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Transforming education and the new role of teachers

Karthik Krishnan, as the Global CEO of Britannica Group (Britannica, Merriam-Webster, Britannica Knowledge Systems, and Melingo), is focused on elevating trustable information in the digital universe and transforming learning both inside and outside the classroom. He is also an Adjunct Professor (since 2012) at New York University Stern School of Business. He has been invited to the World Economic Forum Expert Network and is recognized as an expert on Education, Healthcare and Information Media. He is also a Top 100 global influencer in Education Technology.

Karthik has an MBA from New York University Stern School of Business and a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Coimbatore Institute of Technology. He received the distinction Stern Scholar and was inducted into the Beta Gamma Sigma honour society. He also earned a certificate in Design Thinking (Human Centered Design) from Stanford University. He is a National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) governance fellow.


“Excellence in education is when we do everything that we can to make sure they become everything they can.” - Carol Ann Tomlinson

“A teacher affects eternity. He can never tell where his in­fluence stops.” - Henry Brooks Adams

Historically, education has been the shortest bridge between the haves and have-nots, and one of the greatest social equalizers. It has been the key to prosperity of individuals, families, communities and countries.

But the education system that has served us well for decades is losing its transformative power. Based on the needs of the 19th century and the Industrial Revolution, the ability of today's curriculum to meet 21st century demands is waning. And since at the same time the cost of this dysfunctional system is rising, leading to a poor return on investment, it indicates that we are burning the candle at both ends. A lose-lose situation. Most students leaving school today are not prepared for the demands of today’s and tomorrow’s workplaces. In the 21st century, where most of us have to upskill, reskill and reinvent ourselves multiple times through our professional career, most students walk into the working world with a ­fixed mindset (defi­ned by Carol Dweck) and with less of a propensity for lifelong learning.

Limitations of current education model and mindset:

a. Education system lacks the ability to help students transition from studying to working

47 per cent of today’s students believe their schools are not preparing them for success in the job market. Because our education systems have not changed for decades, they are no longer providing the learning skills students need for tomorrow’s jobs, including those that haven’t yet been created, as well as entrepreneurial skills.

b. According to the World Economic Forum – Future of Jobs report:

  • It’s estimated that 60% of the jobs of the future don’t yet exist. (Some estimates are even higher.)

  • 40% of the today’s 5 year-old students will have to be self-employed to support themselves.

c. It’s estimated that 60% of the jobs of the future don’t yet exist. (Some estimates are even higher.) 40% of the today’s 5 year-old students will have to be self-employed to support themselves.

  • In Fortune magazine AI expert Kai Fu Lee estimated that technology could replace 40 per cent of jobs in 15 years.

  • MarketWatch reported that over 30 million US workers will lose their jobs because of AI technology

At a time when quality education and learning are arguably more vital to one’s life chances than ever before, how do we reset and reshape education: from ‘Path to Disappointment’ to ‘Path to Prosperity’?

A number of things will have to change, and the role of teachers in driving this change will be crucial. Let’s look at what will need be different.

1. Shift from education to learning

There is a signifi­cant difference between education and learning. Education is extrinsic and driven by a curriculum. Learning on the other hand is intrinsic and driven by curiosity. While education is delivered, learning is discovered. Education involves consumption and repetition while learning invites construction and creation. Learning agility (the ability to constantly learn and evolve – ‘learn it all’ versus a ‘know it all’ mindset) is one of the key 21st-century skills. Curiosity is the seed for lifelong learning. If we kill curiosity in the school system, how will young adults become lifelong learners?

2. Focus more on ‘skills and experience’ than on ‘grades and certificates’

While grades and degrees/certi­ficates are good indicators of one’s IQ and abilities to do well in a standardised setting charachetised by consume, repeat and memorize, they are less of an indicator of success in a VUCA world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous). Success require one to convert Volatile to Vision, Uncertain to Understand, Complex to Clarity, Ambiguous to Agility.

The well-known futurist Alvin Toffler said back in 1970, “the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” As he so eloquently stressed, today’s education requires a new kind of mindset.

3. Focus on the whole student not just IQ. IQ + EQ + RQ

In a emerging world where anything that is repetitive and standardised can be performed much better by machines than humans, IQ alone will not be sufficient for humans to succeed. Learning, literacy and life skills are key factors that will shape success.

Emotional intelligence, the ability to engage with others and resilience are key traits for navigating the VUCA world. In the 21st century it’s not how hard you fall that matters; it’s how fast you get up, reset and re-shape.

4. Switch from mass production to mass personalization of learning

Digital substitution isn’t digital learning. The quality of learning doesn’t change whether the student is reading a book in print or on an iPad. EdTech solutions need to

  • Amplify curiosity and enhance learning. Example: Videos

  • Help students go from understanding to experiencing to applying. Example: Augmented reality (experience); Project-based learning (apply)

  • Leverage leveled and differentiated learning. Example: Ability to move up or down reading levels, similar to a video game, to understand the concept

  • Enable teachers to reorient their own role from the ‘sage on the stage’ disseminating knowledge to the coach who inspires learning through facilitation of a knowledge discovery process.

  • Empower parents to play an active role in their children’s learning by bringing them into the learning ecosystem.

This will not be an easy journey. Each one of us have an opportunity to break the shackles holding students and teachers back one shackle at a time. Let’s remember that every educator can make a difference.

  • Every educator matters in resetting the world.

  • Every educator can put the world on a better path.

  • Every student is an opportunity to make a significant impact.

Let us blend the best of what we have and integrate with best of what new technologies and the world have to offer to develop an education and learning experience that will help students – Think Learn Evolve Continuously and in doing so unleash the future.

This article originally appeared in the TeacherTribe Magazine September 2020 edition.


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