Professor Klaus Schwab, the founder and CEO of the World Economic Forum, writes in his book The Fourth Industrial Revolution that a revolution is an “abrupt and radical change”.
He describes how humanity has progressed from muscular power to mechanical power up to the present technological age. For the latter humanity needs enhanced cognitive power.
All knowledge on earth is created by human brains. It is widely accepted that the brain is a developer of knowledge, except by education systems that treat the brain as a duplicator of knowledge.
According to Schwab, the challenge is: “To place more emphasis on the ability of workers to adapt continuously and learn new skills and approaches within a variety of contexts.”
This requires an education system that does not attempt to achieve the impossible by trying to explain and drill or sing insights. It requires an education system where teachers are not in front of the class showing children how problems are solved by experts. It requires an education system that empowers children to gain insight and solve problems themselves.
It requires an education system that does not rely on memory. Human memory is the brain’s weakest function. It is a well-known fact that we memorize a book, we forget more than we can recall. Worse, once we can recall what we forgot last time, a part that was remembered the previous round now disappeared like mist before the sun.
Since it is not possible to predict what the brain will remember or forget in the exam, the brain is super unreliable. For teachers who have to work through the curriculum, this is a major challenge because almost everything has to be repeated and still needs to be revised.
It is clear that the 21st century requires thinking and not duplication. Fortunately, we can direct and control our thinking through metacognition which is an innately powerful thinking toolbox. By contrast, there is no such thing as meta-memorizing.
In favour of thinking: the brain thinks at the speed of white light. The brain can start with an idea and in a few seconds thinks of a multitude of other thoughts and can then return to the original idea.
What is 21st century teaching?
Formal education came about 300 years ago during the industrial revolution when children had to go to school to learn how to work machines. Industrial education is characterized by a teacher standing in front of the class trying to transfer knowledge. Trying, because transferring is not guaranteed.
Is 21st century teaching still a teacher standing in front of a class explaining using a 21st Century electronic platform?
With current so-called 21st century education, the platform changed from a classroom to a virtual space using a 300-year old method of teaching while memorizing is still the method of learning.
The question now arises: What is 21st Century about it, the 21st century platform or a 21st century thinking methodology?
Isn’t 21st Century teaching teachers empowering children to know how to employ their brain power? Metacognition, after all, is not an empty toolbox, it contains tools. These are the tools that inventors use, and which are needed by workers to “adapt continuously and learn new skills and approaches within a variety of contexts.”
Isn’t 21st century teaching, according to Schwab, to focus on the cognitive power of the brain instead of memorizing?