According to a new international study, “schoolchildren in the developing world may be better equipped for the demands of the 21st century than their European and American counterparts, because they are adapting faster to changing needs”.
The researchers blamed this in part on a “growing lack of ambition among their children, fed partly by social inequality that schools have failed to redress”.
Scanning through the executive summary shows nothing really new (“Under-performance in mathematics is associated with under-performance in reading”).
But it does reinforce an important point we should already know.
That an increasingly vital skill for any adult is the ability to recognize changing conditions and quickly acquire new skills to meet them, largely on their own.
The “life-long learner” from almost every school’s mission statement.
Any number of government reports have told us for years that the students in our classrooms today will have multiple careers in their lifetime, as many as fifteen.
Not different jobs. Entirely different careers, some of which haven’t been developed yet.
While this story is reported in a publication with an instructional technology focus, none of this has anything to do with technology. The primary cause of the problem is not a shortage of computers or a lack of access to networks.
It is an educational system that is structured around the gathering and retention of facts rather than fostering the skills needed to manage information.
Considering past rants around here, you might expect me to blame No Child Left Behind and the pervasive standardized testing culture for getting us into this mess.
NCLB is only one of many chains, often masquerading as school reform, that have locked schools into a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching and learning.
However, while the findings from this report do make a lot of sense, there is another major cause for our educational problems that the writers get completely wrong.
The “social inequity” they observe in this and other of the richest nations is not the job of the schools to “redress”.
That responsibility belongs to everyone.