This week, Big Change was invited to the OECD’s (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) Forum for World Education in Paris. Alongside global leaders in business, education, STEM, the arts and influential youth leaders, we joined a dynamic conversation about the future of education.
While it was encouraging to see slight improvements in the UK’s latest results for maths and literacy – the finding was marred by the fact that UK students showed some of the lowest levels of ‘life satisfaction’. In fact, British students ranked next to last among those agreeing that ‘my life has a clear meaning or purpose’. Further still, 66 per cent of young people said they were sometimes or always worried – concerningly higher than the OECD average of 50 per cent. As the UK grapples with a rising mental health crisis, an education system that fails one third of students, and 80 per cent of employers in agreement that young people are not prepared for work – it’s clear that we need to take a broader view of success and look at supporting new and diverse learning pathways.
The forum coincided with the release of the OECD’s 2018 PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) test results. The PISA assessment takes place every three years and assesses 15-year-old students from 79 countries in reading, mathematics and science. PISA has its critics, but is widely seen as the world’s most influential measure of education standards and aims to better understand how students master key subjects in order to be prepared for real-life situations.
At the forum in Paris, there was also a broad consensus on this need to re-orient the goal of education towards being able to thrive in life and to make it a more human process. As Andreas Schleicher, division head of PISA, said: “Success in education is about creating curiosity and opening minds.” Rebecca Winthrop from the Brookings Institute highlighted the potential of the OECD 2030 Learning Framework, and Valerie Hannon, co-founder of Innovation Unit, in discussion with youth World Skills champions, stressed that: “Young people want recognition of their emotions, passions and identities. They want education to be relational. They want respect and they’re not finding it. They want scope to express the hope they have for the future.”
It was largely agreed that one of the best ways to create meaningful change is through co-creation. Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands spoke of the need to: “Fundamentally co-design education systems with children”, and Tom Fletcher, founder of The Foundation Of Opportunity, discussed the need to shift from a ‘Tetris’ approach to a ‘Minecraft’ mindset if we want to create a more collaborative and dynamic education eco-system. How do we do this? Vishal Talreja, co-founder of Dream a Dream, suggested we stop and really listen to young people as a first call-to-action.
Over the past seven years at Big Change, we’ve worked with 30 different education projects that are doing just this and their efforts are setting young people up to thrive in life not exams. From providing parental support in the early years, helping young people to find their voice, building new types of leadership and helping young people build their confidence so they can drive positive change in their communities – our project partners are taking on the most important issues in the sector and we continue to learn with and from them.
hopes for the future
In light of the PISA results, Paris discussions and the upcoming general election, we felt it was time to lay out some bold hopes for the future of education. While upholding high expectations for our young people, it’s clear that we need to support them in much broader ways than passing exams: to ensure every child has a story of success from school and builds a love of learning for life.
At Big Change, we’ve worked with many peers and partners across different sectors to find out what practical things they want to see change. What would really help move the whole system forward? The insight we received aligned directly with the discussions held in Paris in expressing a clear desire to create a more human-focused, holistic and interconnected education experience. With this in mind, here are our 10 Big Hopes for Change in Education – we hope you will download and share them too. This change is going to take all of us.