Challenges of 21st Century Education, Change!

Challenges of 21st Century Education. Change!


For the future to work we are going to need a revolution in our education system. At the moment we are failing. I have been working in education for the past 30 years. In that time I have seen change after change after change, initiative following initiative.

I have seen political swings to the left, political swings to the right. But I see an education system that is fundamentally unchanged, to the one I started teaching in all that time ago and it is failing.

Mental Health Crisis

Our children are being forced down a route of learning rote facts to regurgitate on exam papers. It’s not on the test. Not important some of our most creative subjects are being squeezed out of the timetable. It’s failing our young people. We read it every day in the newspapers with mental health crises and young people in crisis. So what has to change?

1-19th Century Design

We have to look again we have to completely reevaluate what we teach and how we teach. The problem is we’re delivering a system. whose roots are from the 19th century. Designed and created for a very different world. Yet if I were to bring forward from the past a 19th century school teacher.

That would probably be incredibly amazing for him or her. After they’ve got over all the technology and how similar the structures were in our classrooms. Children and young people being treated like Factory products. Working along the conveyor about being done to recipients of knowledge with teachers as gatekeepers

2-The Habits

Is that problem embedded in our cultural DNA? It’s a residue from the past that becomes a habit that we cannot break. But these habits residue DNA in our culture can be damaging. I want to give you an off topic example about 30 years ago. We had the space shuttle Challenger disaster well on takeoff the Challenger

Space Shuttle call fire and blew up in a fireball killing all on board. Ironically, deeply and sadly. It was also carrying what was supposed to be the first-ever civilian to go into space. A primary school teacher who is going to teach her first lessons from space.

Her entire class were at the launch site to watch the take-off. What’s that got to do though with what I’m talking about. The failure of the space shuttle goes back to historic cultural DNA. The shuttle is probably the pinnacle of space travel for us as a society it epitomizes everything modern and technological.

When I first saw the shuttles taking off. it reminded of my childhood watching the science fiction movies on tally. Thinking wow I’m part of this new technology. How amazing is that! and yet as I am tend to prove to you.

The failure of the space shuttle, goes back to the back side of a horse. Our first ever means of transport. Because what failed on the shuttle were the booster rockets. Those booster rockets were manufactured a significant distance away from the launch site.

They had to be transported on trains that had a fixed-width axle. That fixed axle is common across the world and goes back hundreds of years. There is no change from the very first design of trains . That width of the axle goes back to laziness in our Victorian era.

Where they just took a horse-drawn carriage change the wheels and put it on the iron tracks. The width is the same.

Those horse-drawn wagons go back hundreds of years as well before the Roman times. When they use to transport goods along muddy roads. They followed grooves cut through the mud by wagon after wagon after wagon.

If you had a wagon that had a different axle it might get stuck in the mud! So that wagon wave from pre-roman era to the Victorian invention of the steam train to a modern day. Limited the width of the booster rockets for the shuffle.

That led directly to the disaster was altering in those deaths cultural residue DNA. It exists in human beings and plants. We have an appendix. That is our residual DNA. It can cause us problems if we’re not careful. The same is true in culture and most importantly for education.

We teach the same method boxed silos to subjects teachers delivering the information. Yet society has changed our young people have changed beyond any recognition.


The pressures on us today are wildly. That are different and we need to change our education system to match. That if we think about it. We focus primarily on, what a conveniently called the three hours reading writing and arithmetic.

Those three hours date back to the early days of education system. Where mass education was first created to provide a reasonably literate and numerate workforce. To go into what at the time was new technology the factories.

Now robots are replacing humans. That do our work for us. So why are we still populating our schools with curriculum designed to teach for a job that doesn’t exist. But we also heard about artificial intelligence becoming more and more a major part of our life. It won’t be long before when you pick up a telephone to speak to somebody in a call center.

That actually you’re not talking to somebody but something and artificial intelligence held somewhere on a server or a computer. Perhaps the grandchild of Alexa and Google as it is today. But what will happen to the people that did those jobs or are doing those jobs now? and what do we have to do to make sure that they have the right education to cope with this?

New future about 10 years ago somebody stood on a stage and gave a talk. “The urgent need to change the paradigm, to completely revolutionize how we deliver education”.

