Education at heart of sustainable future

The future of humanity depends on how well we can move towards more sustainable, equitable and healthy ways of living. A reworked education system to serve this purpose can drive the changes we need.

We hear people talk about fixing ‘broken systems’ of education. In reality, the systems are working well but in pursuit of the wrong things. They do not serve the needs of humanity and must be repurposed and shifted in order to do so. This urgently requires the design and implementation of a new vision for education, both inside and outside of the classroom, and practical steps that we must all take now.

Current state of education

Education systems, as they are set up today, are inherently inequitable in terms of gender, race, social background.

This includes school, where we shape our young people into the adults they will become; and work, where we as adults do most of our learning – our workplaces fundamentally shape who we are as humans.

Instead of preparing learners for the problems that humanity faces, most systems of education and work are set up to support the pursuit of economic growth, and the accumulation of wealth and capital. This creates imbalance in those systems whereby the key issues of sustainability, human health and equity are not being properly addressed.

The learning products and experiences that are being created within these systems are both a result of the problematic systems and are contributing to the problem.

The result of all of this is stressed out learners, stressed out employees, deepening inequity and environmental crisis.

Repurposing future of education

Imagine if systems of education, work and the economy were repurposed to pursue the globally beneficial goals of sustainability, health, happiness and equity. Imagine if these metrics were used instead of income, wealth acquisition and growth.

If education is to be repurposed to secure humanity’s future, then the beliefs and assumptions upon which society rests must be questioned. The focus of education must be to pursue what we collectively need, rather than seeking to increase global GDP.

There is a need to act now

We must shift systems of education, work and learning design to pursue the things we need for the future and we all have a part to play:

  • We must all work to increase our awareness of the problems in the current systems.
  • We must question our biases and privileges, and must not assume all people have, or want, the technology that we have to offer.
  • We must question and challenge our ways of working and decision-making, improving inclusivity by removing barriers to welcome, support and amplify a wider spectrum of experiences.
  • We need to allow room for the natural worries and anxiety that come with change and accept that these are legitimate responses.
  • We need to create spaces where people can share, learn and collaborate.
  • We need to create new, emergent curricula that cultivate the skills we all need for the future.

By raising consciousness and shifting existing systems, we can create the learning products and experiences that humanity needs and that everyone can fully participate in.

This is where we believe the future of edtech resides. 

This article first appeared in “The Future of Edtech”, distributed with The Guardian newspaper, on 23rd September 2021.

Lucy Williams
Head of Education, LearnJam

Jo Sayers
Head of Product & Technology, LearnJam 

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