This page contains the current draft of the full text of Chapter 5 of RAFT 2035. All content is subject to change.
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5. Elevating education
Goal 5 of RAFT 2035 is that world-class life-preparation education to postgraduate level will be freely available to everyone.
Goal 5, like Goal 4, can be seen as a special case of Goal 3. No one will need to obtain paid work in order to enjoy a life of abundant flourishing. Therefore, world-class life-preparation education should be available as widely and freely as possible.
Done well, education opens many new vistas, by providing information, skills, and connections. It reduces the chances of people being misled or manipulated, or falling victim to deception or distortion. It prepares people better for activities that are more challenging but also more fulfilling. This kind of education badly needs to become available more widely and more fully.
Just as for good accommodation and good food, what will make good education widely available will be to embrace the full potential of automation, including AI.
The associated technologies are sometimes called “edutech”. This includes:
- An expansion of online materials and online courses
- Tech-supported collaborative learning
- AI systems, including automated essay marking, which can improve the evaluation of the areas in which each student would benefit from further study and/or alternative approaches
- “Precision personalised education” – akin to “precision personalised medicine”
- Use of biofeedback to monitor and manage mental states while learning
- Opportunities with gamification and “serious games”
- Immersive virtual reality learning environments
- Time-shifted education, to counteract the “social jet lag” experienced by teenagers
- Empirical measurements of the effectiveness of different approaches to education.
Thanks to this kind of forthcoming improvements in edutech, there is no reason for education to be anything like as expensive as at present.
Edutech can transform, not only how educational materials are delivered and received, but also the content and structure of those educational materials, and, therefore, the ease of updating that material. The greater agility enabled by edutech will allow older educational material to be replaced more quickly by newer material that is more relevant for the fast-changing challenges ahead.
In parallel with increased use of edutech, the main role of human teachers will change from knowledge conduit to mentor.
A syllabus fit for the future
Education has traditionally focused heavily on preparing students for the workforce. Other goals, such as helping to develop human character, and preparing students for adulthood in general, have tended in practice to play a secondary role.
Indeed, present-day education tends to prepare students for the challenges of the past, when the needs and expectations of society were relatively stable. However, as the 2020s unfold, society is experiencing a confluence of accelerating transformations:
First, people typically change their occupational role more frequently than in the past – when many spent their entire careers within a single company, or if not a single company, then in a single profession. What’s more, a larger part of most people’s lives will be spent outside of paid employment. A larger proportion of education should, therefore, be preparing students to thrive, not in work, but in a post-work society.
Second, people are being bombarded with ever-greater amounts of information, in rapidly evolving formats – with much of that information being designed to mislead or confuse, and lots more being unintentionally misleading or confusing. Accordingly, a focus on critical thinking and collaborative intelligence is sorely needed. This is in contrast with previous educational models which prioritised the memorisation of facts.
Third, emerging disruptive technology has the potential to transform human experience in multiple ways that are hard to predict, including ways that are wonderfully positive, as well as ways that are deeply negative. In contrast to previous educational models which tended to assume that most change is linear (incremental), education needs to do more to raise awareness of exponential change and feedback cycles. In particular, it’s critical that education covers the skills of radical foresight, scenario design, and the identification and management of both existential risks and existential opportunities (that is, risks and opportunities that would profoundly alter the circumstances of human existence).
Fourth, interactions with other people aren’t just more numerous than in the past, but are also more diverse – because of greater global travel and interaction than in the past; and because groups of people are increasingly adopting new lifestyles, new bodily modifications, new social structures, and new philosophies. Indeed, as well as coexisting with diverse other people, there will be a growing set of issues around coexisting with advanced AIs and robots. In contrast to previous educational models which assumed a broadly static cultural background, education now needs to prepare students for ultra-diversity.
Fifth, many of the assumptions behind traditional frameworks for ethics and morality are being challenged by new ideas that are circulating, and by unprecedented new possibilities that technology puts in our hands. Again, that’s a reason for improved fluidity and clarity of thinking. It’s a reason for education to regard not only IQ (measures of raw intellectual power) but also EQ, including emotional resilience and mental agility.
Taken together, these five ongoing transformations demand a corresponding change in the education syllabus – an education that elevates rather than constrains.
In summary, it is time to re-evaluate much of the content of existing educational courses. These courses should be targeted at assisting students to cope with the pace of change in society, to reach their full potential, to identify and respond to opportunities and risks, and to participate wisely in social activities, including democratic decision-making. Thanks to edutech, these courses should be freely available to everyone.
Due to the conservative nature of much of the educational establishment, it is to be expected that disruptive uses of edutech will tend to be pioneered in groups and organisations outside of the educational mainstream. Some encouraging examples should be noted:
- The free online courses available from Khan Academy
- Mobile applications such as DuoLingo which are teaching languages to unprecedented numbers of students worldwide
- The Ecole 42 initiative and partner colleges around the world
- The School of Life with its extensive resources to “help people lead more fulfilled lives”.
These initiatives will reach larger audiences, and cover a wider range of skills, once more public resources are deployed to support them.
To accelerate progress with Goal 5, two interim targets for 2025 are proposed:
- To clearly demonstrate the effectiveness of at least some elements of edutech, in reducing costs whilst delivering higher quality education. These demonstrations will change the public mood concerning the usefulness, the development, and the wider application of edutech.
- To reach agreement on the core of a transformed educational syllabus focused on new life opportunities – an education fit for the 2020s and beyond – an education that will, as it happens, equip members of society to make more rapid progress with the RAFT goals.
Our social environment contains threats as well as opportunities. A threat which can unexpectedly derail someone’s life is that of criminal attack, including violent assault, the theft or destruction of key possessions, and damage to personal reputation. The next chapter considers how this threat can be significantly reduced.
For more information
- The book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, by Yuval Noah Harari
- The book Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, by Clayton M. Christensen, Michael B. Horn, and Curtis W. Johnson
- The 6 minute video by rapper “Prince Ea”, I sued the school system
- The RSA Animate video Changing Education Paradigms, by Ken Robinson