The Future of Education Starts Now

In the video: Hester Spiegel-van den Steenhoven, 42-representative for Germany, and Nora Schimang, CEO of the education startup CodeDoor, joined the A Shift in Thinking webcast on 06 May to discuss the future of education.

The Future of Education Starts Now

Editor’s Note: Guest blogger Hester Spiegel-van den Steenhoven shares her insights about the future of education. She is the 42-representative for Germany

“We wanted to think out of the box when we were still ‘in the box’ of our traditional education system. Now the box has been lifted and the lack of boundaries is scary – we want the box back. But we want a different box back.”

Education has not changed in 150 years but the pandemic brings an opportunity to create, or accelerate, a new reality. As the late famous Dutch football player Johan Cruyff said: “sometimes something needs to happen for something to happen. This crisis may be a blessing in disguise for education.

The crisis has brought many things to the surface that require improvement: both how we learn, and what we learn. Let’s have a look at what our education “dream box” could look like. There is no better opportunity than now, to re-define the box that we so badly want back.

Learnings from the pandemic

The learnings from the crisis concerning our education system that I have come across in the past weeks are:

1. Human connection and having a sense of community in education is vital

Innovations implemented out of necessity have already created new knowledge about teaching and learning. But the whole move to remote has made us realise how disconnected we feel when we are apart. We are experiencing a huge surge in online learning, but experts say that this is a transient period. We should find a happy medium between online and offline learning.

2. Not knowledge… but Skills & Values

We can not imagine our future to the full extent. Covid-19 has taught us that anything is possible in the future and as such, our education system must be educating students not only with that mindset, but with the skills to imagine, and then tackle, any challenge that may come their way.

Also, to be able to thrive in the age of digitalisation, or “Industry 4.0”, a human needs both the capability of using and creating with technology, combined with values such as respect, kindness and compassion, contextual understanding and insights.

Knowledge can be aggregated through the internet, moral values and wisdom can’t.

3. Inclusivity and accessibility

Remote learning during the past weeks has highlighted the various different needs of students and this has made leaders think about taking more into account that different students will express their learning in different ways, and that we will need assessment options that mirror different ways of learning.

Today’s educational concepts continue to follow rigid rules and predefined, largely obsolete academic plans that give students almost no room to develop their own talents and interests – a highly one-size-fits-all approach. Given that every individual is unique, education should focus much more on self-knowledge and self-realisation.

Further, the crisis has shown that the resources and infrastructure needed to learn are not always available to everyone. It has made clear how deep inequities run. Our future education system should be resilient against such interruptions, and enable learning for everyone, regardless of access to resources and infrastructure

Powering new education systems

How can we use technology for Education

  • to improve inclusivity and scalability
  • to enable the mastery of right skills & values
  • …while continuing to offer a sense of community?

Online learning

That we think of online learning solutions when asking ourselves how to scale education and make it more accessible, is not surprising. More than half of the world population is connected to the internet, where a wealth of knowledge can be accessed.

When we look at the success rate of online learning, however, numbers are not great: between 5-10% of students finish a MOOC course, and during the past weeks, as we moved to remote learning, student activity has dropped with more than 50%. So we need discipline, self-motivation, and self-organisation in students for online learning to be able to become truly successful.

Further, online learning does not, or hardly, cater for the need to develop skills and values to solve the complex problems of society: adaptation skills, autonomous-thinking skills, collaboration skills and problem-solving skills, to name a few.

Peer-to-Peer learning

Therefore, I believe more in an alternative education system (which does not exclude online learning as such), namely Peer-to-Peer (P2P) learning. P2P learning is effective, flexible, scalable and personalized. It is learning through rich human-to-human interactions. In a P2P learning environment are no teachers – students teach and evaluate each other. P2P uses technology to scale education, by fully automating the curriculum and evaluation system on the P2P platform. The fact that there is no need for teachers or an institutional administration, makes P2P even more scalable as well as cost-efficient. Accreditation can be enabled through blockchain technology where students can manage their own collection of relevant knowledge, skills and experiences.

The education system of “42”, which we are currently rolling out in Germany with its first campus opening in Heilbronn supported by the Dieter Schwarz Stiftung, is a proven example of a P2P learning platform – it was established 6 years ago in Paris and has since grown to a global network in over 20 countries. 42 focuses on tech skills training only.

According to HolonIQ – producer of global education market intelligence – peer-to-peer learning will dominate the post-secondary and skills training sector in 2030.

HolonIQ – producer of global education market intelligence

The future starts now

Skills training, and tech skills training in particular, has very rapidly increased in importance as a direct result of the pandemic. Before the pandemic, Germany was already struggling to keep up with the rate of digitisation seen in other industrial countries. For example:

  • in 2019, Germany dropped from place #10 to place #12 in the EU Digital Economy and Society Index,
  • 54% of German “Informatik” graduates say they are not ready-to-work after graduating
  • 34% of companies complain that they compromise on technological or social skills when hiring tech talent

The pandemic should be the wake-up call for Germany. McKinsey expects that by 2028 Germany can return to its old growth path, but only if it does everything right – i.e. by adopting digital technologies and making use of the chances that digitalisation brings – otherwise returning to the old growth path will not be possible within this decade.

Now is the opportunity for Germany to change its sacred traditional ways, and take the lead and start powering new type learning platforms, that are suited to the need of our rapidly changing and increasingly complex society.

It’s all about the SKILLS

My personal education “dream box” is a world where P2P learning and earning is accepted. Where people, no matter socio-economical background, will have been enabled to master the topics that they are passionate about, driven by intrinsic motivation, and are managing their highly personalised collection of credentials of the areas in which they excel. Where companies recruit people using skills-filters, instead of education- and age-filters, opening up opportunities to a very large pool of talents, that are able to thrive because their capabilities and skills are matched with the companies needs, not because of their university grades. Where institutions are not driven by competition, but by collaboration, to innovate and solve the increasingly complex challenges that come our way.

Now that due to the pandemic the box of traditional education has been lifted to an extent never seen before, let’s use this opportunity to re-think education and re-think hiring practices. Let’s get out of the education-box that all of us have been raised in, and understand how much bigger our world is.