Throughout history, the purpose of education has taken many forms, from religious teachings to preparing society for an industrialised workforce. Fast forward to where we are today - we are living in a world that is full of exciting and endless possibilities, but with that, comes uncertainty, ambiguity, and sometimes even chaos.
To take on this topic, a host of leading educationists, teachers and parents converged digitally on the 3rd of March 2021, from across 3 continents at Leaps of Knowledge: Episode H - Here to Make a Difference. Leaps: Episode H featured the premiere of a documentary-style episode featuring insightful and global perspectives on the topic, practical workshops, and an illuminating Masterclass by a world-renowned Harvard Professor. The event had been highly anticipated and it did not disappoint.
“Leaps gave me refreshing perspectives on what other educators are thinking and also doing. Thank you for assembling so many prolific speaker-panelists. Their sharing helped to extend and frame our thoughts and experience.” - Lee Yong Yong, Teacher
“Leaps brought us into a safe space for passionate discussion with like minded individuals from diverse backgrounds and capacities. Time flew by much too fast!” - Rachel Goh, Participant
While time did go by too fast, here are the biggest takeaways from Leaps: Episode H.
This thought-provoking question posed by Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and Skills from the OECD made participants pause to reflect on how deeply interconnected our world is - what happens in one part of the world could directly or indirectly affect what happens in other parts of the world. Education plays a big role in connecting these dots so that students can be globally competent.
To be globally competent is to be able to think across problems from different disciplinary and social lenses, and collaborate with others who are different from us in problems that have no obvious solution. “A global citizen is knowing that our actions are connected to impact” said d’Arcy Lunn, Founder of Teaspoons For Change. And while turning off a light switch might not save the world, it shows that we care about energy and we understand that there is a connection between our action and impact in the world - and that is significant.
Kiran Bir Sethi, Founder of The Riverside School in Ahmedabad, India, and Design For Change shared that we often put in three great filters when teaching children: age (you’re too young, what will you know?), gender, and demographics (where you’re from determines where you move on in life). However she shared that when we remove these filters from the way we understand the partnership between the learner and the programme, the child is able to tell us what needs to be done for them to find purpose and empowerment.
For example, Kiran shared about a project her five year-olds were working on. They observed the school’s handyman running around back and forth to get his tools, and decided they have to make his life easier by creating a solution for him. So in this journey of designing a solution, they learned problem solving, creative thinking, and collaboration. But the one lesson they were teaching all of us is that age has nothing to do with competency.
Andreas Schleicher also shared that it’s remarkable how the latest PISA assessment on global competencies showed that some of the most resilient students are ones from the most disadvantaged families. They understand what it means to navigate in a complex, difficult situation.
“And I think for the future, they will probably be better prepared than students who had everything scripted for them and just followed a practice,” said Andreas Schleicher.
Kiran shared that embedded directly in the curriculum of The Riverside School is the opportunity to design ideas that can make a difference, whether you’re learning Maths, Physics, or English. Students are taught to have an “I CAN” mindset towards any challenge that comes their way, and this better prepares them to engage in today’s world. Kiran emphasised that building this worldview in students needs to be core rather than co-curricular,
“Cultures will change mindset, not just independent workshops, clubs or co-curricular activity. It has to be cultures and shared values lived out every single day.” Kiran notes that for teachers as well, it takes 365 days of personal professional development to build this mindset - not just 5, 10 or even 20 days, that most schools set up. “You can't change mindsets with just days. You have to do it on a daily basis,” says Kiran.
Elisa Guerra, Founder & Teacher at Colegio Valle de Filadelfia in Mexico also notes that if we are going to be teaching students about becoming global citizens, we should also be working in becoming global citizens ourselves.
As parents, we want to provide the best for our children but perhaps the best is closer to home than we believe. As Andreas Schleicher shared, "In the last 10 to 15 years, there has been a trend towards a commodification of education, where children became consumers of learning content, parents became clients, and teachers became service providers - everyone was expecting something and learning turned into a transactional experience. But in truth, the heart of learning is a social, relational experience. It's a whole-of-society project. And if parents are not an integral part of this, and parents do not feel to be part of the education experience of their children, education will not succeed." That’s something many education systems need to take more to heart.
For Karen Wong, Head of Centre at Kindity School, the element of parent-teacher relationship is the main focus for them in education. “It’s really important for us that we continue to build this relationship and make each interaction as meaningful as we can,” says Karen. When she gets to catch up with parents individually her first question is always about the parent - how they are doing - and not about their child.
When we think of building a culture to teach and practice global competency, sometimes the big gap between these aspirations and the reality of schools around the world can be daunting. Professor Fernando Reimers, the Ford Foundation Professor of the Practice of International Education at Harvard University is quick to remind us that “It's a journey - in every system, people are different stages of development. If you focus only on the deficiencies, you end up creating a world that is sick. It's much more productive if you start looking at the people who are doing good things, and put a spotlight on them. There is something amazing that happens when you look at the goodness in the world and you build on that.”
Elisa Guerra, Founder & Teacher at Colegio Valle de Filadelfia in Mexico also empathised with teachers who may be hesitant to integrate new practices in their classrooms, which is common in centralised educational systems. However, her message for teachers who believe in global competency but may be waiting for official instructions is this: “Teacher to teacher, we don't have to ask for permission to take agency. We are professionals - we need to assume that students are bright but we must also assume that we ourselves as teachers are also bright and are capable of doing this. Teaching global competency does require some work, but we can embed it in our curriculum easily enough.”
To aid in this effort, Professor Reimers has written a book called “Empowering Students to Improve the World in 60 Lessons” which guides teachers and parents to use a simple 13-step framework and 60 lessons to help grow students towards becoming true global citizens. At Leaps: Episode H, Datin Kathleen Chew, Programme Director of YTL Foundation launched the Bahasa Melayu translation of the book “Empowering Students to Improve the World in 60 Lessons” which will be made available soon to teachers and parents in Malaysia.
Don't just watch Episode H, sign up for The HEART Course! It's a free online course which creates a space where educators are excited to connect over ideas in education and start conversations that bring change to their classroom, school, and community.
In five sessions H-E-A-R and T, you can WATCH discussions and best practices from global thought-leaders following five themes in education. There also conversation prompts to help your group of educators DISCUSS ideas after each video, and toolkits to APPLY what you have learned. Each session also has a growing curation of resources from over 30 education partners in Malaysia and beyond. Educators like yourself can CONNECT with these partners to bring students’ learning beyond the classroom!
Get started with The HEART Course here.
Leaps of Knowledge invites everyone to be a game changer in education. Through a series of talks, workshops, conferences, and other events, featuring the world’s leading technologists, innovators, and shapers, we aim to inspire a sense of purpose and joy by changing hearts and shaping minds. In 2021, Leaps of Knowledge: The HEART Series is set to take place in 5 global online events throughout the year, featuring contextual topics in the themes of FrogAsia’s core values: H, E, A, R, and T respectively - Episode H: Here to Make a Difference, Episode E: Enjoy What You Do and Who You Do It With, Episode A: Act With Integrity, Episode R: Reach for Perfection and Episode T: Think Ahead and Out of The Box.