The future of education: Preparing today's children for 21st century challenges
A 3-year-old child today will graduate from university in 2038. When one thinks of the enormous differences in the workplace today compared with 20 years ago, it seems immediately clear that we should teach our children the skills they will need to succeed in their future, not our present.
Theirs is a future where technology will be an ever more present and dominant force in everyday life. With increasing advances in the digital realm, including artificial intelligence and the rise of robotics, there will be a complete shift in the types of careers available when our children join the workforce. Now is the time to prepare them to be competitive.
For this to happen, education needs to be transformed. Schools need to focus on helping children develop their complex reasoning ability, creative thinking, social skills, knowledge-sharing, and global competencies. They should be delivering student-centered, differentiated teaching in order to ensure that each individual child reaches their full potential. At one school in the city, Yew Chung International School of Shanghai (YCIS Shanghai), the transformation has already begun.
Defining the change
This month, more than 600 educators at YCIS Shanghai participated in a two-day conference themed “Reinvention: The Future Beckons.” The conference, held concurrently in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Beijing, Qingdao, Chongqing, and Yantai, brought together 1,800 educators from the global network of Yew Chung International Schools (YCIS) and sister schools, Yew Wah International Education Schools (YWIES). The event, which also marked the 85th anniversary of Yew Chung schools, focused on the changes required in education to develop students ready to face the challenges of the 21st century.
The theme also represents YCIS’ stated mission to pioneer educational pedagogy through the introduction of “Learning Communities” and a clear focus on global competencies.
YCIS and YWIES CEO and School Supervisor Dr Betty Chan opened the conference, saying “‘Reinvention’ is precisely our call to action. This is our opportunity to reinvent education. As we gather here to celebrate our 85th anniversary, we come together to lay the future direction for the education of our children. The existing pedagogy, methodology, and content should be modified to equip the next generation to become the leaders of tomorrow.”
Affirming the approach
Several leading education specialists invited to the conferences gave keynote speeches, which included insights from an intensive independent research project highlighting how the new model of education at YCIS positively impacts young learners’ development through its student-centered “Learning Community” approach, and also focused on the importance for children to leverage computational power through access to meaningful interaction with technology.
According to Dr Troy Lui, chief education officer at YCIS and YWIES schools, the outcomes of the conference affirmed that the network of schools is taking the lead in 21st century teaching methodology.
Dr Lui said, “We’ve already implemented teaching methods which prepare children to be successful in navigating the unknown challenges they will face in the coming decades. We aim to be a shining example for educators worldwide through our forward-thinking approach.”
Leading the charge
Walk through any of the five YCIS Shanghai campuses today and you’ll see happy, engaged learners. The school is taking down walls, literally and figuratively, to provide children with learning spaces, resources, experiences, and opportunities to interact with each other and build connections, and apply their learning in meaningful ways.
The program intentionally incorporates technology across all disciplines, fostering students’ creativity, and imbuing them with the mindset and skills to be able to apply ideas and theory to solve problems. These students will be equipped to face challenges that cannot currently even be imagined, and the result of this advanced teaching methodology is evident in the students themselves, as they direct their learning targets, take thoughtful risks, solve taxing problems, engage in experiential learning, and embrace collaboration and knowledge-sharing.
These are the foundational skills that will define the leaders of the 21st century, and with this type of educational foundation, YCIS Shanghai students will step into the future with confidence.
What is a YCIS learning community?
Learning Communities connect students and enable shared learning through collaborative inquiry, in which the students work together to learn and solve problems. This approach helps students learn how to work together and gain social confidence — one of the most essential traits identified by educators as missing from more traditional teaching approaches.
YCIS Shanghai’s new Ronghua campus is the first purpose-built Learning Community campus in Shanghai. This award-winning campus for 2-7 year-olds opened in February 2018 and features spacious community learning areas, movable walls which allow children to learn together in different ways, and developmental play areas. Combined with the unique YCIS teaching methodology, the young learners at the campus benefit from this optimal learning environment.