There is no right answer

Education should be an education in how to live in this kind of world. And so it should an education in how you work within constraints, defined questions that you don’t know the answer to—and there will more than many more than one answer to—in collaboration with other people and how you learn to make things together. And you produce things, and you do it in the real world as much as the classroom. That’s what education should be.

Of course it should also be about learning English and maths and doing it through geography and history. Of course it should be that, and you need some element of structure. But actually we need to educate entire generations of people to go and look for problems and opportunities and collaborate to solve them.

And the trouble is that we don’t have any political leadership that is willing to speak that truth because they want to speak a language of safety, caution and education as a sixteen year apprenticeship in diligently coming up with the right answer at the right time. How is that going to help? How is that going to help in this world? There is no right answer. There are new problems the whole time. You have to find new collaborators. You have to think in fresh ways. You have to make and fail and try again. That’s that world. That’s the world they’re already in.

If you judge the education system by whether it did any harm, then we’d be really failing it seems to me.

Charles Leadbeater’s response to a question about education during his brilliant talk on the frugal innovator. His assertion that education is largely about finding the right answer at the right time. This was certainly the case with much of my own education.

I certainly think I would have benefited from an education that provided me with many stories rather a single correct answer. That didn’t expect a right answer, but expected me to use a set of tools to find the best possible solution given my resources, context and situation.

It’s what I’ve spent much of my adult life doing, and I feel that my education left me poorly prepared for the real world. In fact, I feel that I’ve spent much of my adult life unlearning what I was taught in school.