“We don’t need no education…” sings the British legendary rock band Pink Floyd in their song “Another Brick in the Wall” which famously protests against the need for education.
That was in 1979, so what’s changed since then? Well, there have been a few noteworthy events and innovations. Personal computers, the internet and Covid-19 to name just a few. Education is still here, but is it fit for purpose? Is education keeping pace with our rapidly changing world? How do educators prepare students to thrive in the future when we’re pegged to the present? Even the most perceptive person cannot see into the future.
One way to help unlock the best in our students and prepare them for a fulfilling future is to listen to them (crazy, I know!). The Future of Education Conference (FEC) is the capstone project of Grade 6 and a “soapbox moment” for students to amplify their voice. We challenge students to reflect on their past and current education and identify an area which they wish to change or they think is missing. Students then employ text analysis and informational writing skills to assimilate evidence and produce a persuasive presentation.
Joining Grade 6 students on their FEC journey has been enlightening. There have been compelling arguments to promote cross-curricular education, to support video games in lessons and use religious education to improve inclusivity and cultural awareness. FEC has sparked many a debate in our Grade 6 classrooms about the relevance of traditional subjects. Can a school’s curriculum accommodate both the Renaissance and blockchain? What about handwriting and coding? Our incredibly perceptive students are beginning to raise questions about the validity of subjects which have been taught for decades. Young people naturally look forwards and focus on the future. It is quite the juxtaposition for our students to grasp the importance of traditional subjects when their minds are developing in a digital age.
Some students feel passionately about reducing the volume of homework or duration of the school day. Perhaps these students might one day go on to form a Pink Floyd tribute act. Jokes aside, these students had different reasons to support their claims, but the common thread which tied them together was clear - mental health. Hearing students voice their concerns about a growing mental burden speaks volumes of their self-awareness. It also hints at a consensus amongst our Grade 6 cohort that education should be about more than just test scores and college admissions. Many students want schools to equip them for the mental rigors of life in the future. Who can blame them after countless months of solitary online learning.
A student recently asked me, “What is the main goal that THS hopes to achieve through FEC?”. The beauty of FEC is that it has many goals and students each take something different away from their experience. Some students might be led down a path of self reflection which helps them to begin to distill down what education means to them. Some students might feel inspired to make a difference in the status quo of education and not be another brick in the wall. For teachers, FEC is a “light bulb moment” which reminds us of the wants, needs and interests of the most important people in our classroom. The future of education is already here, they’re sitting in our classrooms.