By Raaji Naveen, Co-founder of Beyond 8, leader in heutagogy-based education in India
According to Native American beliefs, we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children. Be it climate change, gender equity or poverty, solving the most pressing problems we face today will require highly evolved thinking and action on all our parts. The question that arises is: are we educating the next generation to develop the skills they will need?
Move over, pedagogy!
For over 200 years, we have subscribed to the pedagogical system of education, without understanding that it was designed to serve the needs of the industrial revolution. This system is replete with draconian approaches such as mass producing ‘batches’ of students who were adept to follow instructions from a manager. To be fair, pedagogy did serve the purpose of creating factory workers who were obedient and conforming. But it is a tall ask to expect it to serve learners in the 21st century.
The employers of today are not seeking the same skills that employers were seeking 200 years ago. In fact, they aren’t even asking what employers of last year were. A 2020 Coursera study indicates that 8/10 of top trending data science skills in 2020 were not included in 2019. In its learning outcomes projections for South Asian countries, UNICEF recently reported that more than half of Class-12 passed young Indian students will lack the skills to find jobs by 2030. Hence, it is high time that we realize that by doing the wrong things rightly, we will only become “wronger”.
Say hello to heutagogy!
To experience motivation that triggers growth, learners need more than what the “sage on stage pedagogical approach” or a “guide on the side andragogical approach” offer. These approaches are not enough in developing self- determined learners. Heutagogy on the other hand, is the holistic model of self-determined learning defined by educationists Hase and Kenyon in 2000.
It is a method of enabling students to discover for themselves. While the word itself might sound complex, the principle of heutagogy is based on common sense. All of us know that we work best when we love what we are doing. A system based on heutagogy enables students to develop their interests, by providing them an environment where they can pursue all the things that they are passionate about with a lot of interest and motivation. We as educators, have a fundamental responsibility in enabling an ecosystem where our learners thrive.
It has become ever so crucial to understand the needs, skills and attitudes of the Alpha generation and Gen Z learners who are characterised by their strong sense of autonomy, independence and affinity towards self-determined learning approaches. In his book “The Global Achievement Gap,” eminent education specialist, Dr. Tony Wagner identifies seven core competencies every child needs in order to survive in the coming world of work.
- Critical thinking and problem-solving
- Collaboration across networks and leading by influence
- Agility and adaptability
- Initiative and entrepreneurialism
- Effective oral and written communication
- Accessing and analyzing information
- Curiosity and imagination
How can schools, teachers and parents instill these competencies in children?
- Encourage children to try their hand at things they are interested in through small modular engagements.
- Be coaches instead of teachers; listen to them; learn with them through collaboration; and provide a supportive ecosystem for learning. Where it is possible, introduce them to industry experts who can share more.
- Provide guidance and tools to help learners see their own progress and self-reflect on their next steps.
- Foster collaboration among peers and encourage learners to develop relatedness which is important to foster a sense of belonging and connection.
- Provide non-judgemental spaces for learners to feel confident of voicing out their aspirations and expressing their choices.
- Look to build upon their innate skills, knowledge and attitudes. It’s a strengths-based approach.
- Above all these, it is important that we build learning to learn skills that will help children become lifelong learners – something that is constantly needed in an ever-changing world.
As industries evolve, we need to move with the times, and also understand the changing nature of the learners of today and adapt to their learning needs. We need to reengineer education and turn it right side up, and begin with the learner in mind, think about how to enable the learner to thrive in this new world we are in. Automatically then, industry and society will see greater value in them.
A total overhaul of the curriculum and a fundamental shift in the mindset of parents, teachers and schools is what will serve both the learners of today and the system as a whole. We cannot expect learners to become responsible, caring or compassionate citizens, unless we encourage them to determine their own paths. The way we see it, heutagogy is the answer.