The education revolution

Roger James Hamilton takes progressive look at the education system and how it can be changed to encompass entrepreneurialism

Education is one of the cornerstones of our society and imperative in the progress of future generations. In the western world every child is entitled to an education and it is the process in which our children and our children’s children will learn about the world, find their own identity, and ultimately prepare themselves to one day enter the world of work and contribute back to society.

The pandemic has undoubtedly triggered an irreversible disruption in education. Since the outbreak of coronavirus, schools, colleges and universities have moved online in a bid to keep students and teachers socially distanced.

The World Bank estimates that as many as 1.7 billion students were out of school this year, which is 90% of all students globally. And 600 million have yet to return. Worryingly, they also estimate up to 10 million students will never return as a result of their families’ incomes dropping with their parents now out of work.

The pandemic has seen countless institutions scramble in a bid to offer remote learning, which has highlighted how ill prepared they were to switch to education via the Internet. All learning institutions have had to embrace technology in order to maintain classes.

The generation currently going through school will be intrinsically tied to technology, and the pandemic brought this into high definition, making everyone think more about how they use and rely on technology in the real world and the opportunities it offers.

Advantages of remote learning

There are of course many advantages of remote learning, and cloud-based education especially, opens up a more flexible learning environment. Based on this model, educational institutes can initiate home learning practices for children off sick, in hospital or even those who are travelling with parents for work, so no child, no matter their circumstances, will miss out.

From a cloud-based application schools can begin to build virtual campuses to engage students and create a community feel online, where tasks, progress, coursework and achievements can be tracked. And from this virtual campus learning can be made more enjoyable by gamification.

Children and adults alike learn better when engaged and in this virtual world. A more personalised and varied curriculum will enable more students to find their purpose and motivation when education is more interactive and less dry. In this scenario, fewer children will be left to fall through the gaps, a problem that we see time and time again, with traditional education.

Where so much progress has been made in education and the use of technology, it is unthinkable for schools to go back to pre-Covid teaching methods. The real lesson in this crisis is not how students switched to virtual classrooms and back again. The big learning curve is how the pandemic has led to many questioning the school system itself, resulting in many establishments having to reinvent themselves or fail.

The impact of this sea change in attitudes has been eye-opening. In the US, for example, an NPR study shows kindergarten enrolments are down 16%. There has been a similar drop in primary and secondary enrolments, and a Clearinghouse report showed the number of high school graduates going on to college dropping by an incredible 22%. That means between one in five and one in eight students are simply not enrolling back in the system.

Faith in digital transformation

In the UK, faith in the education systems’ ability to go digital was shaken further by the UK exams fiasco last summer, in which the Government made a spectacular U-turn on the botched results of grades-by-algorithm, abandoning the system at the 11th hour in place of teacher-assessed grades.

The result is an entirely new breed of education institutions emerging, which have fully embraced cloud technology to deliver a more effective, personalised education at a fraction of the cost of many traditional institutions.

Traditionally, the curriculum that most western education establishments follow centres around subject study, gradually honing down interests and passions to follow a direct career path.

But what if this process is no longer fit for purpose?

What if it isn’t equipping our future generations with the skills they will need and ultimately, students are ill-prepared to offer any meaningful value to the working world?

Some of the jobs we are preparing children for today may even be redundant in the future. Couple this with the widespread use of education technology (edtech) on a worldwide scale as a result of social distancing measures, and we have the perfect storm for the education revolution.

In place of the old rises the new. Schools are now competing with global online high schools, with Stanford University’s Online High School leading the way. More progressive universities, including Harvard and Cambridge are now providing online education at lower cost, with a global reach. 

An entirely new breed of edtech institutions has sprung up, with BYJU in India, Yuanfudao and Zuoyebang in China all now worth over $10 billion each with millions of students attending online classes daily. Coursera and EdX are providing degree level online courses in partnership with universities including the University of London – at a fraction of the cost of an in-person degree. 

This has led to an edtech investment boom, with a record $16 billion USD of funding raised by 1,500 edtech companies during the pandemic. Education Research firm, HolonIQ predicts over one hundred billion-dollar edtech companies will exist by 2025.

The rise of AI

Over the next 10 years, with the rise of artificial intelligence and automated technology, traditional, manual or customer service-based roles will diminish and there will be less need for a large workforce when computers and machines can do the role equally well. This gap in the job market will only add to the effects of the recession and unemployment as countries struggle to create a stable infrastructure after the pandemic.

By educating all students differently – with an emphasis on equipping them to create their own job role rather than relying on the traditional job market – we will begin to see the job market changing and economies revitalised by range of diversified and progressive businesses that actually identify and fill gaps in the marketplace.

Entrepreneurial and investment skills should be firmly on the curriculum. Both critical factors in a world which is needing to reinvent itself as a result of the jobs crisis as well as the education crisis.

Every single person on the planet has their own set of skills and are naturally talented in different areas of business. By enabling students to identify and hone these skills in their schooling years, rather than struggling with areas they are not so confident in, a more robust and dynamic body of students will emerge to help rebuild this new world that we have found ourselves in.

An entrepreneurial education offers each child the chance to thrive and grow their passions, developing the skills that they are naturally more gifted at. This progressive education offers child centred, personalised learning pathways igniting the genius in children, creating self-aware lifelong learners who are our empowered future leaders.

The idea is to flip the traditional education experience that can be disengaging, irrelevant and redundant in a one size fits all model, to a model that is personalised and individualised, bringing out the unique genius in every child.

Preparing for a digital world

The job market and businesses in the years to come will rely on ever evolving technology so teaching these skills to our children today makes good business sense. We need to prepare every one of them for this new digital world, where offline and online will merge, almost seamlessly and technology will be so ingrained it will be difficult to function without it.

Skip forward a few years and each student can then become a mentee, matched entirely to a company who they fit best with – offering their new world skills to the business whilst gaining real world experience from the mentor.

This model places the youngsters at the heart of business and educates the business owners by a generation who, in fact, are a better model of humanity; the ones who have grown up with the technology driving businesses today and who have the benefit of evolution, who may be younger, but are the more advanced model.

Business can only benefit from this new work force and educational model. Giving everyone a chance to be entrepreneurial creates a level playing field and enables the workforce of tomorrow to learn how to forge their own path in a rapidly changing economic landscape. Whether they start their own business and employ others, or choose to bring their skills into an existing company, the entrepreneurial spirit will be invaluable.

Will many of the schools be able to survive by reverting to the old ways of doing things when this pandemic is over? Perhaps but they will need to adapt. It is those that acknowledge parent and student expectations have been irreversibly changed, and that choose to reinvent themselves, which will be the leaders in a new education revolution.

In this new paradigm, the classroom in the cloud – combined with high tech delivery and high touch tuition – will be at the heart of education, not the wrapping around it.

Roger James Hamilton is a world-renowned social entrepreneur, futurist, New York Times bestselling author and co-founder of Genius School. Genius School is the world’s first global, virtual school providing a full curriculum designed to nurture entrepreneurs, artists, changemakers and global citizens. Roger is also founder of Genius Group, a multi-million dollar group of companies leading the entrepreneur movement which includes tech company GeniusU, with a target to educate more than 100 million entrepreneurs to achieve the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. www.geniusgroup.net

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