Are schools the production lines of the 21st century? Making the needs of young people the priority for the education system of the future.
As we approach the end of 2020 there is no doubt that this has been a difficult and challenging year for everybody working in education.
The positive response is to want some good to come out of a negative experience.
The hope is that this will inspire educationalists, to look for ways to improve young people’s learning experience in the future.
The unexpected challenges presented by the pandemic have exposed some of the realities about how our educational system works.
It is inevitable that this will encourage educationalists and everybody with an interest in education to question the priorities and purpose of our educational system.
This was illustrated by how the pandemic, impacted on the examination process in the summer of 2020 and questioned the relevance of the current education system in the country.
The purpose of the current education system, it can be argued, is to be a production line turning out workers for a capitalist economy.
Schools have accepted a role, similar to factories after the industrial revolution, where they produce the compliant and conforming members of society who can be employed in roles to generate wealth.
This system is sustained by national leaders, enforcing this view of the purpose of education being about raising standards, with the strategies of inspection, league tables and parental choice.
Thinking about the purpose of education in the rapidly changing world of the 21st century encourages educationalists to question if this view of an education system is meeting the real needs of modern society.
It is relevant to reflect on whether the workforce of the future will require compliant employees, or will it be more appropriate to develop qualities such as creativity, problem solving, and the ability to work with other people and share ideas, as being more important in the modern workplace.
Martin Illingworth in his recently published book, “Forget School”, argues that jobs in the future will be automated except for jobs that require creativity, emotional intelligence, or physical dexterity.
He calls for a curriculum that meets the needs of society and gives learners the best chance of participating (Illingworth 2020).
If this is true, then the implications for our schools is that the priority is not to enable learners to achieve standards and pass examinations.
It suggests that the role of the school in supporting the personal development of young people will become more important. Schools will have a role in developing the skills and attitudes that can then be demonstrated in the selection process for a job.
The task for schools will be to ensure a young person’s learning experience is relevant for making them employable in the modern world.
Schools will need to give more priority and invest time and resources in developing young people, that can make a positive contribution to society and to the economy.
There is a need for a collaborative approach to learning so young people can engage in collaborative problem solving (Illingworth 2020).
In the world of the 21st century, what you know becomes less important than the personal qualities that an individual can contribute. Google can find information at the press of a button.
This has implications for the design and implementation of relevant systems for the pastoral care and support of young people in schools in the future.
These pastoral systems of the future have a more important role than simply ensuring that young people in schools are compliant and conforming to meet the rules and expectations, to enable the school to achieve good examinational results.
Pastoral systems in schools have a role in developing personal qualities and skills, that can enable young people to sell themselves in the employment marketplace. “To be articulate these days is to be proficient online” (Illingworth 2020).
Pastoral systems and support provided for learners needs to make a real difference in developing the skills and attitudes that young people will need to be effective in the workplace and to make a positive contribution to society in the 21st century.
Schools and, in particular staff, working in pastoral roles need to be empowered to put the needs of young people at the heart of the learning process.
Providing time for pastoral work enables schools to invest valuable resources in supporting the learning experience of young people.
This needs to be deployed in a planned way, to ensure that these resources are being used to develop the personal qualities of the young people and prepare them for the workforce of the future and not on the production line of passing examinations.
“Remembering facts and passing examinations is not that useful anymore. Employers and clients are more interested in evidence of their online proficiency than in their examination results”. (Illingworth 2020).
Some of the possible responses to these challenges presented to schools, do not fit neatly into the curriculum boxes of subjects.
But pastoral systems have a more important role in meeting the more diverse needs of young people in preparing them for the demands of the modern world.
“Schools should be the perfect place to help children learn to collaborate”. (Illingworth 2020)
The pastoral systems of the future can provide schools with opportunities for young people to experience working collaboratively.
The challenge is not to focus on encouraging compliant and passive attitudes, because this approach supports the raising standards agenda.
The goal for pastoral systems in the modern school should be to encourage conformity but young people who challenge, question and clearly communicate their own views and opinions.
Pastoral care should be a dynamic process in schools, that encourages learners to develop the resilience, adaptability, and confidence to challenge ideas, that will enable them to be successful in the modern world and live fulfilled lives.
This focus on personal development in our education system is important for engaging young people in the learning process and to prepare a workforce for the country, that will be relevant for a modern society and economy.
As always these are my own thoughts but NAPCE would welcome your views and ideas.
Please follow NAPCE on Twitter (@NAPCE1.) Sharing our ideas means that we will emerge from the pandemic in a stronger position to focus our energy and expertise in making a difference in the future lives of young people.
I would like to take the opportunity to wish all our members and supporters on NAPCE, a Happy Christmas and to give my best wishes and hopes for a better year in education in 2021.
The National Association for Pastoral Care in Education
Illingworth, M. 2020. Forget School. Why young people are succeeding on their own terms and what schools can do to avoid being left behind, Carmarthen, Independent Thinking Press.