(Spoiler: It’s Finland.)
I recently did a short interview for the Madrid magazine PLÁCET. Here’s the complete English version of our conversation:
What are the biggest mistakes that education has been committed in the last 50 years in western countries?
I think that it is easy – and very popular – to look at all of the problems in education and all of the mistakes that we’ve made. But, in actuality, our schools do precisely what they are designed to do, and they do it very well: prepare our youth for careers as factory workers and government bureaucrats.
The problem is, we don’t have as many factories as we had in the past. And, we certainly want fewer bureaucrats.
So, I think our biggest mistake has been in asking schools to prepare students for jobs that existed in the past, but have little relevance today or in our foreseeable futures.
Are the politically or economically powerful people the ones who dominate education, and are those who are interested in a well-educated population demanding their rights to design their own future?
I think there’s a real question on whether we can collaborate and build a collective capacity to develop a common education agenda. A lot of self-interest emerges when we approach any change in schools. We have to be willing to have an open and honest discussion what those changes mean to each of us, personally and professionally. Most people learn about education issues during elections, and they are often presented as “wedge” issues that prevent us from taking a long view or creating a shared vision of how we would like to develop our communities for the future.
So, we need to ask ourselves: What are our common goals? Can we agree on who a learner is? What is learning? What is a “positive” future for our community? And, who is the collective “we” making these decisions?
The world is changing faster than ever. What are the demands of the labor market of the near future?
We seem to be in a feedback loop where technological change prompts social change, which in turn demands further technological change, and so on… And, this is occurring at an increasing pace. As a result, it is becoming increasingly difficult to predict what the demands will be. So, we need to start thinking about how we can meet demands that we cannot imagine, yet.
In education, this means that we need to stop teaching what to think and what to know, and instead focus creating students that know how to learn beyond school, and how to develop new skills and competencies.
How will we determine technological innovation in our education, training, and work?
Technologies, so far, help us do things that we’ve been doing already a little bit better. The real game changer will be when we develop intelligence amplification and artificial intelligence technologies that augment (or even replace) our capacities for imagination, creativity, and innovation.
How does globalization affect education?
Whether we like it or not, today’s graduates are competing one-to-one for jobs with alike people around the world. Why hire a (Spanish) teacher in Madrid to teach your child Chinese when you can hire an actual Chinese speaker with greater qualifications from China, utilizing connective technologies such as Skype, for far fewer Euros?
What is Invisible Learning?
Invisible Learning is a recognition that most of the learning we do is “invisible” – that is, it is through informal, non-formal, and serendipitous experiences rather than through formal instruction. It takes into account the impact of technological advances to really enable the invisible spaces to emerge. So, in the Invisible Learning project, Dr. Cristóbal Cobo and I explored a panorama of options for the future development of education that can be relevant today. We did not propose a theory, but sought to blend many ideas together to present a broadened landscape of ideas and perspectives. Because we are still building this paradigm, it is very much in “beta.”
What country is the world leader in education today, with proven results?
That’s like asking, “who’s the best looking kid in an ugly family?” In that case, Finland is the best looking. But, I’m not saying they’re looking beautiful…
What are the keys to happiness that every student (16 – 24 years old) should know to ensure a happy and well-off future?
I don’t know what the keys to happiness are, but today’s students need to prepare for futures where they can work anytime, anywhere, and with just about anybody. I call these people “knowmads.” Moreover, knowmads:
- Are not restricted to a specific age.
- Build their personal knowledge through explicit information gathering and tacit experiences, and leverage their personal knowledge to produce new ideas.
- Are able to contextually apply their ideas and expertise in various social and organizational configurations.
- Are highly motivated to collaborate, and are natural networkers, navigating new organizations, cultures, and societies.
- Purposively use new technologies to help them solve problems and transcend geographical limitations.
- Are open to sharing what they know, and invite and support open access to information, knowledge and expertise from others.
- Can unlearn as quickly as they learn, adopting new ideas and practices as necessary.
- Thrive in non-hierarchical networks and organizations.
- Develop habits of mind and practice to learn continuously.
- Are not afraid of failure.