As I recently discovered, there is nothing quite like being a parent to make you feel old. During the holidays, I decided to do a spring clean, and came across an old collection of tapes. This instantly brought back memories of trying to record the Top 40 Countdown from the radio so that I could listen to the latest hits on my Walkman – I really am showing my age! Of course, my children had never seen a tape before and simply couldn’t comprehend this strange object from a bygone era. Not only did this make me feel incredibly old, it also reminded me just how much technology has changed our lives. For today’s children the cloud is no longer just something you see in the sky; type the word Amazon into Google and you’re unlikely to find any reference to the jungle, and when asked about the features of the web, children are more likely to talk about the latest YouTube clip than to comment on how it is used to catch flies.
We are now living in an age where virtual reality, robots and artificial intelligence are no longer just science fiction. Technology has opened up a world of new possibilities which has radically changed the way we live and work. Indeed, researchers claim that 65% of children will be working in jobs which don’t exist yet. Despite this rapidly changing world, our education system has hardly changed over the last 100 years. Whilst interactive whiteboards may have replaced blackboards, and iPads and laptops are now common place in classrooms, what we teach and how we teach it has largely remained the same. Our education system in the UK tends to prize memorization rather than curiosity and creativity, teacher led instruction rather than collaboration and enquiry and getting the right answer rather than learning through trial and error. However, if our children are to be successful in the future, it is precisely these skills: collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and resilience which they will need to demonstrate. As Andreas Schliecher, a German data scientist said, “The advent of AI should push us to think harder about what makes us human” otherwise he warns we will be educating “second-class robots and not first-class humans.”
At Castle Court, we are currently reviewing our curriculum to ensure it enables our pupils to develop the knowledge, skills and character necessary to be successful and fulfilled in an ever-changing world. This means putting children’s learning and their well-being at the heart of everything that we do. Introducing the 7Cs (collaborative, courageous, creative, compassionate, committed, curious and courteous) has been a first step along this process and we now want to develop this further by ensuring that pupil’s learning and their needs drive the curriculum and not the other way around. Whilst it is easy to be dazzled by new technology, there is nothing more amazing than a child’s capacity to learn. Children can analyse, question, empathise, create, communicate, imagine, show compassion and dream in a way that robots cannot. It is these distinctive human qualities which we must treasure and nurture to enable our children to embrace the challenges that lie ahead of them in tomorrow’s brave new world. As Alvin Toffler said, ‘The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.’