How to educate the new generations to a changing world?
Srinivas Venkatram How do we want our young people to deal with a world that is changing in unprecedented and unanticipated ways? Do we want them to ‘reactively cope’ with a changing world – educated as they are with a set of concepts and tools invented in an earlier, more stable world? Or do we want them to be equipped to ‘proactively engage’ with this change? In other words, what are the outcomes we must seek from our educational system in the context of an ever-evolving world? The first outcome we seek is to help young people define new aspirations for themselves. The present structure of education offers individuals well defined professional identities like doctors, teachers, engineers etc. While this may continue to be valid, we also need to offer young people opportunities to define new identities for themselves – new professions, new education and life pathways, new ways of defining ‘achievement’, new ways of engaging with the current realities. Put differently, can young people be enabled to go beyond being ‘achievers’ who aim to succeed within an existing order to becoming ‘evolutionary adventurers’ who will engage positively with and leverage change to create a better planet? The second educational outcome we seek is giving young people something more than cultural and technical capacities. They need to be enabled to climb the ‘ladder of evolutionary capacities’.
© Srinivas Venkatram, May 2015
The first stage of the ladder is helping young people develop sense-making capacities – capacities that enable them to handle the vast amounts of information and knowledge in the world around them. The result: young people will be able to integrate and synthesize this information into their own personal vision of life.
At the second level, young people need to be enabled so that they can build new modes of thinking – such as design & solution thinking, thinking in winwin (instead of win-lose) terms, sustainability thinking, and so on. These new modes of thinking need not only new intellectual tools and concepts, but also a wider “frame of thinking” which is more inclusive, more long-term, more tolerant and more purpose & meaning oriented.
At the third level, we need to provide them with the capacity for “evolutionary response”. What happens when we face a challenge that we have never faced before or we find ourselves incapable, at that point in time, to solve? Evolutionary response capacities help us step back, awaken deeper resources within ourselves, and engage with the problem from a new, higher or different plane of thought or being. In short, we evolve in order to respond.
Finally, most important, we need to help the new generation build a new vision of themselves. They need to develop themselves not as skilled workers or competent individuals, but as individuals with a vast access to infinite human possibilities and capacities within themselves – capable of learning and evolving in step with the evolution in the world around them.
This vision of infinite human possibilities may well need to be the foundation of a new educational system. When we truly believe (and act out of that belief) that each young person is capable of infinite potential and possibilities – we will measure them differently, grade them differently, teach them differently and hire them differently. Even more important, they will see themselves differently. Instead of viewing themselves as individuals coping with an ever-unfamiliar world, they will see themselves as evolutionary adventurers who will build a new, more positive, society.
© Srinivas Venkatram, May 2015