Phrase, that sticks in my head, very clearly! that we are creating young people to go and do jobs that don’t exist. Using technologies that haven’t been invented to solve problems. That we don’t even know are problems. Yet nothing has changed!

Vision 2020

Twelve years ago committee of people who prepared a report called vision 2020. It outlined exactly what they felt young children going into nursery school. Needed to learn and develop as they went through their education system.

Because they would be the young people leaving in the year 2020. That’s effectively now and guess what nothing has changed so why not?

I think it’s became habit. It’s our dirty plates in the sink we’re not tackling that problem. But most important of all we’re not responding to need. We need to replace the 3 R’s with a different skillset. One that’s much more relevant for young people of today, and for your futures.


What is it? The likes of Microsoft have invested heavily in research, supportive companies and groups around the world. Creating a new skill set and they include things like resilience something we’ve heard a lot during today cooperation.

After all the problems that my generation have created! are going to need more than single person to solve communication skills.

Because whilst Alexa’s great grandchild might be able to solve my mobile phone bill. She or he may not necessarily be able to solve things more complicated than that. Then using and working alongside technology. Whether we like it or not technology is an important part of our lives and will continue to be

So it’s there! it’s here! it’s now! and it is changing rapidly. So rapidly that we can’t keep up with it basing that skill set around our curriculum. But is that at the heart has got to be a key priority? It’s got to be where we push our focus? Yes. We can still teach history, geography, science, Math and English.

They are important because they give us our richness. They make us human but I used to be a physics teacher and I used to say that the most important exciting thing I taught people was how to change a plug

because more often than not you’d buy an electrical item and it wouldn’t come with a plug on it nowadays it comes with a molded plug nobody needs to learn how do I plug anymore and yet it’s still on the science curriculum

So is for example how electricity generation works its useful maybe for some people to know that but everybody what’s perhaps more useful is for us to understand how mobile phones work how technology works how we communicate how we store information

what information is as one of the previous speakers said but it goes beyond that this education system we’re delivering still prioritizes academic knowledge is the pinnacle of humanity

But if we don’t get what’s beneath that it won’t matter there’s an amazing coming together at the moment as a psychology of neurobiology of medical imaging and educational pedagogy coming together to explain and understand

how our brains learn and how we grow and develop one of the overarching things that is coming out more and more is the feedback loop between how our feelings are manifesting and how well we learn.

If you’re anxious, if you’re worried and if you have concerns about anything in your life it floods your body with chemicals that stops you learning things so why in school do we ignore that why in school as we’re seeing in newspaper headlines at the moment make it a bad thing to exhibit your emotions.


Headlines, “bad behavior zero tolerance schools” now I’m a head teacher I’ve worked for the last 25 27 years with children and young people I’ve have rarely seen bad behavior what I’ve seen is children and young people struggling to cope with “who they are?” struggling to understand their place in the world and not knowing how to communicate

That’s what I’ve seen is children and young people desperate to be known and valued by somebody and when they don’t get that they explore that and communicate it the only way they know and we call that bad behavior.


I’m a young person that wants to learn sitting in a class the teacher at front is one of those doesn’t tolerate any bad behavior. I don’t understand the lesson so I put my hand up to ask a question and I get told off how that makes me feel.


So we need to completely revolutionize education teachers need to stop seeing themselves as teachers of subjects I started my career my 30 years ago is in physics and science it took a long time of my own personal journey for me to change that label myself I am now an educator of children and young people.

Yes I love physics. I have a passion for it and I love talking about it but I love helping young people grow and engage more we need schools that see the holistic nature of young people that have counselors and support services and therapists supporting the bottom end of education

the roots of young we need to invest, we need to put away our arguments around what is important in education.

We need to take away the politics from it and we need to remind ourselves that as a society our only important job is to nurture and care for and look after our young people because if we get that wrong there won’t be a future and it won’t be an exclamation mark or a question mark at the end of the sentence

The future of the world the future of work it will be nothing because we won’t have done our young people any favors at all. I started education with a passion for working with young people and this far on in my career I am still deeply passionate about that because it is in our young people the future holds and it is our job to give them the skills to succeed.

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