The new Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report by UNESCO, shows the potential for education to propel progress towards all global goals outlined in the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It also shows that education needs a major transformation to fulfill that potential and meet the current challenges facing humanity and the planet. There is an urgent need for greater headway in education. On current trends, the world will achieve universal primary education in 2042, universal lower secondary education in 2059 and universal upper secondary education in 2084. This means the world would be half a century late for the 2030 SDG deadline.
What are the kind of adults we want our children to grow up to be? This is a crucial question that influences most decisions parents make on behalf of their children, including decisions around education. Many parents would value accountability, responsibility and self-motivation in their adult child, but most past and current education models aren’t suited to fostering those traits. Schools that encourage autonomy in education, however, are.
If we look back at the history of education, initially, education was aimed at communal socialization. A certain set of attitudes, behaviour and habits were cultivated, but there was no need — and therefore no attempt — to provide a rationale for doing so, other than that these values ensured the community survived “together” in tough conditions with few resources. Individual choices were relegated behind the greater good, which was usually decided by an authority figure.
The Industrial Revolution of the 19th century changed that aim of education – but it was still tailored to society’s benefit; schools shifted focus to producing human beings with predictable levels of skill and controllable levels of knowledge, much like the cogs of a machine. This model, more or less, is still the most common one in schools today, where students learn by a defined time table that determines when they study, what subject, even when they eat lunch or can take a break.
But while it might have met the needs of the past, it is terribly misaligned with what is needed today. Today’s circumstances are different – poverty is in decline and people have better access to resources; production is increasingly mechanised; increasingly stable governments mean that citizens need to participate less in the process of nation building. For this to happen, children should be able to think independently and critically, and give reasons for their choices.
Contemporary education is shifting purpose once again, to producing individuals who demonstrate independence in thought and action, think rationally, and are capable of critical participation in the societies they live in. And the main method of doing this is by providing greater autonomy in education.
What is autonomy in education?
What does autonomy in education do for kids long-term?
WHAT IS BIOMIMICRY