The original title for the French Film Things to Come, where Isabelle Huppert starred, is L’Avenir, which translates as “The Future.” Whichever L’Avenir translates as, one thing shared in all those titles is that those ‘things’ has yet to come.
We wait for the things that are to come with mixed feelings of excitement and worries. It is because we know that those things come with both light and shadow. It is being said that the 4th Industrial Revolution and AI combined with the pandemic have accelerated the advent of the future. And in the midst of the discussions on developing future industries, future technologies, or future food, future education cannot be missed. It is being argued more often that conventional education system is no longer good enough to equip us to survive in the future, thus needs to be innovated. How should we respond to the ‘things to come’ to our schools and education, that have always been criticized for being lazy to change?
Austrian philosopher Ivan Illich argued in the 1970s that schools had to be disestablished in his book Deschooling Society. He criticized that school education led people to confuse listening to what teachers teach with learning something, advancing in grade level with advancing in education, and earning a diploma with possessing competences. Although Illich’s criticism was not on education today nor was it on Korea’s education, it comes as a rebuke to us living in present Korea.
Illich’s contention is that the government doesn’t need to provide the predesigned publicschool education spending tax money. Stating that literacy or abilities to answer questions could be better obtained at a center established solely for such skills, not at schools, he suggests the ‘learning webs’ as an alternative to school education. Illich’s learning webs, which include educational resources, professional educators and education peers, enable anyone wanting to learn to be given education opportunities regardless of ages or background. His idea was considered very radical in his days and came under harsh criticism as an unfeasible one. No wonder considering that the Internet had yet to be invented back then.
The models for future education that are being discussed a lot lately reminds me of Illich’s idea from 50 years ago. His criticism seems to have alarmed the Western society to continue its efforts to innovate the education system for the future. Minerva University (formerly known as Minerva School at KGI), which is being mentioned as a representative model for innovative college education, is one of those efforts to challenge the standardized method of higher education and to meet the students’ need for diversity.
Since admitting its first class in 2014, Minerva University has been run in a revolutionary way. What distinguishes Minerva most from others is that there is no campus and all classes are conducted online. Students participate in discussions or seminar classes rather than in lectures of professors, and they have opportunities to live in major cities of the world to experience different cultures. Such education is to foster ‘global talents’ with outstanding creativity and problem-solving abilities. It is true that Minerva’s innovations are appealing. Reducing cost and overcoming the spatial constraints through online classes, and letting the learners lead the class are draws of Minerva. It is worth considering to apply part of the system to secondary education as well. These are like the ‘light’ that future education, represented by Minerva University could bring to our society.
I believe future education should pursue two goals: helping to enhance learners’ creativity and problem-solving ability while making sure no one in this world to be excluded from schooling. Pursuing the two would be challenging, but that is what we expect of education. The future education we should pursue, therefore, is the future education for ‘all.’
However, we should also be cautious not to take care of the demands of certain group of consumers only, sticking to the term ‘future education.’ We need to contemplate possible shadows that such a form of future education might cast.
Studying at Minerva University costs about 30,000 dollars a year as of 2017. Though cheaper than the Ivy league universities, it still goes way beyond the budget of general families. In addition, all courses at Minerva are delivered in English, which means students must be fluent in communicating in English even before entering. One might say such qualifications are necessary considering that the school is to foster distinguished people to lead the future. Yet we should be aware that such preconditions could serve as a strong barrier for many people. Minerva University could be the present to someone while it could remain the ‘future never to come’, much farther than the ‘future yet to come’.
For this reason, UNESCO has been putting emphasis on providing ‘Education for All (EFA)’ since 2000. EFA is a global education movement, aiming to meet the educational needs of children, youths, and adults. It was initiated to change the reality where many people were not receiving the education they need or want due to their economic conditions, ages, or poor education systems.
Future does not belong to those who live in rich countries or who benefit from good living conditions. As the air is given to anyone on the earth, so is the future. Just as the future of the distinguished talents at Minerva University is precious, so is the future of ordinary children who simply want an ordinary place to interact and learn at. And so is the future of hundreds of millions of people in the world, who are deprived of opportunities for basic education, not to mention the options of online or offline schools, and the choices of lectures or discussions.
In this regard, I believe future education should pursue two goals: helping to enhance learners’ creativity and problem-solving ability while making sure no one in this world to be excluded from schooling. Pursuing the two would be challenging, but that is what we expect of education. The future education we should pursue, therefore, is the future education for ‘all.’
I am hoping that Korea’s Green Smart Future School project will be a step forward on our way to bring forth the ideal future education. The project is renovating old school buildings across the country into eco-friendly and digitalized space. Members of schools and local communities will work together to design and create new futuristic style of schools, which will serve as a place for education and leisure of local residents as well as students. It will be a new kind of effort to provide future education, taking a different perspective from that of Minerva University.
The ideal future education we dream about would probably not take a single model or case for its end goal. Providing innovative education to foster elites as is done at Minerva, ensuring open coexistence of school education and lifelong education through such efforts as the Green Smart Future School project, and guaranteeing the opportunities for basic education via continuous public support, we need all of them for future education. We should not be satisfied with producing a number of graduates equipped with similar abilities. Instead, we should make efforts to meet the educational needs of diverse individuals living in diverse environment, by taking their specific circumstances into account, continuously and sincerely. Such individual efforts put together will be able to complete the picture of future education.
Seol Kyujoo / Translated by Ok Eurom