Education is one of the most conservative sectors there is. School reputations in this country are built on centuries of experience and tradition. Even parents who may want to see their children get the best preparation for their futures are worried about the prospects of taking a different path than the tried and true, the recognised. And yet, a revolution is a-foot.
I watched speakers at the TransformingEDU speaker stream at CES and one that really resonated with me was chaired by Jonathan Finkelstien from Credly. He was speaking mainly about university education, and he said:
"If a universtiy degree is the only credential that counts, it's the equivalent of having a $10,000 bill be your smallest banknote."
I had to think about that one for a few seconds.
There are lots of reasons to get undergraduate degrees, including American-style liberal arts and humanities degrees and I am not in any way against that. But there is also an argument for having micro-degrees and credentials, ideally recognised. The same issue came up in last week's Economist (Learning and Earning: Equipping people to stay ahead of technological change). Huge, expensive degrees are not necessarily giving young people the skills they need to start their professional lives. Just as importantly, those of us who are pretty darn far along in our professional lives find that we need to upskill and re-skill as technology becomes more and more central to every part of the economy. My very own husband is currently learning to code (!) as he sees the changes in his industry, and the importance of being fluent and able to communicate with technologists.
These discussions above are specifically about university, further education and job skills but there is a similar corrollary for younger students. A-levels narrow our kids down to three or four subjects. They have to drop important topics to follow the well-worn path that leads to traditional success in university admissions. IB and some other secondary high school systems (French and American diplomas, for example) are less narrow, but remain firmly fixed in traditional subjects. Some important skills - including tech skills- are still considered by some schools to be "non-academic" and either not offered at all, or not particularly encouraged. Parents don't necessarily have a lot of personal experience with learning these particular skills, and so may feel uncomfortable with how and why tech skills are taught in schools. At the same time we at Fire Tech Camp know - because we are personally talking to universities - that top unis are looking for kids who seek out learning opportunities. Universities want students who are curious and who are problem solvers. They want students who are passionate, and who go out of their way to learn the necessary skills, whether that is inside or outside of school. They want kids with enterprising mindsets. They want kids with a story to tell.
We are proud to be offering kids and families ways to feed their curiosity, explore their interests and gain specific skills, outside the traditional classroom. We see the enthusiasm that cracks these kids open when they realise that they can control the technology, and that they will be able to come up with solutions (see video below). We know that it's complicated (and not necessarily the right choice) to fully commit your child to alternative education, even when it's progressive and forward thinking. We also believe that traditional education offers young people the context and baseline for a lifetime of understanding, growth and decision making. Extracurriculars offer the best of both worlds, the primary and secondary school equivalent to the micro-degrees that are the topic of so many column inches at the moment. We continue to look for topics that are interesting and exciting to young people, and that will give them the confidence and inspiration they need to know that they can create, design, and communicate solutions to whatever challenges are important to them and their futures. We don't want to trash the benefits of the old systems, but we believe that the world is changing and that we as parents have to find ways to give our kids what they need to suceed, to thrive, to create, to express themselves, and to take full advantage of their new world.
PS - watch these kids experience their first robotics success at this week's Fire Tech Crew
PPS - we are planning a screening of a fantastic film about re-imagining education: Most Likely To Succeed. Be sure to click this link if you want an invite to this free screening, which we are planning in Notting Hill in February. More info coming soon!