Keystone's Founder and Director, Will Orr-Ewing, delved into new forms of schooling for the 21st Century. Will was joined by guest speakers, Jonathan Noakes, who is Head of Teaching & Learning at Eton College, Sam Rogerson, Co-Founder and Head of Lexicon School and Hugh Dickinson, Founder of Concept Education.
Six lessons we learned about the future of schooling
Parents are in a bind when it comes to choosing schools for their children: constitutionally minded to play it safe and go for “traditional” options, they are simultaneously anxious about preparing their children for an uncertain future and looking for reassurance that traditional does not mean obsolescent.
During the webinar we interrogated this question in more detail. Our star panel had a mix of the practical and the theorectial: we were delighted to welcome Jonnie Noakes (Director of the Tony Little Centre for Innovation and Research in Learning (CIRL) at Eton); Hugh Dickinson (Founder and CEO of Concept Education) and Sam Rogerson (Co-Founder and Head of School at Lexicon School).
What did we learn? Below is a summary of the panel’s reflections:
1. Schooling is not broken, but it can be improved
Our schools and teachers do an incredible job in increasingly difficult circumstances. Though the costs of an independent education have sky-rocketed - which is a problem - traditional schools “do what we do well - and it really really works.” However, schooling hasn’t changed in almost 100 years, and the world is changing very quickly. Many schools are still preparing children, in Peter Hyman’s words, “for the middle of the twentieth century.” Employers are keen for change: the CBI has been complaining since the 1980s that our children leave school without the skills for the modern workplace. Our students learn how to pass tests well but rarely learn to think or learn for themselves (one reason why Sundar Pichai says that Google doesn’t often take students who have achieved all A grades). Advances in the use of IT and in the science of how children learn suggest that much can be improved.
2. Schooling is currently too stressful
Rates of anxiety and depression in teenagers have doubled in 30 years. We are in danger of producing “fragile thoroughbreds” instead of resilient and well-rounded young people.
3. The main culprit is high-stakes assessment
High-stakes assessment is one reason for high levels of teenage anxiety, especially GCSE, which comes at a time when children are highly vulnerable. It is not just the fact that we assess, but how we assess. Why are we encouraging assessment that pits young people against each other, and at which a high percentage of candidates are said to have “failed”. There is a desperate need for novel forms of assessment, which test important skills such as collaboration and creativity. In fact, assessment is the most likely aspect of schooling to change. PISA is bringing in its tests on problem-solving and creative thinking; in the UK, ReThinking Assessment is looking at making significant changes to the UK assessment landscape.
4. Reforms in schooling should not trash knowledge
Most teachers rightly believe in the value of teaching traditional knowledge. You can’t think well unless you know things, and it is not true that if something is on Google, you don't need to know it.
5. Schools will increasingly encompass and value the whole person
The school of the future will re-prioritise the education of the whole child. It may look like innovation but in some ways is very old; the Ancients recognised the importance of character education in some ways better than we do. Rather than valuing academic achievement alone, schools will look to advance soft skills (such as creativity, resilience, making good social connections, learning how to fail etc) and self-knowledge. The Harvard Human Flourishing Programme is a good model of what might be coming. Recent research has shown how convincingly that such skills can actually be taught rather than be merely picked up from the environment. UK schools are well positioned to capitalise on this global re-prioritisation, which is being accelerated by advances in AI and automation.
6. The future is bright
Innovation is already happening: the pace of change is necessarily slow in education because children’s education should never be disrupted too radically. It should always be research-led so as not to fall prey to educational fads. Finland successfully carried out a total root-and-branch reform of its education. Eton, like many schools, has successfully piloted and rolled out a model of hybrid learning involving online lectures and independent research. Concept Education is launching an affordable boarding school that is adopting an innovative new education model borne out of what has been learned from the experience lockdown. Lexicon is launching a network of schools for the UK high street grounded in student-led project-based-learning, and inspired by Acton’s model in the US. They are just two of many schools in the UK, and across the world, that are answering the questions raised above in real entrepreneurial terms.
Links Mentioned in This Webinar
- Most Likely To Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era - Tony Wagner/Ted Dintersmith
- Courage to Grow: How Acton Academy Turns Learning Upside Down - Laura Sandefer
- The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail - Clayton Christensen
- Disrupting Class, Expanded Edition: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns - Clayton Christensen, Michael Horn, Curtis Johnson
- Unschooling Rules: 55 Ways to Unlearn What We Know about Schools and Rediscover Education - Clark Aldrich
- The Fourth Education Revolution Reconsidered: Will Artificial Intelligence Enrich or Diminish Humanity? - Anthony Seldon The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined - Sal Khan
- And looking forward to: Inadequate: The system failing our teachers and your children - Priya Lakhani
- Ted Dintersmith - Prepare Our Kids for Life, Not Standardized Tests
- Sal Khan - Let’s teach for mastery
- Sugata Mitra - Build a Scool in the cloud
- And of course, Ken Robinson
So many - all calling for the same thing - but recently:
- Future Perfect Education Commission - Enabling the next generation to become world ready, not just exam ready;
- Finito World
- Big Change: Reimagining Education Together
- CBI: Getting young people 'work ready’
So many opinions - but a couple:
Some additional recommended titles from Jonnie:
- Blakemore, S-J. (2018). Inventing ourselves: the secret life of the teenage brain. New York: Doubleday
- Fadel, C. et al (2015). Four-Dimensional Education: the competencies children need to succeed. Center for Curriculum Redesign: Boston MA
- Lichtman. G (2017). Moving the Rock: seven leavers WE can press to transform education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
- Lucas, B. and Claxton, G. (2015) Educating Ruby: what our children really need to learn. Carmarthen: Crown House
- Rose, T (2016). The End of Average: how we succeed in a world that values sameness. HarperOne, USA
- Tough, P., (2013). How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character. London: Random House
- Warwick, I and Speakman, R. (2019). Learning with Leonardo: Unfinished Perfection. John Catt, UK
- Willingham, D. (2009). Why Don’t Students Like School? A cognitive scientist answers questions about how the mind works and what it means for the classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
- Coe, R., (2013). Improving Education: A triumph of hope over experience. Durham: CEM.
- Heckman, K. and Kautz, T. (2103). “Fostering and Measuring Skills: Interventions that Improve Character and Cognition,” Published in The Myth of Achievement Tests: The GED and the Role of Character in American Life, edited by J. Heckman, J.E. Humphries and T. Kautz. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. pp. 341-430. (2014)
- UNESCO, (2015). Rethinking Education: Towards a global common good? Paris