Response to Matthew Taylor’s Blog

See original Blog Post at

It’s difficult to know where to begin. This is such a huge area of debate and one which every member of society has some kind of vested interest and some degree of knowledge and experience. This in itself can be problematic.

It is, therefore, vital for each of us to pool our shared interest, expertise and commitment to education and the development of young people’s aspirations and work together. We must make connections across all sectors, recognising the distinct contribution each area can make to developing an education system fit for the 21st Century. In doing this, we must all actively seek to understand the innovative work many of our schools are undertaking right now. This must be done with an open, and as Carol Dweck describes, a ‘growth’ mindset. We must be prepared that innovative practice that addresses 21st Century learning needs will look, feel and sound very different to our own experiences of school, and we must be reassured that, on the whole, if it is working, then it should.

It is not simply a case of either knowledge acquisition or skills development. The uncertain world of the 21st Century that we will pass on to the next generation is saturated with the problems and failings of previous generations. If the ways in which we have educated in the past  have not prevented and have, in fact, contributed to the global challenges that we now face, how on earth can we expect the same educational system to provide solutions using the same educational structures?  It is worth noting that the leaders who have overseen the global economic and ecological crises that we now face and that we are passing on to the next generation were the educational ‘successes’ of the past generation. 

The current education system demands transformation. The first step towards this must be for the policy makers and educationalists to inform the wider society and particularly the media, about what they know does work, and for the wider society to be prepared to listen and endorse. 

With this, we must accept that roles must change. For one, the role of the teacher has and must be adapted. Teachers need to become, as Valerie Hannon of the Innovation Unit refers to ‘expert pedagogues’. Teachers must be facilitators of learning, experts in how the brain works and in how we can empower and excite young people to develop the skills and knowledge that will serve them well in the shifting sands of the future.

Another role that must be allowed change is that of the school. The place of schools in our communities must adapt. Some of the most successful gains have been made where schools have blurred the boundaries between formal and informal learning. Where active connections have been made between the curriculum and the local community. The RSA ‘Schools without Boundaries’ project has developed such an approach.

A previous comment suggested that we educate to serve economic needs. What a sad state of affairs this would be if it were the case. I suggest that we educate for one simple reason. For peace. if we work backwards from this, then surely we will achieve a relevant, engaging and exciting education system which serves every individual and the whole of our society exceptionally well?

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