The world is changing so dizzyingly fast that it is beyond most people’s ability to comprehend the sheer scale of changes. Not only is it changing fast, the rate of change is also accelerating, in other words, what is true at the beginning of high school or college might be irrelevant by the time you finish.
The education system has never been so ill-equipped to prepare students to face a moving target like our real world. The education system still works mostly the same way as it did at the beginning of the 20th century. It originally was built to keep children occupied and away from mischief while the adults worked full-time jobs.
So what needs to change to make the education system work for the 21st century and beyond?
There are two fundamental things that a student needs to get out of the educational system by the time they finish high school or college.
Learn the World Within / Introspection
The world within you is more important than the world outside. It has an outsized impact on what happens to you in your life.
Self-awareness takes people a lifetime to learn and in some cases they never do. Students need to figure out how to learn about themselves, understand what things they ascribe meaning to, what they care about (their values), and ultimately what motivates, excites, and inspires them. Tapping into this will allow them to pursue careers and opportunities that lead to deeply satisfying lives. It is far easier for them to become lifelong learners when they really care about something.
“Education is really about creating individuals who care deeply about something.“
Along with learning themselves, they need to learn to take care of their body. You get only one (body) and there is no way to change it or replace it during the course of your lifetime. Teach kids how to be healthy, eat nutritionally and how they can take care of themselves by exercise. Education should focus on basic nutrition, the damage caused by alcohol and drugs, and what is needed to keep your body working day in and day out.
Learn the World Outside / Extrospection
The world has over 8 billion people and chances are you will need to be able to work with many many different people during the course of your life. Getting along as a skill stands the test of time as others get to become invested in your success. Learning how to work with others, teamwork, learning to sacrifice individual selfishness to achieve common goals, and building empathy and EQ are all required as basic building blocks to operate successfully in society.
Students also need to learn how to become productive members of society and what options and opportunities exist and where their unique skills, motivations, and heart can fit and give them joy. Careers and what it looks like and what skills and specific knowledge are required to be successful are building blocks to make students appreciate what else they learn in the classroom.
As much as money itself is hated, it is imperative that students learn how that works, what the basic rules are (“Don’t spend more than you make”), and how to effectively manage it. Learning what assets really are (cars are not assets for example) and how to become independent are important so that they are never taken advantage of by unscrupulous individuals or businesses.
Finally, students of course also need knowledge of the world, the physical world (math, sciences, geography etc), the digital world (computers, internet), the financial world (economics) and finally the Human world (History, Culture).
An education system starts to stand for ignorance when it stops caring about what is taught to students and who they become when they leave schools of learning. Modern education avoids all kinds of possible controversies so that if anyone even remotely objects to any topic taught in schools, the next year it is simply yanked. But this is beyond dangerous as we are now saying that an educated mind cannot differentiate what the facts are and how to question it. Education is not meant to make everyone happy. It should not pander to the least common denominator.
The sole purpose of education seems to be focused on acquiring specific knowledge of the external world, but that world changes at a rapid rate while what is unchanging is the human spirit. The more technologically advanced we become the more important is to learn to be a better human.