Where to Now?

I’ve had some time to step back and reflect on the state of education—where we are, what’s important, and what’s in store for the future. Out of school systems globally, four themes are emerging:

Let’s fix education by solving the world’s problems.
We—teachers, principals, students, parents, businesses, governments, leaders—have been trying to “fix” education for decades. Together, we have a clear sense of what’s wrong. But it’s still been a challenge to make progress at scale. It’s time to approach the education solution from a new, more positive, and more purposeful angle: Every learner can get what they need from education if supported to contribute—in their way—to the world. When presented with a meaningful problem to solve (and there are many to choose from, both locally and globally), learners’ individual talents can shine. And with the help of a holistic, more Contributive Curriculum, contribution finds its place within academic learning. So, when burdened with the weight of the “education problem,” look to other problems that need solving, together.

The purpose of assessment is to find “good” and GROW IT.
I’ve written a lot about how assessment can change to better—to more equitably—meet learners’ needs. For starters, its purpose should not be to separate the “good” from the “bad.” That distinction is crippling. Instead, it should find what’s best in each learner, help them uncover their hopes, dreams, and goals, and guide them along on their path to success, whatever their own definition may be. Standardized systems of assessment run counter to so many ways to find human success—meaning, fulfillment, and health and well-being. The mantra’s been “Show me what you know in MY WAY.” If we change that to “Show me what you know, who you are, what you want—in YOUR WAY,” we’ll make learners’ lives better.

Indigenous knowledge can show us the way.
As a Māori woman, my experiences and understandings have been shaped by the knowledge passed down by indigenous people before me. They offer perspectives that a lot of the world has forgotten, or else overlooked for one reason or another. What we’re doing to our planet, and what we do to other people, shed light on a troubling, tragic disconnection from others, our land, and what’s best for humanity. Connection is the key to uncovering solutions to so many of the problems that stand in our way. Weaving indigenous knowledge, understandings, and ways of being will re-ground our kids’ education toward people, planet, progress, and prosperity.

Academic knowledge + SEL = well-being.
This is the ultimate educational formula. It isn’t okay to solve for anything less. We have to intentionally strive for well-being—for ALL—and it takes more than knowledge to get there. To truly be well and successful, we all need to learn who we are, make connections with others, and develop the knowledge and competencies needed to learn and contribute our gifts to the world. Academic knowledge PLUS the SEL outcomes of self-understanding, connection, and competency lead us to well-being, meaning, and fulfillment. When schools solve for well-being, everyone thrives—it’s the makings of true educational equity.

I believe that we’re working our way to what’s right. As educators, we have what it takes to act now, and schools are experiencing tremendous successes. We don’t have to get there today, but we can try to get closer today and tomorrow. As always, you can start by learning more about one student, and then using what you learn to improve their experience. A little of that, every day, does a lot.