New Paradigms for Learning

The global educational space has become a battleground for vested interest groups. Governments, non-governmental agencies, and the private sector, including the world’s largest technology corporations are all vying for influence and the right to decide which skills and competencies should or should not be embedded in a curriculum model. Moreover, the competing curriculum content of international and national examination boards are largely developed without any consideration to the existential realities of children, communities, and societies. China blames Hong Kong’s liberal education system for the pro-democracy movement. Hungary has rewritten its national curriculum to reflect a populist nationalism, as have Pakistan and India. The current US administration has threatened to withdraw funding from schools they perceive as being associated with the ‘radical left’. In amongst these controversial debates, the voices of reason often prevail. One voice, in particular, that of the late Sir Ken Robinson, has made a significant contribution to the debates on education transformation. This dimension will include a tribute to his lifetime service to education and his vision on new paradigms of learning.

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    The fact is, given the challenges we face, education doesn’t need to be reformed, it needs to be transformed” (Sir Ken Robinson). Is there the will to transform education?

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    Are children becoming pawns in the nationalistic and cultural wars being fought within the global educational landscape?

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    How will any society adapt itself to a digitalized educational future in which little can be kept ‘private’, and competencies and skills become driven by corporatism?

  • 4

    Will rapid advancements in online learning platforms pose a risk to the validity, reliability and integrity of education, and educational assessments? Or will they open up a world of knowledge and understanding for everyone regardless of social class, race, religion and gender?

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    What evidence is there that e-learning, online learning, and television school produce measurable outcomes on student learning equal to or better than classroom learning?

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    Have international examination boards failed in their role as guardians of global assessment practices and principles, and as the arbiters of how students are assessed after 10 or 12 years of education?

A Balanced Future: from Imbalance to Equilibrium

According to a recent comprehensive study, global warming has already bled Antarctica, which is larger than Europe, of about 2.7 trillion tons of ice. This enormous amount of ice has already raised global sea levels by as much as a centimetre (Meyer, 2018). Massive deforestation still occurs in the Amazon Basin, and across large swathes of Sub-Saharan Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia and West Papua. This environmental degradation has created climate change, destruction of the natural world, and the outbreak of new viral illness (H1N1 [Swine Flu], H1N5 [Avian Flu], SARS, MERS, Ebola, Covid-19)

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    How have climate change, drought, famine, and environmental degradation contributed to the current global pandemic? Is it too late to reverse the damage?

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    What lesson have we learned about the illegal trade in wild animals, animals in danger of extinction, and the unscientific and primitive medical practices of using the body parts of endangered species as medicines in some countries?

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    To what extent does science remain “as a candle in the dark” (Sagan, 1995) as we struggle with managing a global environmental and health crisis of our own making? Who, if anyone, will be held accountable for our dying planet?

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    Can we feed the growing population on the planet through our current food supply chain? How might the global pandemic alter the way we operate our current food chain and food supplies across the globe?

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    Will the post-pandemic world really be different? Will we ever find the will to eliminate poverty, unequal distribution of wealth, and unequal access to healthcare?

A Safer Future: from Anxiety to Security

Scientific and technological advances in recent decades have greatly improved our capacity to predict and protect ourselves from many natural and man-made disasters. Yet, we remain extremely vulnerable both to natural elements and to the unpredictability of scientific advancements created through humanity’s hubris. A shift in the dominance of nuclear-powered states has led to a small handful of countries exercising their ‘sovereign right’ to pursue the ultimate prize of a nuclear weapon. Meanwhile, states with nuclear weapons exercise the right to obliterate the world at the push of a button. Finally, global technology giants are working with the global military-industrial complex to further weaponise and harness data, artificial intelligence and technology for defence and ultimately war.

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    Since 1947, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) annually adjusts its symbolic Doomsday Clock, which indicates how close humanity and the planet are to complete destruction. It is now 100 seconds to midnight: what can we achieve in 100 seconds to create a safer future? Have we the will to do what needs to be done?

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    How do we approach the task of raising our children in a world overshadowed by an apocalyptic vision of death and destruction as recently witnessed in Beirut?

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    Will we ever harness technology to create a safe and sustainable future?

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    What steps can traditional adversaries take to work together before they blow their respective countries into non-existence?

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    5. Even if we survive as a species, a future pandemic can almost certainly not be avoided. How will we live with these ongoing existential threats?

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    How could the discourses of the world’s 4,300 religions align to make the world a safer place?

An Expressive Future: from Totalitarianism to Libertarianism

Our world would be unimaginable if not for the philosophers, artists and musicians who have upturned the debate on what constitutes society, culture, expressive arts and valued social behaviour. This realignment has shaped our moral compasses from that of considerations based purely on religion and ethnicity and the expected norms of a society to a movement within popular culture that has re-shaped our minds and our behaviour (ACLU, 2020). It is claimed that confrontational and contentious art and entertainment challenge the right to free speech. Why should censorship of expression of ideas and understanding through the Arts be accepted when scenes of murder and mayhem dominate the TV screen, and when much sexually implicit and explicit material can be seen as degrading to women? Once we allow an ideology of our own making to censor someone else, we cede to it the power to censor the individual, community and country. “Censorship is like poison gas: a powerful weapon that can harm us when the wind shifts”. (ACLU, 2020)

  • 1Pablo Picasso once said ‘All children are born artists; the problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.’ To what extent does education kill the inborn artistic nature of a child?
  • 2To what extent do the visual and performing arts subvert authoritarianism and help in the creation of free and open societies?
  • 3To what extent are social media and the Internet liberating or oppressive forces in the development of an expressive future today?
  • 4Should governments (and non-government players) place national (or other) interests above a community’s or an individual’s right to artistic expression?
  • 5Have social media platforms and their innovative tools killed creativity? Are accessibility and shareability desensitizing originality and killing the artistic vision?

An Inclusive Future: from Exclusion to Inclusio

Differences based on race, colour, religion, creed, socioeconomic class, national origin, ancestry, age, disability and gender & related issues have been politicized in the ideological narratives of many societies. A genuine commitment to a just and inclusive world should identify and call out examples of oppression, racism and bigotry. Creating an inclusive future requires us to challenge the exclusive narratives, ideologies, and divisive discourses being pursued by politicians, academics and institutions of learning across the globe

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    How, if at all, could an inclusive future address the issues of slavery, cultural racism and scapegoating which has become institutionalized in all human societies?

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    How will the world’s out-of-school children and those receiving substandard levels of education become integrated into an inclusive world?

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    Will skin colour continue to poison our thinking in education, public policy and other pursuits and continue to thwart attempts to make the world more equal and inclusive?

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    Will gender equality ever be achieved given that traditionally the world’s 4,300 religions are patriarchal in their hierarchy and communal practices?

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    How can religion maintain its moral guidance and patronage of humanity, while concurrently supporting and encouraging unity through diversity?