As a parent, leader or concerned member of our society and community, I think it is natural to want our young people to have better opportunities than we did.
I was fortunate enough to benefit from an education here in Thailand and in Canada, and it was the disparities at that time and my belief in the potential of this region’s people that fired my passion.
These days, things are much improved and improving (if slowly). I respect educators doing their best, but we must face facts. We have all been through more traditional learning experiences firsthand and seen their limitations. Yes, they are the backbone of education systems worldwide, but we are past the time for a shift.
As a parent myself, as an employer, and as someone fortunate enough to get to learn from education thinkers and educators, traditional approaches are no longer able to keep pace with the needs of our transforming society. These include increasingly individualised opportunities (and challenges), the struggle against increasing inequality, or new approaches to the longer lives we all hope to live.
I do not mean to suggest education is a cure-all for everything that faces us, but better experiences would be powerful tools in mitigating some of the worst outcomes. Before I discuss why, let us look at the world our young people are living in today.
Young Thais live in an increasingly digital age, and technology has transformed their lives. Although we have made inroads, education is lagging behind personal use in technology applications. There are opportunities for much greater use of digital tools, online resources, educational apps and experience platforms as stimulating as the games they play. Platforms like Netflix and TikTok already provide them with highly personalised entertainment (with which education needs to compete for their attention), and they are used to adaptive learning from platforms.
We could use tech-driven experiences to help them better grasp concepts, stay engaged and achieve better outcomes. The World Wide Web is host to massive amounts of easy-to-access knowledge and educational resources, far superior to the static and often outdated textbooks we all experienced at school.
These resources could free up time for in-class development of invaluable future skills like critical thinking and problem-solving. The advances in games have allowed our young people to collaborate and communicate to kill their enemies in Fortnite, but they still face the exam hall once a year. This does not reflect the modern world at all.
The current focus on rote memorisation and obsession with exams is not fostering critical thinking, creativity and problem-solving skills. The traditional teacher-centred approaches mean students passively receive information rather than contribute to their learning process.
The limited focus on practical skills and real-world relevance means there is a gap between what students learn and the skills needed for employment and overall success in society, and the lack of individual agency and autonomy hinders the development of independent thinking, decision-making skills and self-directed learning.
I do not think we can wait any longer to rapidly switch to providing our young people access to new, smart learning experiences because we risk failing to prepare them for the challenges and opportunities of the future with the skills, knowledge and mindsets to survive. If this sounds reasonable, does it also sound expensive and unlikely? Not necessarily, but if we don’t start somewhere, our young face an immediate future in which limited and inadequate:
- academic achievement will limit their opportunities for further education or employment;
- digital literacy will not produce the crucial digital skills needed for the modern world;
- workforce preparation means they will graduate without the skills necessary to thrive.
But how can educators, parents and other concerned members of society do this effectively, and without big technology investments?
- Explore free or low-cost digital learning platforms that offer interactive activities, assessments and resources. There are lots available to make learning more interactive and enjoyable for students.
- Find an app to reinforce concepts, provide additional practice, and make learning fun and engaging. Duolingo and Mondly are free for language learning.
- Access Open Educational Resources to supplement classroom instruction and provide students with additional learning materials.
- Make collaborative learning experiences central based on projects, sharing ideas, and providing each other feedback to their peers.
- Add games in which students earn points, badges, and rewards as they progress, motivating them to actively participate and learn.
- Flip your learning: use pre-recorded videos or online resources, so class time is dedicated to discussions and application.
The above can be done at the individual or individual school level, and I know many passionate educators and parents are already doing it. Their experience tells us that we do not need a complete overhaul of the system requiring a large budget that is never going to come.
There is simply no need to delay upgrading our young people’s educational experiences and outcomes when we can start today.
Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer, Managing Director, and Founder at SEAC — Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Centre. She is fascinated by the challenge of transforming education for all to create better prospects for Thais and people everywhere. Reach her email at firstname.lastname@example.org or https://www.linkedin.com/in/arinya-talerngsri-53b81aa