2018 assessment where just 10.4 per cent of Scottish 15-year-olds were able to reliably distinguish facts from opinions, a figure that has stayed remarkably similar over the last 20 years. We live in this world in which

the kind of things that are easy to teach and test have also become easy to digitise and automate. Te future is about pairing the artificial intelligence of computers with the cognitive, social and emotional skills and values of humans. It’s going to be our imagination, our awareness and our sense of responsibility that will help us harness technology to shape the world for the better.

The fact that advancements in literacy skills have fallen sharply behind the evolution of the nature of information has profound con- sequences in a world where virality seems sometimes privileged over quality in the distribution of infor- mation. In the “post-truth” climate in which we now find ourselves, assertions that “feel right” but have no basis in fact become accepted as fact. Algorithms that sort us into

groups of like-minded individuals create social media echo chambers that amplify our views and leave us insulated from opposing argu- ments that may alter our beliefs. Tese virtual bubbles homogenise opinions and polarise our societ- ies; and they can have a signifi- cant – and adverse – impact on democratic processes. Tose algorithms are not a

Andreas Schleicher, the driving force behind the global Pisa ranking system, says schools must help

students think for themselves

design flaw; they are how social media work. Tere is scarcity of attention, but an abundance of information. We are living in this digital bazaar where anything that is not built for the network age is cracking apart under its pressure.

constructing and validating knowl- edge. In the past, teachers could tell students to look up information in an encyclopaedia, and to rely on that information as accurate and true. Nowadays, Google presents them

with millions of answers, and nobody tells them what is right or wrong and true or not true. Contrast that with the findings from the Pisa

So, tomorrow’s schools need to help students think for themselves and join others, with empathy, in work and citizenship. Tey will need to help them develop a strong sense of right and wrong, a sensitivity to the claims that others make on us, and a grasp of the limits on individual and collective action. At work, at home and in the community, people will need a deep understanding of how oth- ers live, in different cultures and

We need to develop first class humans, not second-class robots

traditions, and how others think, whether as scientists or artists. Te growing complexity of mod-

ern living, for individuals, com- munities and societies, means that the solutions to our problems will also be complex: in a structurally imbalanced world, the imperative of reconciling diverse perspectives and interests, in local settings but with often global implications, means we need to become good in handling tensions and dilemmas. Striking a balance between

competing demands – equity and freedom, autonomy and commu- nity, innovation and continuity, efficiency and democratic process – will rarely lead to an either/or choice or even a single solution. We need to think in a more integrated way that recognises interconnec- tions, our capacity to navigate ambiguity has become key.

Creativity in problem solving requires our capacity to consider the future consequences of our ac- tions, with a sense of responsibility and with moral and intellectual maturity, so that we can reflect on our actions in the light of experi- ences and personal and societal goals. Te perception and assess- ment of what is right or wrong, good or bad in a specific situation is about ethics. Tat brings us to the toughest

challenge in modern education: it’s about how we incorporate values into education. Values have always been central to education, but it is time that they move from implicit aspirations to explicit education goals and practices, so they help communities shift from situational values – meaning “I do whatever a situation allows me to do” – to sustainable values that generate trust, social bonds and

hope. If education doesn’t build foundations under people, many will try to build walls, no mat- ter how self-defeating that will become. Te bottom line is, if we want

to stay ahead of technological developments, we have to find and refine the qualities that are unique to our humanity, and that comple- ment, not compete with, capacities we have created in our computers, schools need to develop first class humans, not second-class robots. But to transform schooling at

scale, we need not just a radical, alternative vision of what students need to learn, but also effective learning environments in which those knowledge, skills, attitudes and values are developed. Our current schools were in-

vented in the industrial age, when the prevailing norms were standar- disation and compliance, and when it was both effective and efficient to educate students in batches and to train teachers once for their entire working lives.

The curricula that spelled out what students should learn were designed at the top of the pyramid, then translated into instructional material, teacher education and learning environments, often through multiple layers of govern- ment, until they reached and were implemented by individual teach- ers in the classroom. Tis structure, inherited from the

industrial model of work, makes change in a fast-moving world far too slow. Te changes in our societies have vastly outpaced the structural capacity of our current education systems to respond. Tis is not accomplished just by

letting a thousand flowers bloom; it requires a carefully crafted enabling environment that can unleash teachers’ and schools’ ingenuity and build capacity for change. It requires leaders who tackle in-

stitutional structures that too often are built around the interests and habits of educators and administra- tors rather than learners, leaders who are sincere about social change, imaginative in policy making, and capable of using the trust they earn to deliver effective reforms. l

Andreas Schleicher is director for education and skills at the OECD


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