Aristotle said, “The purpose of education is to ensure the flourishing of the individuals characterized by the ‘goodness’ of character and ‘goodness’ of intellect.” In Sanskrit, we say, “Vidya Dadāti Vinayam,” meaning that education brings humility. Unfortunately, character building has taken a back seat. The entire focus seems to be on maximizing academic performance. Ron Miller, a thought leader on holistic education, puts it succinctly, “Education today is not a collaborative art of mentoring and nurturing the young, but a frenzied scramble to succeed according to some external measure of success.”
Transforming education for human flourishing requires a system’s shift approach. The teachers must eschew being a broadcaster of information. Instead, they should acknowledge several alternative sources of knowledge. The classrooms need a redesign to elicit students’ love for learning and self-development. Don Morgan wrote a book, Guitar, with a subtitle, The Book That Teaches You Everything You Need To Know About Playing the Guitar, in 1965. Ironically in his introduction, he commented, “No one can teach you to play the Guitar.” Clarifying later, he added that teachers, tutors, and coaches could help students learn. His thesis informs us that the essence of learning lies in activating students as the owners of their education. Likewise, the pedagogy must shun predictability and encourage curiosity, innovation, and engagement. Schools are a place where students learn to become responsible citizens and engage in community development.
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations are aimed to tackle the world’s problems by 2030. Hundreds of millions of people do not have enough food to eat; women still earn less than men and have fewer rights; plant and animal species are rapidly vanishing; gender, caste, race, creed, and finance-based inequalities widen. The role of the youth and educators in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be summed up as three “A’s”—raising “Awareness,” taking “Action,” and holding all stakeholders “Accountable”—for the progress of these global goals. An appreciation of the SDGs and designing a curriculum around them is the education reform we must embrace.
SDG 4 holds a special place within all the 17 goals. “All the SDGs come down to education,” said Malala Yousafzai, a Nobel laureate. Children in schools today will grow up to be adults in an increasingly interconnected and multicultural society. Students need to be aware of cultural norms and differences around the world to succeed and thrive. To solve the world’s challenges, we must encourage students to be active participants in their local and global communities.
Developing global citizens passionate about caring for others is the purpose of education. Teachers do not need to be experts on responsible consumption or clean energy to teach the SDGs. They can learn and explore these issues alongside their students and plan ways to take action together. Education for the masses has always been important. They are more critical now than before, and in the future, education will be the prime marker of Sustainable societies. Equity and excellence for every child are the essential components of successful and sustainable communities. Every child deserves a high-quality education and lifelong learning opportunities, foundational solid and global citizenship skills. Learning to learn, be, do, and live together, UNESCO’s report on 21st-century skills is crucial to prepare the young generation for a future world. Therefore, the classroom pedagogy must encourage children to think, improve their minds, and give them pathways to self-directed learning.
Attainment of learning objectives, cultivating moral imagination, and fostering student agency demand a rebooted leadership that is moral, innovative, and technology-driven. Believing in students, using intuition and foresight, keeping the child in the center is at the core of ethical leadership. Including all voices, embracing diversity, sound decision making, and creative solution finding are the foundations of innovative leadership. Adhering to core values, cross-cultural skills, character role models, compassionate communication, and relationship management are essential visionary leadership skills. The future will witness even more digitization and the adoption of new technologies. Higher cognitive skills, embedding socio-emotional skills, and digital skills will future proof our societies.
It’s heartening to learn that innovative minds at the Global Citizenship Foundation are at work to redefine education for the future. The contributions to the .ed Magazine are refreshing in the approach and seminal in research. Looking at them as one whole unit of knowledge-body, they come across as a manual of steps the world community must take to future proof the education system.