Embracing the transformative power of education in testing times – Financial Times

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Our world faces new challenges and is also changing at lightning speed.

This opens up opportunities to develop and progress, but there are still many barriers to overcome. By Unesco’s measure1, 250 million children and youth are out of school, and 763 million adults lack basic literacy. Poverty and gender inequality remain urgent problems to solve.

Yet we know the most powerful driver for change: quality and inclusive education, accessible to all. Education can help us change the course of existential threats such as climate change, conflicts, job-market shifts and inequalities. It can equip individuals with the skills to lay the foundations for lasting peace. And it can unlock the potential of the next generation to navigate and meet such challenges and, indeed, to build the world they want.

So how can we reshape education to rise to the challenge?

What it means to teach and learn well

We now know a lot more about how students learn and how best to teach them. And we have practical methods to apply that knowledge, thanks to the work of innovators like Professor Michelene Chi, a cognitive scientist and regents professor at Arizona State University and recipient of the 2023 Yidan Prize for Education Research.

Chi’s research focuses on how to foster deep understanding in the classroom. She has developed a ground-breaking theory of cognitive engagement that identifies four different modes of learning: interactive, constructive, active and passive (ICAP). She has unified multiple theories of active learning into a coherent framework that teachers can embed in classrooms worldwide at every level, from kindergarten to university and beyond. In essence, Chi’s work gives us the blueprint for the thinking skills at the heart of a quality education – and with it, the keys to one of the fundamental levers for economic development.

At the most recent Yidan Prize annual summit, UN development expert Joe Colombano reminded us that “Education holds the transformative power to enhance economic status and improve outcomes, shaping societies and the lives of individuals”. Education is innately connected to our economic systems. So when we know what it is to teach and learn well, we can unlock potential for learners everywhere, transforming societies.

We also know a lot more about who is learning. The pandemic laid bare many inequities in education opportunity – disadvantages rooted in poverty, gender, geography, legal status of refugees, disability and internet access.

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