If we teach the students of today the things of yesterday, we rob them of tomorrow.'
- John Dewey
Can you imagine a world where math is not taught in schools?
Yet, till after the Industrial Revolution (mid 1800s) math was not a subject taught in most schools. This led to an acute shortage of basic skilled employees in the industries that came up during that economic boom. It took quite a while for this anomaly to correct itself till enough qualified people entered the workforce a few years later.
The education system was developed so that the faculties of the human brain could be moulded, optimized and trained to perform. This endeavor has driven human civilization for the past centuries and which promises to continue. But as our worlds evolve (and they do evolve very rapidly), so should the educational systems. Educational systems should always be forward looking, as though no one can predict the future, you can always prepare for it.
One wouldn’t be very wrong to say that though we are living in the era of the 4th industrial revolution (the technological age), our schools are like time machines stuck in the past. Statistics show that schools, education systems and the popular curriculum have largely remained unchanged despite the world changing at a rapid pace, especially over the last couple of decades. While it is essential to know how the world as we know it took shape (history does teach us some good lessons), it is also relevant to prepare young minds for the future.
This is indeed what present-day curriculums suffer from. Sure, there are instances where technology has been incorporated by using electronic boards and video tutorials, but the subject matter of what is being taught largely remains the same. Schools that boost of e-learning and computer periods are not really promoting future learning but only using it to teach the same old curriculum stuck in the past. In order to achieve true future relevant education, not the method, but the subject matter needs to be re-looked at.
Can schools do this? Can they change?
Sure they can. But schools and education systems are notoriously slow and bureaucratic, so don’t expect an overnight miracle. It is up to parents and children themselves to realign themselves with the future and prepare for it.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education will be key for this generation’s future. Skills like coding are considered to be the true literacy for the digital future – almost as important as languages and math. Can we afford to ignore these skills? Not if we want to prepare our children for success and fulfilled lives in their future.
The time is high that schools and institutions embrace skills like coding, computer programming, and technological education, the building blocks of the current society and presumably the future society. Till our schools manage to do it, the parents and children themselves need to ensure that the skills being taught are not what was taught to the last generation, but what will be utilized by the next generation.
This is not to suggest that in order to modernize our education systems we must replace traditional subjects like history, literature etc. with STEM education which are paving the road to the future. STEM based jobs (Artificial Intelligence, Coders, Robotics) may touch 800 million jobs in 2020 and may be a necessity for 89% of all jobs by 2030, but the traditional subjects and the value they develop remain relevant and important.
The future beckons us with rapid change, and clinging to the immovable past by forcing it into our children's brains holds no rewards. It is, as John Dewey says, an act of robbing them of their future. Something that we must rabidly protect our children against.