In his book ‘Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon?’, educational thought leader Yong Zhao warns, “National standards and national curriculum, enforced by high-stakes testing, can at best teach students what is prescribed… As a result, students talented in other areas never have the opportunity to discover those talents. Students with broader interests are discouraged, not rewarded. The system results in a population with similar skills in a narrow spectrum of talents. But especially in today’s society, innovation and creativity are needed in many areas, some as yet undiscovered.”
Unfortunately, one-size-fits-all standardized curriculum is a reason for students’ demotivation and disengagement. Why school when one can learn anything in a self-paced mode via e-learning? Why memorise, cram and rote-learn for a test when one is 24/7 treading on an information super- highway? Educational institutions are slow in responding to adjust to and handle this information bombardment. With so much information readily available, the 21st century education must focus on making sense of that information, sharing and using it in smart way. Generally, education in any age focuses to prepare future generations to take their due place in society as learned citizens .The 21st century education is about empowering students with the life and work skills they need to succeed in this new – and still undiscovered- world. The coalition P21 (Partnership for 21st Century Learning) has identified four ‘Skills for Today’:
In order to have a race of future ready individuals, need is to integrate these skills in curriculum as there is often a deep mismatch between the skills students are taught in classrooms and the skills they need to function effectively .The 21st century education is about the above-listed Life Skills and more like Emotional intelligence, Problem Solving, Inquiry, Entrepreneurship, Time Management, Money Management etc. According to UNESCO, Life Skills are psychosocial abilities for adaptive and positive behaviour that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life. They are loosely grouped into three broad categories of skills: cognitive skills for analyzing and using information, personal skills for developing personal agency and managing oneself, and inter-personal skills for communicating and interacting effectively with others.
Be it past, present or future, although the role of teacher can never be ruled out yet it needs redefinition to fit on the canvass of ever changing world. The 21st century teacher is a lifelong learner and active entity of the education system ready to assist and inspire student learning. He is an effective team collaborator using the gamut of digital tools to improve student engagement in a global educational environment, and always insightful of making teaching – learning dynamic. In an age where students can access infinite amounts of information, certainly, he is not mere a transmitter of knowledge. He is a facilitator to help students make sense of information and analyse, enquire, critique, compile and apply that information to solve the problems of multitude range. Teachers have to be “guides on the side” instead of “sages on the stage.” He is not expected to be ultimate authority on a subject matter rather an analytical and rational facilitator who helps students make sense of vast information and use it skillfully. It is high time we adapt tested systems of education of countries like Finland and Singapore –supplemented by qualified ,energetic soldiers in form of teachers – for a progressive education of our blooming buds .
Finally, to sum up, the following excerpts from Einstein’s lecture ‘On Education’ in 1931 is a food for thought . ” On the other hand, I want to oppose the idea that the school has to teach directly that special knowledge and those accomplishments which one has to use later directly in life. The demands of life are much too manifold to let such a specialized training in school appear possible. Apart from that, it seems to me, moreover, objectionable to treat the individual like a dead tool. The school should always have as its aim that the young man leave it as a harmonious personality, not as a specialist. This in my opinion is true in a certain sense even for technical schools, whose students will devote themselves to a quite denite profession. The development of general ability for independent thinking and judgement should always be placed foremost, not the acquisition of special knowledge. If a person masters the fundamentals of his subject and has learned to think and work independently, he will surely find his way and besides will better be able to adapt himself to progress and changes than the person whose training principally consists in the acquiring the detailed knowledge.”