Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Global E-School: A Personal Note

Global E-School is Global and Entrepreneurial, but this is not an entrepreneur's school. It is for all those who need to be creative and imaginative at work, which is going to be everyone, really. I see this as a twenty-first century school responding to two big trends of the time, globalisation and automation. The idea is to build the school to prepare its students for the new workplace that's rapidly emerging.

Some of this may be obvious but are immediately resisted. Education is supposed to be a forward-looking enterprise, but also the most tradition-bound. This is because education's function in our societies is perpetuation of privilege and not creation of possibilities. But this is also why the model of education that we have is under threat, because to change the society, and society is changing not in face of any revolution but under the weight of technological change that it itself is bringing about, one must change education. HG Wells' point that history is a race between education and catastrophe perhaps need to be retold: It seems education is the wedge between history and catastrophe.
The 'E' in E-School obviously stand for entrepreneurialism. This is about an entrepreneurial frame of mind, rather than starting businesses. But there is another thing in this 'E', which is a fundamental assumption about how the workplaces will be - soon, now! There are a number of commentators who are looking at the changing workplace and what it means for skills. Howard Gardner's list, for example, have five things: Deep Knowledge about something ('Disciplinary Thinking'), ability to draw insights from wide interests ('Synthesis'), ability to imagine ('Creativity'), ability to work with diverse cultures and interests ('Diversity') and integrity ('Ethics'). Howard Rhinegold's take, which looks at the skills for the 'digital economy', focuses on the behavioural aspects - Attention, Participation, Collaboration, Critical Consumption and Network Smarts. One could perhaps see a combination of attitude, knowledge and behaviour arising out of the combination of these two sets of predictions.
 However, preparing a student for this needs tearing down the current educational model, and it is not easy. The current model is not supposed to do many of these things. Disciplinary focus is perhaps the only thing which is embedded in our current system, but synthesis and creativity is often discouraged. Diversity is neglected - education is a very national enterprise recirculating dominant cultures - and integrity, while advertised, is severely compromised at the time of across the board grade inflation. On the behavioral side, there is an even greater problem. Again, critical consumption is the only thing that gets some focus, but surely we need more of this in an age when people think Kayne West just allowed a newbie called Paul McCartney to get some attention (See news). Collaboration is frowned upon, participation and network smarts hardly understood and attention seems to be under siege as media wars are fought out right in the middle of the classroom.

This underlies the case for a general redesign of educational experience, and there one runs into power equations, not just of the distrust of change among educators but much larger issue of not wanting to upset the apple cart of social privileges. Everyone wants change to work for them, but the enterprise to engineer social change has failed so many times. Besides, educational change, for all the silicon valley proclamation, is usually slow and granular, changing one person at a time rather than changing the world in one click. The idea of a new kind of education should, therefore, be set out in a non-glamourous fashion, in prosaic terms such as curriculum and credit, and pursuing the real change through the culture of the institution, the values of those who teach and the approach to assessment and interactions with the wider world. 

This is the educational idea I want to pursue. This is a project I set out to do in 2010, when I left my recruitment career to get into education; and despite all the ups and downs and changes of course, I have only become more committed to the idea and found validation through experience. I wish to do this in Asia, the continent being the world's most exciting education market, though I have become convinced that this should be launched from a small country rather than a big country. This is indeed my pursuit in 2015, and hopefully it does not have to be like the statement I saw in Facebook: I must do this in 2015 because I thought about this in 2014 as I wrote them down in 2013 because I felt the necessity in 2012..

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