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Is education equipping us for a social world?

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Is education equipping us for a social world?

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Earlier this month OECD data produced some shocking results for the UK educational establishment by revealing that 16-24 year olds were no more skilled in maths and English than those in the 55-64 age group.  We were by and large the only developed nation for which that was the case.

It got me thinking about education.  Indeed, I’ve been thinking about it a lot this year, what with the rise of the MOOCs and all.  I’ve been wondering whether it is really doing the job it’s intended to do.

After all, we live increasingly in a world where the knowledge we have today has a fairly short shelf life.  Such is the rapid rate of change that the requirement is increasingly that we have to adapt and evolve, updating our skills and our knowledge on a daily basis in order to remain competitive in the marketplace.  This is as true at the organisational level as at the individual level.

Obviously collaborative tools are aiding this process by supporting and enabling the connections between those seeking knowledge and those able to provide it.  We’re empowered to hoover up tacit knowledge like never before, and often the key capability is knowing how and where to look for insight rather than the actual insight itself.

The thing is, at the heart of that entire process is the willingness to do so.  The whole thing rests upon an acceptance and indeed a desire to learn new things and refresh our knowledge on a regular basis.  The notion of going to school, getting a qualification and then enjoying a lifetime of job security is largely a thing of the past, but I’m not sure our schools have really caught up with this reality.

It seems that the new world requires people to be equipped with both a desire to learn and the skills to know how and where to acquire new knowledge.  In many ways therefore, schools should be giving people process skills.  They should be teaching people how to learn as much as giving pupils explicit knowledge.

Of course, that foundation of knowledge is important, but without building on it, it will quickly reach a shelf life that renders that individual redundant.  Is an education system that appears obsessed with the artifacts of knowledge rather than the process of gathering it therefore sufficient?  When exams and qualifications quickly become out of date, how valuable is a system where the focus is on the production of people with qualifications rather than a mindset?

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