The days of our education system, as we know it, are over.
The only question is how long we will continue to patch, dissect and abuse it before we allow it to rest in peace and ourselves to move forward.
It is time to candidly ask ourselves: what is the purpose of schools and the time we invest in them? To discuss this meaningfully, we should consider several aspects: The sources of learning have changed radically. All the information and knowledge that were once confined to books are now available on the Internet, in addition to much more, all in different languages, levels and with direct access to leading experts worldwide. All you need is a computer. More than 95 percent of Israeli children (from age nine) in every sector of society have a cellphone, i.e. a computer, in the palm of their hand. Students use a wide variety of resources, including Wikipedia, social networks, TED, Youtube, news sites, apps – and books. The question isn’t how many of our children use computers, it’s how much and for what reasons.
Handwriting is no longer needed.
Learning how to write should combine three aspects: the technical part of typing; language arts – reading, vocabulary, correct grammar and syntax, writing complete and coherent sentences, paragraphs and essays, creative writing; and fine arts, such as painting, sculpture, music, dance – all the arts that develop, among other things, fine motor skills, creativity, imagination and our ability to weave beauty and intimacy into our texts.
Different people learn in different ways. During the past few decades, we have learned to know ourselves, understanding how diverse we are in almost every realm of life. At the same time, human achievement is no longer the product of individuals.
Research and products are developed by teams, often comprised of experts in different fields from different continents, requiring enormous investment of resources, time, communication – and partnerships, the exact opposite of what is required in the various standardized evaluations that schools demand of students.
The technological abilities of the 21st century allow us to break education’s chains of time, space and content. Ours is an era of multidisciplinary knowledge, available always, everywhere and in every context, growing at an exponential rate – and free. This situation creates a dramatic change in the way we perceive processes, identity, rights and responsibility, a change so deep that it can only be described as a revolution of personal and social structures, interactions and belief systems.
In view of the above, one can only smirk when one hears that the best way our education system has found to deal with the lack of English teachers is to give scholarships to students learning to be English teachers; universities are fighting the reduction in student numbers by demanding budget increases and more professors; the high road of evaluation in our education system is still standardized tests; and the fact that more than 50 percent (!) of the students “don’t fit” the system leads to more labels of learning disabilities. When more than half of the people “don’t fit” the system that is supposed to serve them, you’re not supposed to change the people. You’re supposed to change the system.
From kindergarten to the academia, there is dire need to create a new paradigm of education. It isn’t about implementing technologies, adding resources or even shifting priorities.
In today’s reality, the major role, goals and processes of the education system should be rebuilt. If we wish our students to be active, creative and innovative, to know how to work in flexible and sustainable teams, we need a system that is active, creative and innovative, working in flexible and sustainable teams. It is time to redesign the system, without fear, to learn from failure as well as success, by revisiting its fundamental questions: What is worthy of learning? Who are our students and who are the teachers we need? When and how does learning/ teaching take place? Where should learning/teaching occur? Why – in the midst of the most multi-disciplinary, enabling and global century humanity has ever known, we must thoroughly explore the reasons to teach what we decide to teach.
Every answer we give to these questions should take into consideration the development of the four arts: Knowledge Arts – identification and utilization of multi-disciplinary knowledge.
Thinking Arts – problem solving, critical thinking, flexibility, creativity, innovation and risk-taking.
Know-How Arts – design, craftsmanship, technical skills and practical experience.
Interaction Arts – from curiosity, imagination and motivation to teamwork, activism and sustainability.
Building an education system that gives candid answers to the above questions will strengthen Israel’s position as a start-up nation not only in technology, but in philosophy and humanity as well. It requires brave optimism that is yet to be found in our policy-makers. Toward the end of the second decade of the 21st century, we don’t need another reform. We need re-invention.The author is CEO of the Wolf Foundation which works to promote science and art. The announcement of the Wolf award winners will be held on January 3, 2017.