Yong Zhao, like Daniel Pink, makes a compelling case for re-imagining our school system in the age of globalization.
With our current overemphasis on knowledge transmission, we run the risk of sacrificing innovation, all in the pursuit of scores.
Zhao provided a glance at some international education reforms that move toward what our policy seems design to limit: autonomy, creativity, and innovation:
- Japan: Respecting individual school autonomy
- Singapore: explicit teaching of critical and creative thinking skills; reduction of subject content; revision of assessment modes
- Korea: ultimate goal is to cultivate creative, autonomous, and self-driven human resources who will lead the era’s developments in information, knowldge and globalization
In 1964, the first international mathematics study (FIMS) tested 13 year olds from 12 nations. US finished second to last.
Such comparisons leads us to the question, what matters?
Zhao suggests the following:
- Diversity of talents
In support of these elements he considers schools’ talent shows a strength.
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hit the breaks. Talent shows as a strength? Isn’t that the problem? We’re wasting our time with obscure, random celebrations of student mediocrity when we should be focusing on skill development, accountability, and achievement.
Hear, Zhao asks us to go with him for a second, to pull away from the short term analysis and to look at the larger trends and values therein.
“School talent shows value individual talents, inspire passion and responsibility, tolerate deviation, and cultivate entrepreneurship.” To make the case stronger, he employs the idea of children as pop-corn — some pop early, some pop late. And in this mindset we respect individual differences, have faith in every child, and give second, third, fourth chances. There are essential learnings that can happen herein that help students develop skills that cannot be shipped overseas.
Globalization: The Death of Distance
Technology is rendering specific knowledge increasingly less valuable. Think of London taxi drivers who might spend three years learning and memorizing every street in the city before GPS was made widely available.
What do we offer that companies cannot get overseas?
Here Zhao makes the case that the 21st century is about personalization and customization, with the idea that “something local becomes more valuable.” He implores us to cultivate talents that can guide students through (and help them take advantage of) globalization.
Knowledge of the globe
- Global economics
- Global problems
Languages and culture
Living in the digital world
- Community leaders
Making a living in the digital world
- Digital workers
- Global workers
(Re)Creating the digital world
How can we do it?
We need, “Schools as Global Enterprises: Re-imagine Education in the Age of Globalization.”
Schools as Global Enterprises would focus on:
- Global products
- Global resources
- Global market
- Global staffing
- Physical environment
- Learning facilities
- Teacher quality
- Diverse opportunities
- Student voice
- Global connections
In the end Zhao says we need to reinvest and regain trust in our public school system.
Education is about dreams. Not about rules.