The 21st Century is a wonderful time in history to be involved in education. We have left the industrial era behind and are entering the opportunities afforded to us in the digital world. You may be wondering “what’s the difference?”.
As a quick history lesson, the industrial era equipped children with finite skills for a job for life. It was pragmatic to group children according to age, to separate subjects for ease of teaching and to view the teacher and the textbook as the only source of knowledge, so students can pass a test and progress. The most successful students were those who succeeded at the top of the hierarchy of subjects, English, Maths and Science. Those who excelled at the arts really needed to think about a “proper job”.
Our younger son had the wonderful opportunity to attend a performing arts high school, while this school provided a comprehensive education he also had the opportunity to be in a learning environment where his God-given gifts could have expression and flourish. I recall thinking at the time that it be wonderful if the diversity of gifts, talents, interests, and passions of children and young people could also be nurtured in school. I believe that today this can be achieved. Many schools are now encouraging young entrepreneurs to develop their ideas and even create their own jobs.
There are immense opportunities for this generation of young people. Australian demographer Bernard Salt found that the development of new technologies has created new opportunities for entrepreneurs. He believes that a culture of entrepreneurialism is being driven by the rise of emerging technologies and digital disruption. Over the last 10 years in Australia 3.3 million jobs have been created and 300,000 jobs have been lost (Jobs of the Future: How safe is your occupation? SMH 6 Sept, 2015).
Many schools are now encouraging young entrepreneurs to develop their ideas and even create their own jobs. How do we embrace the both/and to meet academic standards and simultaneously encourage an entrepreneurial mindset? I work at Northern Beaches Christian School in Sydney. We have developed an international reputation for rethinking the idea of ‘school’ and making positive changes to help young people to discover and develop their passions at school. It also means that we have recreated the physical design of schools, and the structure of learning, to be places where collaboration and connectivity can be seamless.
I see a comparison with Hillsong as we consider the idea of ‘church’. The clear message and mandate of the mission has remained the same – to reach the lost with the saving message of Jesus Christ. However the opportunities for the each member to contribute with their gifts enables the diversity of the body of Christ to play a meaningful part.
The world is open. Immense opportunities exist. Learning will always matter. Great teachers are essential. But schools needs to look different to engage and inspire a generation of young people to make a meaningful contribution to their world.