Making Education Relevant is the topic for the next debate in the Cisco-Promethean Education Fast Forward series. Having steered two children through 16 years of the US education system, I can tell you that THAT particular topic sparked a raging debate over the dinner table every night. It went something like this: “Mom, why do I need to learn quadratic equations?” Or, the ever present simple“Why?”. While I am delighted to hear that academics and practitioners continue to debate education’s relevancy, I can tell you that, as a young mother, I wished someone had armed me with better answers than, “Because you have to.”
In my last posting, I talked about the jobs vs. skills dilemma. This is a direct corollary to “making education relevant.” Some insist that the emphasis on job-related skills has more to do with young adults entering the workforce. But I argue that making the connections between education and work- during the early years—when a young mind is forming—is essential. It is proven that neurological pathways in the brain become hardwired when the brain understands the connection between events. In many education systems, we pour knowledge into the brain and hope that life will expose the child, in one way or another, to how they can use that information.
On the horizon lies a new generation of teaching professionals and administrators who are savvy to new ways of engaging the young mind. Organizations like Teach for America and Teach for All, along with many progressive principals and head masters, understand intuitively the importance of connecting learning to the real world. We need to make these connections explicit for adolescents.
During this year’s Clinton Global Initiative, a session entitled Transformative Tools for a Skilled Workforce highlighted the power this connection has for students today. Four young students spoke passionately about how “learning by doing” was the transformative tool in their life. And events like the International student conference on environmental sustainability showcased how even the youngest child, when brought in to solve an “adult” problem, can have a positive impact.
How are your efforts in education bringing in “real world” experiences for youth?