- We have to take a more holistic approach to education
- The pandemic has forced us to face many challenges and adapt, so the best way to prepare students for their futures is to equip students with the mindset to not fear change
- Online learning can offer an equity advantage in certain situations
- Consider a new approach to failure and focus on the lesson learned
- Ensure that young people feel empowered to create change by including them in decision-making
Last week, The British School of Brussels (BSB), in partnership with AmCham Belgium and the British Chamber of Commerce EU & Belgium, had the pleasure of hosting a virtual expert panel on the future of education.
Chaired by Daniel Dalton, Chief Executive, The British Chamber of Commerce EU & Belgium, the discussion set out to explore how ongoing developments in education have impacted and will continue to impact the individual learner, teachers, the learning environment and educational policy. Keynote speaker, Jim Knight, the Rt Honorable Lord Knight of Weymouth and Chair of Whole Education, was joined by an international panel of leaders in the field: Georgi Dimitrov, Acting Head of the Digital Education Unit of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Education and Culture, provided an overview of the Commission’s updated Digital Education Action Plan (2021 – 2027); Meritxell Fernández Barrera, Policy Analyst for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, presented the OECD’s skills-and-competencies-focused Learning Compass 2030; Katherine Hermans, Founder of Global Changemakers, shared the NGO’s efforts to support young people in bringing their social action projects to life; and Elin McCallum, Director of Bantani Education, drew from her organization’s deep foundation in building entrepreneurial skills and mindsets.
After a student musical performance and welcome by BSB’s Principal & CEO, Melanie Warnes, Jim Knight kicked off the evening by urging us to take a more holistic approach to education, thinking of children ‘in the round’ and reconsidering our current systemic approach to issues of social-emotional well-being, equity, assessment and teacher training, among others. He noted that the immediacy of COVID-19 has brought a number of existing challenges to light, observing that “we’re at an inflection point and we can’t go back… we have to change, and we have to trust each other, and, principally, we have to trust teachers.” Lord Knight concluded with a thought that was echoed throughout the ensuing discussion – that the best way to prepare students for their futures, in school, in their careers, and in life, is to equip them with the mindset to not fear change.
The panel conversation that followed was driven by the event’s audience of BSB students, parents, and staff members, as well as heads of local schools and corporate partners. The discussion flowed naturally between vision and practice: what does the future of education ideally offer, and how can this be achieved at ground level? Elin McCallum envisioned school as “a safe space for kids to experiment, to understand themselves, in a place where it’s supported”, and called for an emphasis on resilience, asking, “Is failure actually failure when you’ve learnt from it?”. Katherine Hermans proposed that educational leaders and policymakers do more to include young people in decision-making, ensuring that they have a say in their own futures and feel empowered to create change.
The panelists also tackled the important question of online learning and equity. Georgi Dimitrov described how the pandemic has exacerbated the education gap by distinguishing between those who do and do not have access to online learning resources and hoped to see it alleviated through infrastructural changes, updated curricula that more deeply embed hybrid learning, and professional development resources that enable teachers to build their own digital competencies. The OECD’s Meritxell Fernández Barrera agreed but presented an additional perspective for consideration – that online learning can offer an equity advantage in certain situations, providing a new incentive for individuals with long-term hospitalizations and countries with high drop-out rates. To conclude the discussion, all panelists agreed that, in spite of today’s difficulties, we find ourselves in a moment of immense opportunity to enact positive change for the future.
Following the panel discussion, it was our pleasure to welcome Astrid Ruts, Change and Communications Lead at Cargill, and Hannah Van Deun, RA Specialist Benelux at Edwards Lifesciences, both members of AmCham Belgium’s Young Professionals Committee, who gave the closing remarks. In addition to sharing the Committee’s mission, they considered the skills that are so commonly required of early-career professionals today, placing resilience and a learning mindset at the top of the list. Ms. Ruts concluded by reflecting that:
It is far more important these days to have the skill of observing the world around us with kind, explorative eyes and being that lifelong student…If our education system can embed that thinking into the next generation, it will make a big difference.
Astrid Ruts, Young Professionals Committee Chair
To close the evening, the audience was invited to enter breakout sessions with the panelist of their choice, led by trained BSB student facilitators.
BSB is grateful to all who contributed to this thought-provoking discussion. This panel was organized in the framework of the BSB Futures programming that supports young people as they explore their personal strengths and aspirations, offering opportunities to engage with professionals from all backgrounds and sectors.
About the author
Amanda joined The British School of Brussels in June 2019. Before moving to Belgium, she worked as an academic administrator and Art Center Director at Queens College, City University of New York.