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WHY DO WE TEACH OUR CHILDREN: Volodymyr Spivakovsky on the trends and imbalances of modern education

WHY DO WE TEACH OUR CHILDREN: Volodymyr Spivakovsky on the trends and imbalances of modern education
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The question presented in the title of this interview is not as easy to answer as it seems at first glance. Of course, parents always want the best for their children. But is modern education the most effective tool for preparing a child for a sustainable existence in the fast-changing XXI century? Or is it the way we teach our children? Are we ready for the educational revolution that is inevitably approaching?

Volodymyr Spivakovsky, a true educational innovator, writer, scholar, founder of the first private lyceum in Ukraine, the «Grand», and president of the international corporation Edu Future 7W, will tell our readers about this.

 

EDUCATIONAL MODELS ARE STUCK IN THE PAST

 

Today, there are significant imbalances in school and higher education systems in different countries around the world. First of all, because, unfortunately, it is still not a system. There is complete chaos and no systematic understanding of what children should be taught, how to teach, where to teach, how much to spend, from whom to learn, and, most importantly — why to learn at all? This is the same as a factory making products and not having an answer to the following fundamental questions: who needs these products and why?

The primary imbalance is that education is designed to train personnel for the economy and various industries, which are already at the 5.0 level, while the level of education in the field is still 2.0. Such education is not able to fulfill its main function. Education remains the only industry that has not heard the words «marketing» and «calculation».

It ignores the requirements of a progressive human resources market, not knowing who and how many are needed, believing that the market will somehow regulate on its own. However, in reality, such market regulation does not happen. Therefore, the education system, which poorly cares about the cost-benefit ratio, miserably exists on a residual basis.

It is easy to solve these problems by implementing a progressive model of the education system. It consists of 48 basic elements that are well known. If everything is done correctly and all the elements are optimally interconnected, they work for the desired result — achieving the 5.0 level.

There are no restrictions on building an effective educational model. We just need to formulate goals, structure the algorithm, choose a pilot project, and then scale it up. When I was doing such a project in the Kyiv region, I discovered an unexpected KPI for its success. And it’s not the number of medalists, Olympians, or teachers of the highest category.

I am convinced that now is the time to implement the coolest reforms in education in Ukraine, which will affect the mentality, the economy, the country’s progress, and its new role in the world.

 

ARCHAIC THINKING AND THE «NEW CLASSICS»

 

If we summarize global educational trends, we can state that there is a transition from «teaching knowledge» to «teaching understanding». Because thinking skills are more important than simply acquiring information, even if it is very valuable and well-structured.

The civilized world is moving towards the transition from subject lessons to integrated case studies. From learning processes — to results. From simple thinking — to a combination of natural and artificial intelligence. From studying boring paragraphs — to mastering and practicing useful knowledge information. This may sound like a threat to many people, but the transition from human teachers to robot teachers is not so far off in our future.

It is a pity that Ukraine is not keeping up with these trends. But this state of things is not unique to our country — profound innovations in school education are very slow to penetrate everywhere, with great difficulty. That’s why schoolchildren around the world are mostly taught archaic thinking, outdated knowledge, and a phantom future.

They are taught things that no longer exist in reality. On the contrary, they are not taught new professions and skills that meet new demands. For a modern person, the so-called «classical knowledge» is no longer enough. Because over the past 100-150 years, a «new knowledge classics» has emerged, which school conservatives are not even aware of.

Any system corresponds to the breath of its time. This can be said of all systems: transportation, food, music, medicine… They are not the same now as they were 300 years ago. Only education remains almost unchanged. You walk into a classroom and see the same things as in past eras: chalk, blackboard, rags, desks, paragraphs, diaries, 45-minute lessons, a set of subjects from the XVIII century, and one teacher per class.

Education remains the only industry in the world that still uses unproductive «manual» teacher labor. Because of this, the education system’s efficiency is only about 20%.

 

NATIONAL DIFFERENCES AND AMBITIOUS GOALS

 

Countries usually implement their own education systems: British, Singaporean, Finnish, Japanese. Unfortunately, there can be no universal education system for everyone. Because education is not just about sines, valences, atoms, neurons, formulas, and theorems. It is also about a country’s economic capabilities, its history, traditions, and the way it looks to the future.

In our country, there are certain problems with all of this… Once upon a time, the Finnish education system was recognized as the best according to PISA criteria, and thousands of delegations of educators from around the world rushed there to learn from their experience. And they tried very hard to apply it in their own countries. But no one succeeded! Therefore, within about 20 years, the Finnish system was taken off the «pedestal», and the countries of Southeast Asia took its place. And there, the principles on which the education system is built are different from the Finnish one.

The Asian system is rigid. It has a lot of lessons, homework, punishment, competition, and stress. However, we also see high results: the whole world is delighted to see the rapid growth of the economy and the well-being of the population of South Korea, Hong Kong, China, etc. The European system, by contrast, is much more tolerant.

It is calm, undemanding, and non-judgmental. The main thing for it is the psychological comfort of the child so that he or she is not nervous. For this, teachers receive high salaries. However, over time, it turned out that the results of this system were not very impressive, and the budget did not have enough money for teachers. Soon, there was a shortage of intelligent professors in Finnish universities, and education dropped out of national brands. All that remained were Finnish baths and Finnish houses, and even Nokia could not resist.

