Beas Dev Ralhan, the CEO & Co-founder of Next Education India, a service provider in the education sector, deliberates on what all ingredients go into the creation of a 21st century school…
Schools today are not what they used to be. Technology, pedagogy, the influence of globalization, changing needs of organizations, have all influenced education to a great extent. This cultural shift is prompting educators to reform the existing traditional curriculum and provide students with a broader set of 21st century skills so they can thrive in a rapidly changing, technology-driven world. With the changing times, educators are also realizing the fact that traditional educational models are not adequate to fulfil the learning needs of a generation that is growing up consuming media on tablets and smart devices, is technologically aware and any information they need is right on their fingertips.
Aspects like globalization, automation and changing organizational structures are demanding a new kind of workforce. Specialization and skills are now playing an important role in defining the job market, and the responsibility of creating tomorrow’s technology leaders, innovators and inventors has now fallen on the shoulders of educators. This brings us to the question, are they ready?
The need for new knowledge and updated skills in subjects like maths, languages and science has become the characteristic of modern education. Students must also be taught how to apply this new set of skills and knowledge to real world situations. For this, they need to develop a very broad set of in-demand competencies, which include the ability to think critically, solve new problems, develop skills for communication and collaboration, create new tools to use new technologies and the ability to adapt to change very swiftly.
The education sector was technologically stagnant for a large part of the last century. It’s only in the last decade or so that the sector started to adopt technology and innovative pedagogies with a conscious thought of stepping into the 21st century. Research in child psychology, how children learn, types of learners, new methods of instruction are all being utilized by the sector to optimise the teaching-learning process. Today’s education is far more immersive and engaging than what it used to be more than a decade or two ago. Thanks to digital classroom solutions, resource management platforms, cutting-edge curriculum content and innovative pedagogies, the transformation of education is already underway.
With impending challenges and equally impressive opportunities, today, the Indian education sector is at an interesting juncture. Many institutions today are forced to respond to growing technological pressures to serve a diverse group of students who have very high expectations from their learning environments. To face these challenges and grasp the opportunities that lie in front of them, institutions must swiftly evolve efficiently and effectively. Choosing the right components that go into creating the 21st century school will be a part of this evolution. Creating a 21st century school requires a complete rethinking and re-imagining, right from the school design, infrastructure planning, classroom design, play activities to pedagogies, type of teachers and a whole lot more. Let’s see what goes into creating the 21st century school?
As Winston Churchill rightly put it, “We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us”. It’s a fact that the influence of physical structures in a given environment is enormous on human beings. An institution’s design and physical structure becomes its characteristic over a period of time. Focus on the aesthetic significance of the institution will create a sense of belonging among students and also establish an inspiring civic presence.
With the introduction of concepts like flexible classroom, makerspaces, mini libraries and designated areas for hands-on activities, educators can provide an engaging, efficient and an expressive learning environment. Ideally, the classrooms should be flexible and adaptive as per the changing requirements in instruction to support teachers and to accommodate the diverse learning needs of students. Adherence to sustainability, environmental friendly design that allows maximum light and air flow would be a great advantage as well.
It is fact that every student has his own individual style of learning, therefore, it’s a challenge for teachers to identify which approach is right for instruction. A pedagogical approach will immensely help teachers to know the strengths, weaknesses and needs of individual students, group them together and deploy the relevant pedagogies to increase the effectiveness of instruction. Pedagogies like personalized learning, flipped classrooms, collaborative learning, self learning, hands-on learning, gamification, visual thinking can be employed to improve the overall learning experience.
To sum it up, the schools of tomorrow should not only transform themselves into the nerve-centers of productive learning, but also help students in gaining specialized skills that will empower them to lead the innovations of the future. Schools should create future citizens who are well equipped to grapple the realities that tomorrow presents. The changing world demands a new kind of school that can empower students with the skills, tools and knowledge to navigate the world where technology will be a dominant factor. So, I guess that’s our cue. Let’s get working.
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