From education to employment

The face of education needs a rethink: This new focus should be challenge-based Learning

Ella Robertson, Managing Director of One Young World

Rethinking the higher education sector – We must develop a ‘vaccine’ for our education system 

One of the many symptoms of Covid-19 has been its fatal effect on the status quo across huge parts of our economy and society. One sector at the heart of this is Education. From the A Level results fiasco and lockdown learning fatigue through to the retraining and the levelling up agenda – there isn’t a day that goes by that doesn’t throw up new educational and learning challenges.  

At its best, education with a little ‘e’ is about providing people with the tools to understand and navigate the complexity – of our own lives, of the economy and of society. What happens then if the ‘ends’ are drastically changed – the ‘means’ must quickly follow suit. For this hound, the tail must wag the dog.   

The pandemic has forced us all to focus on the future, and to embrace how we can live our lives going forward. Education must follow suit. The challenges we face are now too pressing and too large for us to not address how we teach and encourage people to solve these issues.

And this goes beyond the pandemic. From climate change to increasing political discontent across the globe, we are having to grapple with new international issues like never before. In our ever-connected world these problems are crossing borders and require a new way of combatting and handling.

It is now the younger generation who are taking the lead on global issues. They are more connected, engaged and conscious of humanities than ever before. Yet they are not being supported.

The latest unemployment figures show there to be 156,000 fewer young people in work in the three months to July when compared with the same period the year previous. And the numbers are only getting worse as we approach the end of furlough. These figures come on top of an already struggling education system, statistics from last year found three in five young people don’t believe education equips them for real life and the world of work.

The prospects for these young people will be bleak in a floundering economy – and through no fault of their own, their education might well prove behind the times in this new look world.   

The face of education needs a rethink, and this new focus should be challenge-based Learning

The challenge-based Learning framework enables education through solving real world challenges. This framework encourages critical thinking about some of the most pressing threats humanity faces which facilitates the attainment of deeper knowledge and understanding of our world.

On the peripheries for some time, challenge-based Learning now has a far bigger role to play in helping us to navigate major global issues. It is about educating individuals in the context of the here and now, and the very real challenges that we collectively face. It is about focusing on the global, not just the national picture.

We need to be asking the bigger questions that are relevant to now. From the role of supranational organisations to trading relations and international cooperation. We also need to be addressing the bigger issues to do with our climate, how we work to address the precarious position we have found ourselves in to take urgent and immediate steps forward.

Even in business, the education system is not built for equipping our future entrepreneurs with skills to create and run their own business. We are still too focused on theory – which certainly has its place – but we must look beyond this at hands-on, challenge-based learning.

That’s why we have recently launched the One Young World Academy – a transformative challenge-based learning platform that helps to rethink how we are educating young people, globally.

The Academy virtually convenes global leaders from business to government to supranational organisations to dare participants to think about addressing major global issues in the here and now. By doing this they are equipping them with the thought processes and critical skills that will be needed to find meaningful solutions to many of the problems that globalisation presents.

The programme includes lectures from Christiana Figueres on how we can deliver the Paris Climate Agreement to Arianna Huffington on wellbeing built into financial success and Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on ensuring we are better prepared for future pandemics.

The world has changed drastically this year and an education system from yesterday is not going to provide the tools and knowledge required to tackle the new pressing issues we now face. challenge-based learning provides the tools and understanding for our young leaders to continue addressing the issues that matter most in the moment.

Ella Robertson, Managing Director of One Young World

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