As we are stepping into 2018 a critical event looming over the last few years have surfaced in full force. That is the ‘global learning crisis’ affecting children and young people of today. Let’s take a closer look at this phenomenon, why we should care and more importantly what we can do to counteract it.
This blog is based on Can We Leapfrog? The Potential of Education Innovations to Rapidly Accelerate Progress. It’s a comprehensive report published by Rebecca Winthrop, Eileen McGivney and Adam Barton, researchers at The Center for Universal Communication at The Brookings Institution, Washington USA.
Global learning crisis
The global learning crisis refers to the huge disparity of learning levels experienced by children and young people across the world. International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity (the Education Commission) predicts in 2030, 825 million children in low- and middle-income countries would have reached adulthood without developing the skills they need to succeed in work and life. Then there is the ‘100 year gap’. Whereby it is also predicted that young people belonging to marginalized communities of today, will take another 100 years to reach the learning levels their wealthy peers have achieved right now.
Why must we care?
To overcome the two main global education challenges: skills inequality and skills uncertainty. The inequality in learning levels is observed between countries and also within countries. We live in a world where underprivileged children need another 100 years to catch up to the education level their wealthy peers have right now. This is without taking into account the type of education children will need in the future. On the other hand we must prepare our youngest citizens for jobs, lives and a future we can hardly predict, let alone understand. We need to support them to develop skills that will help face the challenges of the future. However, we certainly can’t wait a century to do so.
What is ‘leapfrogging’?
Simply put leapfrogging is a form of speeding up the educational progress. The aim is to help all children and young people acquire the skills they need much faster than at the currently predicted 100 years pace. Moreover, it also strives to prepare them for the skills uncertainty of the future. Thus, any practice which facilitates these goals is defined as leapfrogging. They must
- Focus on the range of skills developed by children
- Put curiosity at the heart of teaching
- Promote play based experiential learning
- Allow children who are rich, poor, in or out of school to access and benefit from these approaches alike
Leapfrogging is not about skipping steps to move as fast as possible along a specific path. It is more the idea of achieving quick and nonlinear progress without following the traditional path. In the process of doing so, it may skip a few steps and perhaps even end up in a completely new destination.
The education paradox
A major question the global education community faces today is if skills inequality and skills uncertainty can be tackled together. The teaching methods schools use to teach the most marginalized students often reinforce formal education structures. These education structures hold back students from developing skills essential for life in the future. In other words attempts to counteract present day skills inequality is contributing to the skills uncertainty of the future. ‘Education innovation’ can play a role in leapfrogging through these limits in education systems.
How do we leapfrog?
According to the report there are 2 key ways for education to leapfrog. First is to set a pathway using existing evidence and practices on ways we can transform what and how children learn. Doing so makes the leapfrogging path a realistic possibility. The second is a catalog of education innovations. It provides an understanding of how education can leap onto different destinations along the leapfrogging path. To create this catalog the Center of Universal Education brought 15 ‘Education Innovation Spotters’. They researched programs, schools, policies, approaches and tools, and put together almost 3,000 education innovations. To sum up the pathway highlights the collaborative efforts of the education innovations community. For instance it can identify how two innovations with limited potential when operating alone, can make remarkable frog leaps through education together. Meanwhile, the catalog extends the much needed overview of what the diverse education innovations community looks like.
What have we found out so far?
Over 85% of the countries in the world produced innovations that are included in the catalog. Most of them focuses on poor and marginalized children. Also, most of the innovations aim to transform the teaching and learning process through play-based learning practices. Moreover, the education innovations community collaborates with governments, civil society groups and the private sector to kick-start their projects. However, there are significant gaps in providing teachers with professional development, governments taking the lead, focus on children living in crisis, conflict, or with disabilities, etc. There is also a lag in finding new ways to recognize learning, using technology to transform education and to make effectiveness data publicly available.
Where do we leapfrog from here?
The future of education innovation is truly optimistic with an energetic, diverse and widespread community behind it. They are supporting children and schools across the planet to create, participate and share new approaches. While the education innovations community tackles the gaps discussed, governments should provide increasingly conducive environments. Together, we can reduce the 100-year gap and solve the paradox of addressing skills inequality and skills uncertainty. Then we can leapfrog through education to a brighter future.
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