A Revolution and a New Paradigm in Education

Knowledge is the sustenance of civilization and culture. Language is the instrument for mental comprehension and transmission of knowledge. Education is the means by which each generation passes on to the next in a concentrated, systematic manner the cumulative knowledge and wisdom acquired in the past. Of all the technologies developed by humanity, none is as powerful and sophisticated as the means we have fashioned to gather, organize, store, share and transmit knowledge. Education is the instrument of conscious human evolution.

We are on the cusp of a revolution potentially more powerful and important than any technological or political revolution in history. As the on-going revolution in information is generating and transmitting an unprecedented range and depth of data at dazzling speed, a parallel revolution in Knowledge is processing and analyzing that information to forge new fields of study, new perspectives and a greater understanding of the world we live in; a revolution in Education is about to transform the way human beings learn and transmit knowledge from one person and one generation to another. After centuries of slow, methodical development, education is evolving today more rapidly than ever before.

Advances in communication technology are the immediate occasion and means of liberating education from the university classroom and the printed textbook into the boundless, timeless realm of cyberspace, but the Education Revolution involves far more than adaption of new technology, and the significance of what is happening extends far beyond online courses and e-books. For in the process, the barriers that have long isolated and insulated the university from the world around it are breaking down. The knowledge presently encapsulated in the organized curriculum of higher education represents only a tiny fraction of the cumulative knowledge of humanity. It does not fully reflect the vast knowledge of retired teachers, managers, and public officials that is so often lost when they retire, or the expertise acquired by entrepreneurs and businesses that spend hundreds of billions of dollars every year educating their own employees, or the knowledge acquired by the UN system and other international organizations over six decades of grappling with the challenges of global governance, or the knowledge and experience of thousands of NGOs working on issues related to peace, public policy, economy, ecology and social issues. All these will more easily find their way into the virtual classroom of tomorrow than they have into the physical classroom of the past.

Today education is rightly considered the single most important endowment for success in life. Those with higher education find better work opportunities, earn more, achieve greater security, and live longer, healthier, more satisfying lives. Yet, in spite of rising levels of education globally, unemployment is rising at the same time and it is reaching levels that threaten both human security and social stability in some countries. More education by itself is no longer sufficient. In a world that is changing so rapidly, we need an educational system that is far more flexible, adaptive and responsive to the changing needs of society and capable of developing more fully the seemingly unlimited range and depth of our individual and collective human potential, so essential at a time when we are severely overexploiting the earth’s natural capital.

The revolution in education now makes it possible to bridge the gulf that presently divides the knowledge taught in universities from the practical knowledge and skills needed for accomplishment in life. Every student of economics learns the principles of micro-economics that would be operative under conditions of perfect competition, yet such conditions rarely, if ever, exist in the real world of the marketplace. Models and constructs are helpful for advancing our conceptual understanding, but mistaking models for the real world is a recipe for disaster. The awarding of Nobel Prizes in economics for the computerized trading models that have destabilized global financial markets is an instance. Controlled experiments in the laboratory are not adequate preparation for the complexity and spontaneity of life in the world outside. Biological models are insufficient to reflect the evolutionary potential of human consciousness.

Pages: 1 2