I’m not saying all this so that we in Ukraine can blindly copy someone. But to set ambitious goals and change the education system to a modern one that will differ from the old system, like a drone from a slingshot. This, by the way, can be done quickly, painlessly, and without much expense. I know this because I have had such experience in our country and other countries.

 

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«PHASE TRANSITION» EDUCATION

 

There is such a thing as a «phase transition». This is when the new is fundamentally different from the old. For example, an airplane differs from a cart. Or a skyscraper from an old-fashioned cottage. Or a cell phone from a loudspeaker.

In the XIX century, the progress of horse-drawn transport was seriously discussed. New horseshoes for horses, varieties of fodder hay, carriages, horse breeds, location of inns, etc. were invented. Then, the automobile burst into the world of people, and everything turned upside down!

Until the XIX century, the most common profession was that of a torchman, who lit lanterns on the streets in the evenings and put them out in the morning. It was a profitable and huge multimillion-dollar business: tow, flint, buckets, poles… It seemed that it would be like that forever. But Edison came and said: «Here’s a light bulb!» And again, everything turned around in an instant! What do we see now?

The planet has been «attacked» by artificial intelligence, thanks to which education will be completely rebuilt. Even a foreign language will not be so unbearable for everyone to learn. Not only the profession itself will change, but also the number of teachers, as there will no longer be as many of them needed. Unfortunately, our education system hardly reacts to these trends, ignoring the possible negative consequences.

AI solves the centuries-old insoluble problem of teachers: how to teach a child to learn! Teachers have failed in this task. Now, AI delivers educational material much faster than teachers and in the proper format. Moreover, children have started to think differently.

They used to be told: «Think!» A poor child with tears in his eyes did not understand what he was being told. Now, she quickly learns different types of thinking: creative, associative, logical, critical, practical, business, and systemic. The tasks the child receives are not formal but interesting. This increases the motivation to learn, which has been challenging to achieve for centuries.

China has schools for 100,000 and kindergartens for 75,000 children. And this does not bother anyone. It’s just that all the processes are organized differently, and with better results. It’s just that most of the responsibility for knowledge and behavior is transferred from the teacher to the student. This is already half of the motivation.

The second half is achieved by reasonably advanced learning materials that are easy to comprehend and verified by practical cases. The efficiency of such an education system increases from 20% to 50-60%.

 

SOCIAL ELEVATORS AND STAKEHOLDERS

 

There are 7 main stakeholders who are interested in well-trained personnel: the state, family, business, universities, science, students, and the community. If schools turn into full-fledged executors of stakeholder orders, all the necessary balances will be maintained — both in terms of educational content and funding.

Of course, technology is the domain of inventors. Microsoft, Cadillac, and contact lenses were not invented by governments. But, once a product reaches a scale of about 10%, government agencies can get involved, supporting innovation with conferences, influence, and laws.

Education is not in an airless space. Schoolchildren and students need to see the country’s prospects and see themselves in those prospects. Look at the way the goal of educational reforms is formulated in the United States, Singapore, Poland, and the UAE. These are not good EIT scores at all, and the benefits for children and the country are not very clear. The goals should be: a higher standard of living, bringing education closer to the highest international standards, attracting investment and «brains» to the country.

In order to achieve these goals, America massively engaged school principals and teachers to introduce innovations. As for Ukraine, I have the following observation. When doctors go to international conferences to learn from each other, they come back and introduce new technologies — there are more well-equipped clinics and better medicines.

But when teachers return from international conferences, nothing happens: they continue to teach as they have been teaching! Even elite education here does not guarantee anything because our institutions are elite, because they are not accessible to everyone, and not because they raise leaders.

I once counted that we have 25 types of different schools to suit every taste and budget, and this is good. The bad thing is that the only social elevators we have are career and political ones, which means that potentially anyone can get to the top of the career pyramid. However, the world is now changing its view of such elevators.

Preference is given to professional elevators, as liberal amateurs in the leadership of countries and companies are plunging the world into chaos.

 

THE REVOLUTION IS BEGINNING

 

In general, the following conclusion can be drawn: the current education system has led us to wars and crises, to a world in which it is uncomfortable and dangerous to live. Therefore, it probably makes sense to completely change the basic educational attitudes.

• Firstly, we need to focus education not only on talented children, but also to help millions of children work with educational material using new technologies.

• Secondly, we need to take into account rapid changes in the labor market.

• Thirdly, we have to improve online learning technologies, which are rapidly evolving.

• Fourth, knowledge content should take into account changes in the global world — everything that happens with artificial intelligence, digitalization, steam, information processing, natural resources, military trends, social media, interpersonal relationships, etc.

Everyone realizes that it is impossible to continue living in such absurdity: for 12 years, an unfortunate pupil downloads thousands of different paragraphs into his head but still knows nothing, cannot, does not, and doesn’t want to know anything after graduation.

The question is: where have billions of dollars been spent, and what should we do about it? The answer is the same as in related industries, where an airplane has replaced the cart, and a light bulb has replaced the tow. How can we make the efficiency of education start to increase intensively? It’s not very common to advertise myself in interviews, but I think it would be appropriate to mention my «Atlas of the Perfect Education System».

It contains algorithms and matrices that can help education move from an archaic feudal status to an industrial and information trend and act as a full-fledged modern industry. With all the adequate attributes: resources, calculations, goals, technologies, and results.

 


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