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21st century education – Time to create learning organisations!

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21st century education is driven by technological innovations that are growing exponentially. Emerging complexity of global economic, social and environmental challenges is creating demands for an education framework that would prepare children of today to be innovative, creative and skilled citizens of tomorrow. Professionals in the education sector need to be digitally literate. Learning environments that inculcate skills of critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, creativity need to become a norm of teaching process.  Information and communication technologies integration in classroom instructions has to be routine.

Enormous efforts to integrate technology into education at all levels are gripping the present times. Trends of educators and investors turning partners in decisions that enrich education are encouraging. May be to get a competitive edge but good enough for keeping pace with emerging trends in education are praiseworthy.

Innovations in technology tools to support education at all levels are keeping even the content developing industries on toes. Industry and academia are collaborating for innovation in creation of content and appropriate use of tech tools to facilitate learning. The paradox of transforming the pedagogy of yesteryears (Teacher Centred) to meet the demands of digital learners of today (Student Centred) needs a balance of approach.

Educational leadership today faces the challenge to prepare 21st century educators. Educators who are willing to learn to change and are changing to learn will hold the key to 21st century education. Are we, the educators ready to unlearn that is redundant, learn that is essential and relearn if needed and in turn become lifelong learners along with students is the bigger challenge?

In the transition to 21st century education model, the shift can occur smoothly and expeditiously if parents as partners in education and society at large are also actively engaged.

Creating professional learning communities is the need and key to resolve this paradox.

Two critical aspects of the challenge are:

  • Academic vision and planning for 21st century model of education
  • Creating creative educators to turn the vision into a reality
  • Academic perspective is related to understanding of what is 21st century education and visualisation of how to approach it.
  • The perception of turning this vision into a reality can be summarised into an action plan of 3Rs.
  • Re-engineering the academic curriculum by teaching strategies and learning environments that offer opportunities of communication and collaboration not only within the class room but also beyond the boundaries is vital need of 21st century learners. Innovation and sharing of knowledge must be nurtured.
  • Revisit the classrooms with a focus on invigorating the learning environments. Integrate technology into curriculum to revamp the teaching learning process. Learning environments /activities need to be personalised and project based learning to instil skills of research, analysis, synthesis and creativity.
  • Rational approach to transform the faculty into 21st century educators is mandatory.
  • Educators need to redefine the teaching learning process to student centred approach. Training the faculty for integrated, inter-disciplinary, innovative, interesting and interactive curriculum will be essential.

And this calls for changing mindsets of faculty to adapt to and create constant personal and social change to lifelong learning.

Creating creative educators is a basically the human resource perspective that needs focus on creating an army of professionals dedicated to R-21 vision. Professional development that promote relationship-building will pave the way for transformation. Professionals who are highly creative and can collaborate to innovate for educational solutions will benefit the organisations.

Creating this shift demands creating learning communities and thus learning organisations committed to cause of education is a clarion call for action.

Five attributes that characterise a professional learning community are:

  • Supportive and shared leadership
  • Shared vision and values
  • Collective thinking and creativity
  • Sharing knowledge and experiences
  • Support systems to enhance all above

Peter Senge, scientist and organisational-theory expert, is a leading writer in the area of learning organisations. In his book The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organisation, a  learning organisation  is a place “where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning how to learn together.”

Peter Senge’s vision of a learning organisation is defined by five principles:

  • Personal Mastery
  • Mental Models
  • Shared Vision
  • Team Learning
  • Systematic Thinking

In nutshell, a learning organisation is one that strives to create its systems for actions to make visions a steadfast reality. Learning here becomes an ongoing and creative process for its members. It continuously develops, adapts, and transforms itself in response to the needs and aspirations of a Nation and World at large.

This framework totally in sync with the 21st century model of education needs the focus on learning, rather than teaching. Teachers have to become co-learners in the learning process and make classrooms vibrant with interactive sessions on applications of concepts to rigorous real-life situations.

Image: Victor Habbick / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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