Employers complain that graduates are not ready for work. Stanford University studies indicate students are overloaded and under-prepared. So exactly what should we teach young people in an age where Dr Google has an answer for everything?
Humans are living longer; the traditional professions disappear while new ones are created; international mobility is drastically increasing population diversity; terrorism, environmental threats and inequality need our collective attention; and robots and gene editing are coming, requiring us to re-examine the very core of what it means to be human. According to the Center for Curriculum Redesign (CCR), “We must deeply redesign curriculum to be relevant to the knowledge, skills, character qualities, and meta-learning students will need in their lives.”
With this in mind, CM Rubin, founder of CMRubinWorld, asked The Global Teacher Bloggers whether they believed the school curriculum needs to be more relevant for a 21st century world and what they would change. The Global Teacher Bloggers have founded schools, written curricula, and led classrooms in 16 different countries across all continents. They are pioneers and innovators in fields such as technology integration, mathematics coaching, special needs education, science instruction, and gender equity.
“Yes, the world is changing. I would say shrinking day by day,” writes Rashmi Kathuria in India. “With the advent of technology, new tools of teaching and learning, the entire education system needs revamping. We need to develop a generation of critical thinkers, collaborators, communicators, environmentalists and ethical IT users.”
Adam Steiner responds: “The answer is to focus on timeless skills rather than cherry-picking based on predictions of employers’ needs. School should not be all about spreadsheets, word processing, and keyboarding even if we address these basic technical skills. Even programming can be framed as job preparation to the detriment of creativity and flexibility.”
“My curriculum would be based on passion projects, aimed at gaining knowledge and abilities, but also at discovering whatever fires a student’s heart,” says Elisa Guerra Cruz in Mexico. “Enlightening the mind would be hand in hand with caressing the spirit. Each child or teenager would have the liberty and responsibility of choosing his or her own educational path.”
Craig Kemp in Singapore adds: “We need to put more emphasis on life-long learning skills than on curriculum content. We need to teach our students HOW to learn and HOW to adapt to change. We need to teach them how to be empathetic in a world that is often negative and judgmental. So many real-life skills that as teachers we just don’t have time for.”
“The New Zealand curriculum is focused on developing capabilities in young people rather than particular content and topics,” writes Richard Wells. “It is a short document of just 40 pages that acts as a general framework and asks each school to develop its own ‘local curriculum’ that best meets the needs of its specific learners. It also encourages schools to involve the learners in negotiating curriculum based on their own needs and interests.”
Maarit Rossi from Finland wonders if all classrooms might need a common global curriculum? “This generation will live in the global village — we need to know the best education politics, latest knowledge of learning and learning practices to prepare them ready for the future.”
Miriam Mason-Sesay says: “The content of the news in the last few months, and indeed years, provide clear and loud evidence for the fact that our education system is failing. Division, hatred and bigoted fearfulness are fostered seemingly unchallenged, and our education system has not prepared our youngsters to evaluate the veracity of so many claims. We need to focus on developing the values of integrity, resilience, a good work ethic and, most importantly, kindness in order to truly prepare our students for life ahead.”
“In previous centuries, students had to build their own Google. In other words, they learned and built their own knowledge base,” says Vicki Davis. “To expand their knowledge, they had to assemble a library and know how to find books in it. The focus was on learning. Now, it seems to be on finding. But it shouldn’t be. We need to teach people how to think.”
Carl Hooker states: “If we were starting the American school system from scratch today, knowing what skills our students will need, we could change the subjects and not base them on what big-time publishers want us to focus on with our students. Building on some of the great work from FutureReady.org, the ISTE NETS for Students.”
“We must close the gaps that exist between our classrooms and the boardroom,” writes Nadia Lopez. “If our teachers don’t know what is required in a 21st century world beyond their classroom, how can they effectively prepare our scholars beyond their own limitations? It’s not just about having a school with the latest technology, but teaching children to solve problems, being adaptive, innovative, and accountable for their personal learning.”