Why schools should teach the curriculum of the future, not the past

UN Schools 2018

Guinea-Bissau receives UN boost to promote sex education in schools (UN News, 2011)

This article is brought to you thanks to the strategic cooperation of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Hadi Partovi, Founder and CEO, Code.org

Robots, artificial intelligence, automation – no longer the stuff of science fiction movies. Overwhelming evidence shows the shift in what the workforce needs is already underway and that it will continue to grow much larger in the future. All around the world, leaders from government and industry debate the future of work and the changes brought by technology and automation. Despite this, the world is not reacting fast enough to update our system of education.

According to analysis of 750 occupations by the McKinsey Global Institute, 51% of job activities are highly susceptible to automation – and that’s through adapting currently demonstrated technology alone. It’s also important to note that these activities span jobs across industries as well as skill and wage levels. This indicates that automation is much less likely to lead to the mass unemployment predicted by alarmists but is almost certainly going to necessitate the redefinition of most occupations and requisite skills.

US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014

US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014
Image: O*Net, McKinsey

What are we doing to prepare future generations to thrive in this changing landscape? A student that begins primary school today will graduate from university in the mid-2030s and their career will last through 2060 or beyond. While we can’t predict exactly what our workforce’s needs will be in in the middle of the century, we already know they are changing and will continue to change with the rate of technological advancement.

Yet, in most schools you visit in 2018, you see teachers teaching the exact same subject matter as they taught in 1918: reading, writing, math, science, history and foreign languages. Debates about the future of education centre on changing how we teach, to embrace technology in the classroom, but there is almost no debate about changing what we teach. Any discussion of the future of work should go hand-in-hand with a discussion of the future of curriculum.

Problem-solving, creative thinking, digital skills and collaboration are in greater need every year yet are not taught in our schools. Even when schools teach digital skills, they focus on how to use technology – how to create a document or a presentation – rather than how to create technology. Some of the topics we teach today will no longer be essential in the 2030s: handwriting is increasingly obsolete, complex arithmetic is no longer done by hand, and the internet has replaced the need to memorize many basic facts.

We are faced with the challenge of redefining a foundational education to keep up with the evolution of skills required to solve problems, innovate and succeed. But, as a society, we are failing to meet that challenge and consequently failing to adequately prepare the next generation for the future.

To prepare all students with the creative, collaborative and digital problem-solving skills of the future, schools must teach computer science as part of the core curriculum. Computer science is not just about coding. It is also about computational thinking, interface design, data analysis, machine learning, cybersecurity, networking and robotics. Learning computer science encourages creativity, problem-solving, ethics and collaboration – skills which aren’t just important for technical careers in the developed world, but valuable for every career in all economies. What’s more, in a study of how students felt about their classes, computer science and engineering trailed only the arts in terms of classes they liked the most.

 Change the Equation and C+R Research

Change the Equation and C+R Research
Image: Code.org

Education leaders should discuss removing aspects of the curriculum of 1918 to make room for the curriculum of 2018. Computer science shouldn’t be relegated to after-school clubs, robotics contests or hackathons. It shouldn’t be accessible only at a premium but taught as part of the primary and secondary school day, accessible to all students.

Our schools should teach the curriculum of the future, not just the curriculum of the past. Already, many countries have begun to embrace computer science as part of their national curriculum. In the US, 44 states have changed policies to recognize computer science as part of the academic core. Beyond the US, more than 25 countries have announced plans to expand school-day access to computer science. This group includes the UK, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Argentina, Ecuador, Italy, Malaysia, Sweden and Thailand.

Teaching computer science in schools may sound intimidating but it is an idea that generates hope. It inspires teachers and engages students. Even though the majority of the world’s teachers don’t have experience in computer science and many of the world’s schools lack connected computers, these are problems we can and should solve. Countries such as Brazil, Chile and Nigeria are building plans to tackle these challenges and the rest of the world should follow suit.

