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Dr Anantha Duraiappah, Director, UNESCO - Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable development (MGIEP) on how our current education system needs to transform to help learners face 21st C challenges​

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It is often debated if our current education system is apt for our children. We live in a world where conflicts are a norm. Be it countries, governments, people, organisations the very basis of our society is to compete to be better than the other and not to be a well-flourished individual. Dr Anantha Duraiappah, director, UNESCO MGIEP recently spoke at the TECH 2017 conference and brought to light how our current education system fails to aid students with complete learning outcome and also, how it fails to train students to face the challenges of the 21st century.  

What are these challenges? The challenges are many, explains Duraiappah. “To begin with, let’s consider the job market, we have no idea what it’s going to be like in the next five years? A few years ago, we could predict the trend. Secondly, as a race we have set up global change processes and we have no idea what the consequences of these changes are. Climate change for instance, he explains. There are issues of automation, AI, these are very different challenges our society is facing and “The burning question is will our education system train the next generation to face these challenges?” Duraiappah asks.

Our current education system is over 300 years old and one must understand that it was built to address the needs of the industrial revolution. “It addressed the needs of the time, created workforce to man factories, produce goods,” says Duraiappah. He points out that the society has moved from goods to services, but primarily the same process of getting people trained to produce outputs remains constant. The question however remains, will our education system be able to meet the needs of the 21st C? “Our world needs, collaborations, but we pit one against the other in the name of competitiveness. In the end, we need a kind, compassionate society and an education system that can provide those competences,” he explains. Duraiappah explains, how the current education focuses on producing good human capital and expects to produce good human beings as a side product. “In fact, our education system has failed. It has successful produced a lot of anxiety amongst youngsters, just look at the number of student suicides cases every year.”

Duraiappah suggests that there needs to be single transformation in the whole sector where we making of a good human being is not a side product but the main objective of good education. “Transform the objective of education to human flourishing, human well-being, make it about happiness and you will have a side product will be highly productive individuals,” Duraiappah informs. He compliments this belief with scientific research where studies have shown socio emotional learning in childhood leads to better concentration in the classroom, attention regulation, it leads to better Math and Science performances.

Duraiappah asks for educators to flip the education system. “Flip it such that the whole curriculum focuses on the notion of happiness and wellbeing as the primary objective. Focus on empathy, mindfulness, critical inquiry and compassion,” he says, adding that, “critical inquiry is important as there needs to be a balance between emotional intelligence and intellectual intelligence.”

He suggests to make the system where learning fun, immersive and interactive, and where the students learn at their own pace. He gives a simple mantra for flipping the current education system– challenge mindsets, challenge norms and champion innovations.


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unesco TECH 2017 education education system

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