There are many Talibans in Education

I was saddened to read about the Taliban prohibiting the right to education for women in Afghanistan. This is truly a modern crime against humanity. It got me thinking that there are actually many ‘Talibans’ out there limiting education choices for parents, and most importantly for learners, who are seeking more relevant and engaging options.

Education is a worldwide issue spanning both the first world and third world alike, as it is just not working for our global youth. Speak to teachers, parents, companies, students and even politicians and they will all agree that it’s a broken, outdated system with very little hope of needed change.

The truth is that it can change, and it must change if we hope to meet all the UN sustainable development goals that we speak about so much. It can change because we have new technology that facilitates quality education across borders, education can now be personalised to each individual student allowing them to reach their full potential. However this will require the will of all stakeholders, from parents to heads of educational institutions and of course government.

There are many challenges affecting the efficiency of education; one being the lack of qualified and/or motivated teachers. This can be overcome via the ‘up-skilling’ of existing teachers and by introducing ‘Learning Coaches’ who can assist learners to reach their academic and personal goals.

Technology allows for more freedom and flexibility within individual learning paces. This, as well as writing exams when the student is ready, alleviates anxiety and stress which leads to negative mental health issues in our young teenagers. We are able to use technology to provide students with the skills that the workforce is/will be looking for by the time they graduate, as they can continuously learn new material and master content that interests them.

With all these possibilities on offer our governments still choose to stay focused and committed to obsolete education models which offer little to, and do not prepare our young adults for, tomorrow’s world. Should it not be the parents and students’ choice as to what and how they learn? I understand that we pay taxes for public education but when it’s not working and even becoming harmful to generations of children, should we not allow parents and students to choose a new path which works for them? Surely the individual and their family know better what methods or systems are effective for them personally. With teacher strikes and crumbling schools we should not at least allow for viable alternatives, let alone encourage them?

I understand that traditional school may work for some people, but studies show that 75% of teenagers don’t like the current schooling system. I am not asking for tax rebates for those who decide not to use public education, I am only asking that the constitutional right of choice – to elect our own education – be respected. This in itself will relieve the pressure on public education, and ultimately improve all types of education. I predict that many of the alternative concepts will prove public education to be an embarrassment faster than you’d believe.

We cannot be hypocritical and criticise the Taliban for their actions when we still persecute anyone who chooses an alternative educational model. Many models are being developed to meet the needs of today’s challenges – offering partnerships, for example, with leading companies who invest billions in providing solutions for today’s world as well as training to overcome shortcomings which traditional educational models contribute to. Countries adopting these alternative models will experience long term growth benefits and many other competitive advantages over those that remain stagnant within traditional models.

We need to teach machine learning, AI, coding, music, art, plumbing, trades, mechanics, and anything else that the student wants. Learning needs to become personalised to help to fulfil the purpose that each student is born with or develops. We need to encourage learners to seek knowledge and skills that they have passion for as this is when the magic happens and they flourish. We cannot keep judging and rating individuals on material they don’t care for, or worse, is no longer relevant.

We can use AI to better help learners with special needs gain more control of their lives because they are growing. We can use AI to prepare each learner’s path to update their knowledge and skills when needed. We need all stakeholders such as parents, companies, community and government to work together and build a more relevant educational model for all. Yes, this can be done if the will is there.

The Taliban limit education because they have fear of what it brings to their people. Our governments need to be BRAVE and allow changes in education which will provide solutions to our current and future global fears. New educational models will provide solutions to such challenges we are encountering. It’s time to embrace new ideas, to lead from the front, otherwise we are all living by way of insanity; repeatedly doing something that doesn’t work.

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” ​~Albert Einstein

Published in Público newspaper by Tim Vieira 8/02/2023 in Portuguese version.

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