Augmenting Education

Shikha Arora

Principal, Indraprastha World School, Paschim Vihar, Delhi

The futurist, Alvin Toffler in his book, “Future Shock” stated, “Tomorrow’s illiterate will not be the man who can’t read; he will be the man who has not learned, how to learn.” Years later after reading this book on the 90s, I had the opportunity to participate in an international conference at Dubai. One very interesting takeaway from this conference was the biological paradigm that boiled down to adaptability being the crucial trait needed for success. You may wonder how adaptability and today’s literacy relate to education. It matters most because it will help you determine what is most necessary to educate your child for the future. We have to understand the changing definitions of literacy requirements and help our children learn what’s required to adapt with changing times.

Biological paradigm: adaptability

Against a backdrop of uncertainty, rapid digital innovation, economic upheaval and unprecedented change, novel competencies for not only success, but also survival, are emerging in the modern era. Children enrolling in schools today cannot anticipate the challenges they will face when they grow up in 15-20 years. In order to be adaptable to any new possibilities, parents and educators must prepare children today with the necessary skills to succeed in the 21st century . What are the most pertinent skills required for the future?

The 21st Century Scenario

It is not about how much knowledge one has gathered, but rather, what one can do with that knowledge. Your child must be able to apply, analyze, synthesize, compare, contrast and evaluate what he or she knows. Learners today must be able to utilize skills broadly and engage in flexible thinking. Our children are termed ‘digital natives’ who have been born after the digital revolution, having ample access to technology from almost infancy via smartphones and tablets. Growing up in the information Age and having data available at the click of mouse (or rather, the tap of a touchscreen) is very different from the time we were children. Therefore, we as parents are termed ‘digital immigrants’ who entered and assimilated into the new information and communication technology era.

In the 21st century, we must be able to discern relevant knowledge and function as information seekers. It is far more important to be able to know how to use knowledge in relevant situations than remember facts. As Toffler predicted, “New education must teach the individual how to classify and reclassify information, how to evaluate its veracity, how to change categories when necessary, how to move from the concrete to the abstract and back, how to look at problems from a new direction – how to teach himself. “The changing state of affairs requires individuals to envision and function themselves as lifelong learners and rise to upcoming challenges as proactive problem solvers.

21st Century Skills

"Creativity is as important in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status,”said Sir Ken Robinson, an internationally acclaimed author and education expert, speaking on creativity in education. The four Cs of the 21st century skills required for students are Creativity, Critical thinking (also known as higher-order thinking), articulate Communication and Collaboration among diversity. Creativity and innovation are the top strategic priorities in today’s progressive organizations. Considerable evidence now suggest that creativity can make a substantial contribution to an individual’s growth, academic success and competitiveness. Andrew and Gala Grant, the authors of “Who killed Creativity?” state, “The pace of life has changed so much that innovation is actually now a core survival skill; a necessity, not luxury.” Creativity produces ideas that are original and useful in order to solve problems and optimize opportunities. Integrating the arts alongside education not only cultivates critical thinking skills, but also helps find unique ways to process, collaborate, and communicate our thinking. As the famous Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited; imagination encircles the world."

Reinventing Schools

The challenge before us is to reinvent schools for the changing times, for the sake of our children. Although making a paradigm shift in the education space is not an easy task. It requires a lot of effort, clear vision and the burning desire to transform the current face of education in India. Normally when anyone of us thinks of education, we think of a school. If we really feel a paradigm of education is a must, the question before us is "what is the 21st century education?"

21st century schools should be designed in a way to recognize the need for developing skills. These skills can be learned through our curriculum and it should be interdisciplinary, integrated and project based. The next question before us is how education should be designed to meet the needs of the 21st century students?

It is of vital importance to see that the curriculum is project oriented, research driven for life, engaging students in addressing the real-world problems. In this background the definition of school, teacher and learner assume a new look; schools should not be confined to the four walls, rather they should connect teachers, students and society to the wealth of knowledge that exists in the world. Teachers take the role of orchestration of learning and helping students to translate information into knowledge and knowledge into wisdom; learners to be seen in a different context. Teachers’ onus is to see that students maintain interest by helping them to see how and what they are learning prepares them for life in the real world.

Shikha Arora

Principal, Indraprastha World School, Paschim Vihar, Delhi