Does our schooling system make the grade?
How can our schooling system help young people trying to find their way in a world that is changing at a pace faster than at any time in our history?
To enable pupils to flourish in the 21st century, there is a great consensus among many educational researchers all around the world: the youth will need a different set of skills. These skills are well defined by many projects and educationalists, and, without oversimplifying it, they boil down to the ability to use knowledge to solve problems, to work collectively, to think creatively and to reflect on their own thinking.
Despite some wonderful technology in classrooms, children will not learn by themselves. Deep, meaningful learning still remains hard work. Teachers in South Africa and all over the world need to be smarter than ever before. They need to understand how learning takes place and how we can improve students’ ability, and desire, to keep on learning.
An all-important question to ask is: what is valued in the classroom? If teachers, parents and school authorities only value and reward memorisation, the chances are slim that pupils will ever do more than this – and it is a “skill” that is unlikely to be rewarded in the real world and, more importantly, the working world.
It is commonly accepted that “70% to 75% of the jobs in 10 years’ time have not been created yet”. So, we need to prepare our pupils for this uncharted, unknown world. If we disregard Grade R, pupils in South Africa who finish Grade 12 spend about 10 000 hours in classrooms. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, claims that 10 000 hours is the minimum amount of time human beings need to spend on something to become experts at it. What do our children have to show for 10 000 hours in classrooms? Is it enough to pass a Grade 12 examination, even with a few distinctions, or is there more that we can do to make the future a little brighter? Greeff is head of the Curro Centre for Education Excellence. This is the first of a series of
five articles on 21st-century learning