One of the privileges of being a Head is the opportunity to attend international conferences, where eminent speakers from around the world share their educational ideas and philosophies. This last weekend, I attended one such conference where we were reminded that our role was to educate pupils to build a better world for the 21st century. Speaker after speaker reiterated this theme; as educators we need to develop internationally minded people who, in recognising our common humanity, want to help create a better and more peaceful planet.
As teachers we are becoming more aware that the skills needed for tomorrow are non routine and analytical, where people have to think creatively, be able to problem solve and show emotional intelligence. It reminded me of John Dewey, a renowned educational reformer, who commented, “if we teach today as we were taught yesterday we rob our students of tomorrow”.
What matters most to teach to an increasingly interdependent world, is not knowledge or facts. This is because knowledge is easily accessible with the proliferation of subject based websites, the ubiquity of the internet and connectable devices and the comfort and ease students have with sharing knowledge through the digital world. Instead we need to teach them how to think, to analyse and to question. The teacher is no longer the fountain of all knowledge but the skilled operator who shows how our pupils can use this information to answer complex problems. The interconnectivity of the world makes the problems our pupils will have to deal with in the future more complex. Our role is to prepare them for this, give them the capacity to enquire and think in flexible and informed ways about issues of global significance.
As teachers we have to constantly look forwards. It is not just about what they learn but how. Our pupils are increasingly confident with the digital world. In the palm of one hand there is more processing power than the main frame computer we used in teaching ten years ago. Hand held devices are becoming increasingly relevant in teaching. Our displays around schools now have QReader codes on them, the girls scan the code with their mobile phone which immediately takes them to a website where they can learn more about the display. They are connected to classrooms all over the world where they can share and learn about other cultures. The classrooms in ten years should be vastly different to the ones today, reflecting the collaboration of ideas rather than the imparting of knowledge from the front. Classrooms used to have platforms on which teachers would stand – the sage on the stage, increasingly teachers are interacting with pupils in groups, in pairs or on their own as they follow lines of enquires that stretch their thinking.
We have to constantly question what we do. These conferences help me reflect on what we are doing. They encourage me to think creatively and to be bold in our actions. This conference certainly did this and it was very refreshing. The future of education is very exciting, as Heppell said we are entering into a new dawn of learning, of which BGS will be very much part.