in order for schools to get better at forming engaged thinkers and ethical citizens with an entrepreneurial spirit? The changes proposed are bold, bringing to mind the concept of disruptive innovation.
- The wider community should become involved to a greater degree in education. This is because the expertise and mentorship available outside of schools, at post-secondary institutions and real workplaces, is a learning resource that could be tapped to transform schooling.
- The school program and structure should become flexible enough to accommodate the individual learners’ interests and strengths, learning styles and paces.
- Schools should adopt technologies that facilitate learning and enable personalization.
- The school program should focus on cultivating skills and competencies that are valuable to learners across multiple disciplines, and should move away from teaching of isolated subjects.
- Assessment of learning should put more emphasis on the acquisition of competencies, and less emphasis on subject specific content.
- The role of the classroom teacher should be to provide assistance and guidance to the learners rather than to deliver knowledge to them.
To my mind all these changes are badly needed. And they would effectively modernize education in Alberta. As George Bernard Show aptly said, “What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child”. Will our changed schools make this wish come true? I’m holding my breath.