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The education we need to meet the challenges of the future

The great challenge we teachers face is to prepare our students for an unknown, uncertain and complex world. This implies working on a new educational paradigm, in which people are able to recognize that today’s problems require an interdisciplinary approach that fosters deep understanding and new proposals for solutions.

This new paradigm highlights the need for critical thinking. This implies developing an educational strategy in which students know:

  • Find the information.
  • Validate whether the information is false or true.
  • Evaluate the relevance of the information.
  • Understand the context of the information.
  • Contrast or combine different sources of information
  • Determine whether the information is based on recent research.

In short, it requires the ability to investigate relevant, true and valid information in different contexts. This implies a formation of character in which one is committed to the search for truth, has an open mind and shows intellectual humility.

In addition to critical thinking, the following generic competencies are relevant:

  • Communication. To be able to engage in dialogue that enables new perspectives. To have the openness to see the world from other people’s eyes.
  • Teamwork. Learning to relate to others and knowing how to complement skills. Students must know what characterizes a good team and know that collaboration leads to better results. Learn that leadership in the 21st century is distributed leadership.
  • Problem solving. Use an interdisciplinary approach that favors a deep understanding of a problem.
  • Creative thinking. To have the ability to relate, associate and create meaning. And, above all, to generate ideas that can be implemented.

In this transformation process the following factors are key:

  • Understanding. Knowing how the world works. That our students have a deep understanding of the context and the connections that exist.
  • Ethics. To ask themselves what their responsibilities are.
  • Imagination. Identify the infinite opportunities that context offers us.
  • Action. Recognize what actions need to be taken.

But how do these key factors interact? For example, we can ask our students to investigate how diseases spread. This analysis will help them understand the phenomenon of epidemics. Ethical reasoning can then be integrated by asking whether vaccination should be mandatory. Then, we can imagine new strategies to prevent epidemics and identify the actions to be taken.

The role of universities in the future

In this new paradigm, the role of the university is to be an instrument for lifelong learning, that is, to promote continuous training and the acquisition of new skills. This implies a change from subject-centred learning to personal learning.

As well as recognizing that it is easier to tell students what we know, than to face the challenge of promoting reasoning in them. From now on, universities must seek original approaches to transmitting knowledge.

As teachers we can start to be more original in the classroom, inviting students to collaborate in the construction of the class material, connecting our topics with content from other courses and making the learning objectives explicit. Thinking in the medium term, what I would like them to remember, knowing that students learn from what they do.

We are not in a process of transition in education, but in a process of transformation of deep teaching and learning. It is a change of paradigm in education, assuming commitments to person-centered learning.

The new educational model implies learning by doing, playing, using and interacting with the world. Reading the present and preparing for the future.