Learning for the future

I read a blog post this morning by Brian Khun on Preparing students for education futuristics. Brian starts with a quote from (US) President Barack Obama’s Sep. 8, 2009 speech in which he says:

What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.

It’s a pretty compelling challenge. Think of the things that the students in our schools of today are likely to face as issues that they will be responsible for resolving once they are in the sorts of positions we are in today, population growth, hunger, poverty, eco-terrorism, bio-ethics, etc. etc. The list goes on, and what our students are learning in schools today must provide them with the skills and competencies to find solutions for a sustainable global future.

Brian’s post is worth a read through as he traces a number of key developments in our education system (consistent with some of the thinking in the Animate I shared in my previous post) to build a case for a future focused aspect to our curriculum. He  finishes his post by posing the following question:

What if there was a futuristics component woven through the curriculum?  How will kids be prepared to tackle the enormously complex problems we seem to be leaving to them?  Destruction of nature / pollution, disappearing natural resources, nanotechnology, biotechnology, poverty, hunger, the list goes on.  Who will solve these problems and create a better future?  We better prepare those that will!

This is a universal challenge. Thankfully, a Future Focus is one of the principles in the New Zealand Curriculum, where it states:

The curriculum encourages students to look to the future by exploring such significant future-focused issues as sustainability, citizenship, enterprise, and globalisation.

Having it in the Curriculum statement is one thing, making it happen in classrooms is another. The NZC Online site has a growing list of support materials and digital stories to assist teachers with this focus.

A foundation in basic literacy and numeracy will continue to be important in developing such dispositions in our young people – but we cannot allow the entire focus of our education system to be absorbed with this – a future focused curriculum must take seriously the need to adequately prepare our young people to not only live in the future, but to be actively involved in shaping it, addressing its problems and concerns, and resolving some of the apparently irresolvable issues that are likely to confront them. This must include not only learning about the future (futures studies) but also about developing the dispositions such as being enterprising, problem solving, tolerant etc. It also means we need to be constantly examining the things that we are modelling in our practice in schools – the values, attitudes and behaviours that will reinforce and establish future focused dispositions more powerfully than any of our explict teaching will do.

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