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An increasingly common assertion – one that has in fact now become banal – is that education needs to change to meet the complex needs of the twenty-first century. Whereas science and technology, medicine and travel, multinational corporations and economic development have all followed revolutionary trajectories in the last decades, in most instances the world of education, most especially in schools, seems to have stayed the same.
Different sources point to different global megatrends, involving urbanization, the creation of wealth, resource scarcity, planetary problems. The world has changed incommensurately in the last century: the world population has quadrupled since World War II (from two billion to nearly eight billion); artificial intelligence now effectively has the computing power of a human brain; we are exhausting over 150% of the planet’s biocapacity; while globalization and social media have made the world far more accessible than ever before. At the same time, increased and increasing income disparity and new forms of terrorism have created further division and polarization within the planet’s population.
The world of today is one of VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity). And the intuitive response is that the education we are providing for young people should therefore change radically. We are now in the fourth industrial revolution, commonly known as Industry 4.0. It is characterized by exponential change, the Internet of things and highly developed artificial intelligence. Human beings no longer merely use technological tools; they interact with, and in, intelligent systems.
Over the last few decades, there have been major changes in the planet’s political, social and environmental landscape, and experts suggest that change will be even more pronounced over the decades to come.
There is an urgent need to re-evaluate education and learning. My presentation, based on a recently published book (Brill 2018) overviews seven global challenges that affect education and learning and stresses the importance of global citizenship for sustainable development.