The future of work may be uncertain but there is one thing that is absolutely clear: computer science will be in greater demand than ever before and every student, in every school, should have an opportunity to learn it as part of the curriculum.











the European Sting Milestones

Featured Stings

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Open-plan offices make workers less collaborative, Harvard study finds

Does the Erasmus program really contribute to the construction of a solid EU identity?

Real EU unemployment rate at 10.2%+4.1%+4.7%: Eurostat Update

IMF: How To Deal With Failed Banks

India is investing more money in solar power than coal for first time

Budget MEPs approve €104.2 m in EU aid to Greece, Spain, France and Portugal

The mental health of health professionals: is it worth it?

Finland should do more to improve job prospects of low-skilled youth

Macron defends the idea of European sovereignty

Mali peace process in a ‘critical phase’, says head of UN Mission

Don’t take African generosity towards refugees for granted, says UN refugee chief

Iran nuclear talks’ deadline extended: the match is still open for many

These countries are the most peaceful – in 3 charts

Continuing incarceration of women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia, ‘reprehensible’: UN experts

Educational disadvantage starts from age 10

FROM THE FIELD: ‘Harvested’ rainwater saves Tanzanian students from stomach ulcers, typhoid

Chinese “BeiDou” GPS goes to market

COP24: World sports join team UN in race against climate change

Security Council extends mandate of UN Interim Force in Lebanon for a year

Innovation can transform the way we solve the world’s water challenges

Ethical education as an obligatory course in medical curriculum

“The Arctic climate matters: to what degree?”, a Sting Exclusive co-authored by UN Environment’s Jan Dusik and Slava Fetisov

Climate change and health: a much needed multidisciplinary approach

Who are the winners and losers in Africa’s Continental Free Trade area?

Erdogan vies to become Middle East Sultan over Khashoggi’s killing

Europe united in not supporting a US attack on Syria

European Semester Autumn Package: Bolstering inclusive and sustainable growth

The three US financial war fleets

These chefs are fighting hunger and poverty with gastronomy

Japan should reform retirement policies to meet challenge of ageing workforce

UN chief condemns deadly attacks in Afghanistan

A Sting Exclusive: “The Chinese economy is steady and moving in the right direction”, Ambassador Yang of the Chinese Mission to EU underscores from Brussels

Horse meat runs faster than authorities…

Tuesday’s Daily Brief: Bicycles for the environment, new leader for the UN General Assembly, UN values, Ebola, Syria and Libya

Here’s how we solve the global crisis of tribalism and democratic decay

6 ways to future-proof universities

Youth not prioritised in new Commission

Germany is turning its old mines into tourist hotspots

Haiti stands ‘at the crossroads’ between peacekeeping, development – Bachelet urges strengthened ‘human rights protection’

Does May have enough time in Parliament to table a soft Brexit deal?

Backed by UN agency, countries set to take on deadly livestock-killing disease

Hunger in Yemen: WFP considers aid suspension in face of repeated interference by some Houthi leaders

Why the ocean holds the key to sustainable development

Q and A on the draft digital copyright directive

Thousands risk lives fleeing fighting in Syria’s last ISIL stronghold

ECB settles the bank resolution issue, makes banking union tangible

Final vote on European Solidarity Corps

Chart of the day: These countries have the largest carbon footprints

Preparing for developing countries the ‘Greek cure’

Essential services on verge of shutdown in Gaza as emergency fuel set to run out

Glaringly false reassurances about the repercussions of the EU-US free trade agreement

Syria: WHO appeals for funding to sustain critical health care for millions trapped by conflict

GSMA announces speakers for Mobile 360 Series-West Africa

Traditional knowledge at ‘core’ of indigenous heritage, and ‘must be protected’, says UN Forum

The future of crypto-assets, from opportunities to policy implications

Secretary-General repeats call for support to Lake Chad countries after latest Boko Haram attack

How to close the gender pay gap in three steps

EU’s social crisis and unemployment to deteriorate

This is what the world’s waste does to people in poorer countries

UN welcomes Angola’s repeal of anti-gay law, and ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s