Embracing Innovation Makes Education Systems Smarter
Innovation is not solely about products. It’s the reinvention of social processes such as education to how it can be more effective, efficient and sustainable than current solutions. As the world is changing, schools need to adapt to keep up. Restructuring traditional educational systems could just be the start…
Education is the foundation of every economy. What and how we learn determines us as individuals and our success later in life. Schools are there to help prepare kids for life. But everyone processes information in different ways, especially in the classroom as children’s skills are only just developing.
The key to development and nurturing a child’s potential is innovation — it’s not only about products. It’s the reinvention of social processes, in this case, it’s educational innovation. They are novel solutions to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable and scalable in the long term than current solutions. As the world is changing, schools need to adapt to keep up.
A leading example of major educational reform for schools is Finland, who impressively and consistently produces the highest-achievers for mathematics, reading and science alike. Some 40 years ago, they scrapped the traditional academic system centred on evaluation with frequent testing and gone against the grain. They’ve achieved results focusing on school autonomy instead of school rankings, portfolios over exam grades, inquiry-based learning instead of memorisation and real world context topics rather than traditional subjects. Finland’s 100% state-funded system’s unconventional approach is truly admirable.
Pasi Silander, Digitalisation Lead of City of Helsinki, currently leads the digitalisation strategy process of Finland’s capital city’s schools, states that schools should promote competencies for the future, 21st century skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and learning skills. These soft skills are needed, while hard skills (e.g. memorising facts, basic calculation — this can be argued since no one wants to be ripped off when doing a grocery shop, for instance) will be done more or less by computers in the future. Computers already do all calculations in financial sectors to determine who’s allowed a loan and when stocks should be bought/sold. Kids cannot not compete in their future working life with computers or robots, especially when they’re automated or algorithms working 24/7.
This is a prevalent issue across the world as long-term thinking should be implemented, which students find rewarding as learning should be, rather than revising and trying to pass tests. Ultimately, students will learn more authentic skills and competencies to serve working life and future society better.
Being in the digital technology age, it will play a bigger role in the education system beyond being an Information Technology subject and computers used for word processing essays. Application of robots in the South Korean schools have experimented with robot teachers. This makes lessons more interesting and entertaining for kids and enables teachers from anywhere in the world to be “present” in the classroom.
Another institute leading charge is Summit Sierra’s approach to personalised learning — a form of education that uses technology to empower students to guide their own instruction — is one of the most effective ways to teach kids. Bill Gates has praised Summit Sierra from a visit in 2016. The Seattle-based school is within the Summit Public Schools Network and caps enrollment at 200. Each day, kids read and solve maths problems both for 30 minutes, take online courses, and meet with other students to talk and share their feelings during Community Time — dedicated class for to help build character and become well-rounded people.
Although kids guide their own learning, teachers still play a vital role. Summit teachers get matched with students who they mentor for all four years to discuss career and life goals.
Teachers can also use in-house software to see which of their dozen or so students has completed certain assignments and exams. Gates has stated that kids taking an active role in their education, they will learn responsibility and self-reliance.
Supporting education innovation are organisations such as HundrED. The non-profit foundation discovers inspiring innovations in K12 education — the American, Canadian and many other countries’ equivalent of British comprehensives. Their goal is to help improve education by inspiring a grassroots movement through encouraging pedagogically sound. This is achieved by annually discovering and electing 100 great innovations in K12 education from around the world, then whittled down through a rigorous criteria process based on innovativeness, impact and scalability. All the innovations are packaged and shared with the world for free, so developing countries are able to easily implement a sound system and benefit too.
The Center for Education Innovations (CEI) seek to provide systemic and easy-to-access information and evidence about these programs around the world, both big and small. This can aid in global understanding about the results of education innovations, and how to support those that show promise to scale their positive impact. The systematic and ease-of-access information is demonstrated by them hosting customised virtual collaboration spaces for various groups in this field, including the Girls’ Education Challenge and STIR Education — a teacher-led movement to improve children’s learning in developing countries.
There’s also N77 Society whose key value is promote technology and innovation that is primarily beneficial for the future of humanity. In one capacity of N77, they’re keeping a close eye on the how education systems are changing and how it can affect the next generations, by supporting experimental education tools and assessing the wrong ones.
For students to become the best they can be, education systems need to promote creativity, innovation and critical thinking. After all, it’s not enough to give students knowledge, the education system has to give students a way of transforming knowledge into action.
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Author Name: Francesco Segramora