The opportunity in life to start fresh with a clean slate and create fundamental change is a rarity. A colossal crisis like COVID-19, serves as a great catalyst for change, especially in the fields of education and learning, which were already in crisis prior to the pandemic.
This is best illustrated in the tremendous mismatch between the demands of the workforce and the skills and capabilities of the graduates of the education system, which is currently estimated to be an 80% mismatch. According to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development data, the mismatch between what is learned and acquired in the existing education system and the needs of the labor market harms the long-term resilience of countries, productivity and growth.
Since the outbreak, 1.5 billion students worldwide have been sent home to study remotely, in the hopes of preventing the chain of infection. The classroom entered the home and different models of hybrid learning were created. The many outcomes of the pandemic on national systems is the necessity of adaptation and agility, the education system is no different. Alongside the challenge lies the opportunity. In the new reality, the boundaries of the physical classroom were broken and a sequence was created between the formal, informal learning systems and the home. A sequence of learning that recognizes that there is no morning child and afternoon child, but that the approach needs to be holistic.
The schools, buildings, pedagogy and teaching methods that have gone almost completely unchanged for nearly a century have found themselves awakening to the dawn of a new day without preparation for the new reality we are living.
In order for change to be “disruptive” the crisis must be significant enough, one that does not allow the system to return to its old self. The disruption created by the epidemic in traditional education and learning methods enables trying on alternative glasses and the application of innovative methods, with real time widespread experimentation. A real opportunity has opened up for fundamental change, and moving from education to learning. Since the end of the crisis is nowhere in sight, the more we learn to use disruption to produce learning frameworks that replace outdated education, the more we will be able to grow a generation that benefits from the crisis and is better adapted to the new reality and employment market requirements. A generation in which we invest in the development of skills and capabilities, self-learning, curiosity and research. The opportunity is ours here and now, to produce learners adapted to the 21st century. An opening and call to action of learning how to learn.
Learning no longer means imparting knowledge and memorization but finding the way to learn, asking questions and developing a personal compass for learning. In an age of exponential change, a different readiness is required than in the past. We must go beyond accumulating information, which is accessible everywhere today, to developing soft skills like curiosity and creativity and the ability to process information and ask questions in an ever-changing world, the ability to develop a discourse of identity, values and building a foundation for living together. This is a necessary toolbox for integration into the future labor market. This is the necessary order of the day.
How do you learn how to learn? We need to transition into a system that mediates knowledge, develops an independent learner with an internal motivation for learning and developing agency alongside responsibility. The required set of skills based on the can be divided into three main groups:
Life skills: collaboration, communication, self-direction, lifelong learning, ethical awareness, cultural awareness, flexibility, independence.
Deep thinking skills: critical thinking, creativity and innovation, problem solving.
Technological skills: orientation in modern technologies, information management and information and communication literacy, technical skills
The school system needs to fast forward and adapt to stay relevant. In a learning-based system we still need facilitation, so the school and the teacher are not replaced but change form. The teacher will serve as a learning leader, mentor, and coach helping the learner find his or her way according to his or her needs.
It is the responsibility of every learning leader to empower students to take risks, be innovative and take advantage of opportunities for learning that come their way. The school will become a place focused on socialization and networking, a place where collaborations and teamwork are the primary focus, a place that is focused on the personal well-being of each student and not on indoctrination and memorizing.
The traditional model is based on standardization and a uniform production line, much like that of a factory, oblivious to the fact that each student requires a different approach. Personalization – customized learning, is the key to the new model. Technology is the tool that enables implementation of the model in which each student can learn at his or her own pace. It allows for learning anywhere with an emphasis on the student.
In order to make sure that no one is left behind all students in the center and periphery should be given access to these tools. Wifi connection, hardware and digital content are no longer a luxury but a fundamental right for every student so that they can realize their potential. Strengthening the personal resilience of the learners, preparing them for changing situations and changing the equation of address predicting the future.
As a young country that desires continuity, we are committed to leading the way in innovation, reclaiming the start-up nation status. Doing so, requires re examining the core. Laying the foundation for learning – systemic thinking, future thinking, value thinking, strategic thinking and collaborations, preparing our learners for the 21st century. Without these there is no innovation or even hope for progress which is sustainable. To ignite another future we must move from an education system to a learning system. We have begun to do so by reshaping the classroom, the call of the times requires that reshaping will not only be in form but in essence.
The writers are founding partners and joint CEOs at Think Creative Ltd., strategic consultant, and authors of the “Education Strategy for the Growth of the Education System Following the Coronavirus Crisis” plan and the “Decade of Education in the State of Israel ‘Education 2030’” plan for the National Public Board of Education.