School. What is it good for?

The heart-ache. The pride. The excitement. The trepidation. The first day of school.

Like many other parents this week, I sent my daughter off for her first day at school. A landmark coming-of-age date, as she conforms with society and enters the system.

Yet, education is a sector in flux. Why? Well because all sectors are in flux. We live in ever changing times, and an uncertain future.

Education, well at least the system, is one not well designed for agility. Developed to support the industrial age, one could view it as a factory process. The raw material goes in one end (my daughter today) and after 15 years or so it produces an able worker. A system that has not evolved much in 100 years.

It feels outmoded. Its customers, businesses, agree. Often questioning the quality and relevancy of the workers it produces.

But this is the story today.

Our future has never felt so uncertain, and the speed of change never so fast.

As a result, the story of tomorrow looks much more unsettling.

We have entered what some have referred to as the second age of the chessboard in the digital revolution. It’s a period of exponential changes in technology where developments in the next two years will feel as profound as the past twenty years, and the next four years the past 100 years etc.

In short, things will never seem this slow again. This considering that change already seems so fast.

In such an environment how can any 15-year process lay any claim to relevancy? And how can it know what the end product should be? Curriculum planning, to my mind, would be like shooting in the dark.

Even the consistent certain bets are no longer so certain — with legal, medical and accountant professions challenged by the march of automation.

And change is quick. Coding is now in question. A skill our education system worked hard to get into the curriculum. Recent reports suggest the machines will soon likely be coding themselves.

As parents, and as a society, we have some very real challenges to address. How should we best set our children up for success, to be valuable contributors to our future society?

The process of education, through the traditional lens, seems broken. Disrupted. Lost.

Our children live in a world where 100-year life-spans will be the norm. Where retirement as a concept will seem strange, if not decadent. Where one career will seem as strange an idea as the penny-farthing does to us.

The future, so uncertain as it seems, requires a different answer.

My daughter enters a system today required to produce an able worker for a world where as many of two-thirds of the jobs don’t yet exist.

It’s a tough job for teachers and parents alike. We’re building the plane whilst flying it without any sense of the final destination. Unsettling.

So can parents find any certainty from this? There might not be a map, but I do think there is a compass. The ability to learn is that compass that could help navigate these uncharted waters.

In such a rapid world the how you learn might be more important than the what you learn. Learning becomes the valued skill.

Whatever the case, all we can ever hope as a parent is to do our best. Good luck.

Justin Westcott, Managing Director at Edelman UK


Originally published at www.edelman.co.uk.

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