The myth of 21st Century Education
Smart presentations don't mean valuable insights. So it is with the current fad of presenting the vision of an all-new 21st-century education - through presentations, conferences and infographics - style trumps substance all the way through.
For, despite the claims of revolutionary changes in society and the workplace, the neat charts that lay down 21st-century skills next to the 20th-century one's show do not how different they would be, but rather how similar these are projected to be.
We are told that we have arrived at a fundamentally disruptive moment in history and we need new skills. So, we need, for example, communication and critical thinking, learning to learn and a host of other cool things. Indeed, many of those terms are very familiar to the educator: Many of those were around for more than two centuries, ever since the dreams of liberal education were spelt out.
When these slides were presented, I often wondered whether the point about critical thinking meant to mock you that you can't spot the difference? And, why does one think that communication skills were not needed in education, ever? If we were not thinking critically, what were we doing in education in the first place?
However, if you put your hand up and plead your inability to spot the difference, you would be asked to wait for the next slide. Then it will come - the keyword - 'Disruption': That the 20th century was the time of industrial revolution and machines; the 21st will be one of the information revolution (or something better, as information revolution too is so 20th century) and of more machines! The big claim will be made that the 20th century was all about 'hard skills' while the 21st century would demand softer ones. And, in the end, it will come down to Moore's Law - or some other exponential curve - to make the point that change has changed, fast has become faster and everything may look the same but will be different.
So, in summary, you will be told that even if everything looks the same, it will really be different. Different, because it is there on the slide!