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Challenges of 21st Century Education

As an educator with over 25 years of experience in both higher and secondary education I have realized how important it is for leaders, teachers and parents to understand where we are and where we are heading to in terms of education, particularly, primary and secondary education. It is crucial to analyse the socio- historical context and predict, anticipate and visualize the 21st century education scenario: teaching-learning processes, pedagogical practices, the role of technology and media and the impact of globalisation.

Human intelligence produces technology and social change with such rapid speed that we are often unable to cope with it. The availability of and accessibility to information anywhere and everywhere has impacted our lives both positively and negatively.

The children of the “generation-Z” (Ref. The Generations by Michael T. Robinson) are the techies, and they are also called the iGeneration (Ref. Teaching the iGeneration by Larry D. Rosen) because of the Apple line up of popular products such as iPad, iPod, iBall, iPhone etc.

These children live in a media saturated society and have access to e-mails, SMS, Facebook, Face Time, Skype, Twitter, Blogs, WhatsApp, iCloud, Cloud Sound etc. Dr. Douglas Kellner has rightly pointed out that the technological revolution has an even greater impact on society than that of the erstwhile transition from oral to print culture.

Two decades ago children were not aware of the local and global issues as much as they are today. Perhaps they were not expected to be aware of the global issues. Today, they have the internet and they are connected and live in a very complex and diverse society. They are constantly confronted with real-life issues such as poverty, corruption, terrorism, fundamentalism, environmental and health issues, social issues on a day-to-day basis both locally and globally.

It is not just enough for us to understand the impact of technological revolution and the media saturated society but in fact we need to adapt to the developments and bring about changes to make our education relevant for the 21st century.

As educators we must realize that the technological revolution and media- saturated society has brought in a new paradigm into our education; therefore, it is imperative to re-define the concept of education and re-visit our education system, curriculum and pedagogical practices and assessment practices.

In the present context of the developments and changes it is clear that text-book driven, examinations centred curriculum, right answers and grades and ranks, though important, are not going to help our students face the challenges of the 21st century.

In the words of Alvin Toffler the author of Future Shock, “the 21st century illiterates will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn and re-learn”.

Our educational mind-set and school culture needs to be aligned to the new realities of the 21st century otherwise as Scott McLead says our education will be dangerously irrelevant. (Ref. Technology, Leadership and the Future School)

Curriculum, pedagogical and assessment practices must be based on real world and real life situations. They must know and deal with issues that impact human life and society.

Our educational system, teaching-learning processes and curriculum must take into consideration the diverse interests and talents of the student and needs to be based on real- life experience. It must be outcome based, i.e., what students should know and can do.

Curriculum should be flexible and give freedom to the students so that they can express their views, challenge current views, engage in research, and enable them to synthesize, analyse and evaluate information and data. Education must be authentic and prepare students personally, socially, emotionally, ethically and intellectually to face the challenges of the future.

Our education system, teaching learning processes and curriculum must acknowledge the potential of our young students and take into consideration their voice and believe that they can make a difference in their society. A glaring example, is the first ever youngest Nobel Laureate Ms. Malala Yousafzai who received the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of seventeen.

During the Industrial revolution, human labour was replaced by machines, today our intellectual labour is seemingly getting replaced by technology. Therefore, our education system and processes must carefully balance the integration and use of technology and ensure our human intelligence is not replaced by technology. The role of technology should be to complement and supplement our human intelligence and network and collaborate locally and globally.

Sharanya Narayani International School (SNIS) is a progressive school where the leaders and parents together will work in partnership to ensure that our students are prepared for the 21st century in the above ways mentioned.

Pradip K. Das
Principal & Head of School

January 24, 2015

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