Schools in the future need to be developed for society in the future

Jesper Bo Jensen, Ph.d., Futurist / 24. nov 2017

For society in the future there’s a need to learn the difficult art of cooperation, reaching a high degree of expertise in your field and speaking English at a proficiency level higher than a 2nd language as well as being able to handle things yourself. The school has to open up to society, be structurally flexible and work extensively with new ways of learning to give the children the right baggage in life. The teacher is the most important key to this.

With future society as the foundation, we won’t be educating and edifying the students in public school to the past. In the future the route through everyday life has changed, competition in a global world is significantly different and we need competency and know-how that is beyond what might be replaced by others’ cheaper workforce.

We are moving away from the industrial society’s purpose driven city, where every function had its own part of the city – spaces for living, for industry, commerce, services, sports facilities and recreational areas. The modern city mixes these functions with each other. We are becoming new nomads. Social competencies will be crucial and communication and teamwork are high on the wanted-list.

Globalization 2.0
China won the first round of the globalization, but China won’t necessarily win the next rounds. China’s population will fall over the next 10 years while India’s looks to be growing for at least 50 years still. China is the world’s workshop – the production center for a lot of industries and Chinese consumers have become richer. The Indians have, quite sensibly, thrown themselves at service and knowledge rather than unilaterally going for production. Call centers and it-industry is the first chain of this investment, which in addition isn’t regulated heavily but is controlled by the developers themselves.

Many engineering firms are moving real, creative engineering jobs to India. Dacca, the capital in Bangladesh, is used for retouching digital pictures by the advertising industry. Accounting departments and financial back-office functions are also moved to India. But here Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe are also in the picture, where employees are taught Danish to speak to clients on the phone. The rationalization and large-scale benefits that were found in industrial production earlier are now being made in the knowledge- and service production.

What will we do for a living?
We need to be more innovative and creative than the Indians. But it doesn’t have to be in all areas. Just a select few will suffice. Often knowledge and developing knowledge is mentioned. But we’re only 230.000 people with higher education in Denmark. On the other hand we’re over 1.2 million unskilled workers and almost 1.3 million skilled workers on the job market.

The future isn’t unskilled. Our children need education – but not everyone needs a long, higher education. A good skilled education with added knowledge and innovation can get you far. Companies’ innovation is conducted in close cooperation with the skilled workers. The short and medium-length educations also lack the innovative and creative element that can create efficiency in the new service-globalization.

The creative educations will create brand new earnings. Music, art and experiences will grow as a means of making a living in the future and will replace the things that disappear. If a Dane invented the Lego brick today, there’d be a risk that the ministerial officials would reject the idea.

So what should you learn in school?
Social navigation ability and vocational competencies will be the most important areas in schools in the future. Many and advanced vocational competencies are necessary to make do in the future. But cooperation with others – also across cultural and language gaps – is a crucial ability in a country that lives on its commerce and export.

Danish is an important subject in schools and the key to reading in other subjects. But in the future, English won’t be a second language, but a language used just as frequently as Danish. Our children need to be bi-lingual. Very few Danes today are able to write a perfect English text, even if given twice the time. British people can, Americans can and many South Indians can. The common language in South India is English.

Other foreign languages are still necessary prerequisites for doing well in Europe. We’re selling a lot of our wares and services in Europe. Our biggest markets for exports are Germany and Sweden. Swedish has disappeared from public school curriculums. French and Spanish aren’t bad either, while Chinese is too difficult for school.

Math and the other science subjects should have a high priority and be taught at a higher level. Some of it could be taught in English. It increases the usability of the subjects later on – internationally too. The creative, musical subjects are isolated today. The integration of these subjects into other parts of the curriculum points forward and could be achieved by making innovation and creativity a part of the school teaching platform. In the fields of innovation, creativity and music, we need to be some of the best in the world.

What does the school look like in the future?
Research shows that the student and the student’s background explain about half of their learning ability. The teacher contributes with a quarter. Then come materials, buildings and managerial conditions with some smaller percentages. Money plays a part, but aren’t all-important. We can only change the student’s background by working on social heritage. After that the teacher should be prioritized. Really good teachers are paramount and by investing in current teachers’ reeducation and future teachers’ education, we can have better teachers who develop their own practices. Money for education and reeducation are welcome.

Today’s parents need to give the teacher the chance to lead the classroom and not interfere too much. Teaching can take new shapes by using the new I-books and smartphones as well as prioritizing the students’ independence higher. Without the independence taught in school, you won’t fare well in the future.

In middle school and by graduation, teaching should be tailored to the individual student’s knowledge and way of learning. Separating people by their learning ability is often the right way to go, especially from 6-7th grade and up. That way we can help strong students to get even better. Learning is best done in school. It’ll help many of the students, who have a hard time finding the composure or time for homework later in the day. We are doing a great service for the socially vulnerable by keeping them at school a little bit longer every day.

Schools without walls
We can create the school without walls, where the classroom is expanded to large parts of society, but where we offer a safe and structured school day for the smaller children in the school and only gradually open up to the larger scope of things. This school will give a better insight into the lives our children will live when they become adults.

The school should also be seen as a cohesive whole. When the significance of the teacher is so great, we also need to include the afterschool teachers actively in the school. They can spot bullying in 5 minutes. This inclusion also allows for a more physically active school day that ranges from learning to playing in the primary level classes.

All the initiatives we start, to make the present school into the future school, has to happen with the very important principle of learning from past experiences in mind. We continually have to evaluate if it works and how we can improve the school further. These self-learning and scientific investigations are parts of the model (LP-model) that many schools have started to use.

Published here 2017

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