In the UK, students ride an education conveyor belt that was designed to produce factory workers. Here’s how an alternate future of education could look.
Capitalist education systems
The system rewards the privileged. Economic elites – programmers, bankers, entrepreneurs, producers, capitalists and advisors – are familiar with the rules of the game.
Most members of the upper class were brought up in the game and are therefore adept at playing the game. It is in their interests to entrench their wealth by amassing even more of it.
Following current trends, the working class of labourers, construction workers, cleaners and gophers will likely find themselves in increasingly dire financial straits.
Job insecurity, a lack of employment benefits and a labour environment which treats workers as self-employed freelancers all further reinforce inequality by debilitating the working class poor.
The future of education is aimed at wellbeing
So on the one hand, we have a tech-finance orientated labour market that takes advantage of those who don’t understand its inner workings.
On the other hand, we could train people away from capitalism, and towards a community-based, finance-independent mode of living. We do not need to be good capitalists to be happy.
Capitalism thrives on a feedback loop. Brands convince us that we need certain things to be happy, so we buy them. This feeds more capital into the hands of large corporations, and helps convince others that certain products are required to achieve happiness. If we can find ways of being happy without consuming products at all, we break the loop.
What can we teach?
Some activities – which, incidentally, don’t involve consuming beyond reasonable limits, or accumulating wealth – have been scientifically linked to increased happiness.
For example, gardening provides joy and sustenance, requires regular low-intensity physical activity, and is founded upon a reciprocal and symbiotic relationship with the land. Numerous studies support it as a way to enhance wellbeing. Simply going outside can lower stress levels.
Millions of people find wellbeing and solace through meditation and yoga, a trend also supported by the science.
Teaching for the future — maintaining survival skills
It is not hard to imagine a world where hunting, foraging, subsistence farming, weaving and masonry are invaluable skills once again.
Who can identify edible berries anymore? What about poisonous mushrooms? Cooking, storytelling and how to monitor your own physical health are all skills that truly enhance people’s livelihoods, if and when they train them.
Why don’t we teach these in school curricula?
Education is stuck. It is resistant to change. In a world so constantly in flux, this is incongruous and nonsensical. The purpose of education should be to assist young people – indeed, all people – to thrive and flourish in their world, not only to make money for corporations.
Seen through the lens of the ongoing A Levels assessment fiasco, this version of education is very attractive. Assessment does not need to be based on one examination per subject. Assessment should be ongoing and practical.
Assigning pupils a grade based on their variable performance throughout the period of study provides future institutions with a more rounded notion of how each pupil goes about their studies. There are alternatives to exams. However, can we take it to the next step?