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Peter Cochrane's Blog: Educational priesthood's credo is killing innovation

Children are kept on the straight and narrow and away from creativity...

...calculating the volume of a rectangular based tank, he can't do it. Don't get me wrong, he is lightning fast when you ask him to multiply three digits together, but calculating a volume - that's hard, and clearly in his mind at least, that is not a maths problem.

This is only one example of the disconnectedness of many students I have coached. They have gone to school and have been educated in facts, figures and the algorithmic solving of a limited set of education problems. In short, they solve problems by turning handles, yet what industry needs is people who can solve problems by thinking.

Let's put this all in perspective. If you had a computer able to recall facts and figures on a huge scale - IBM Watson, for example - or a machine that could solve mathematical, physical and logic problems through the application of known algorithmic solutions, would you consider it bright, intelligent or even really useful?

Well, children have now become a really poor shadow of such machines. So, industry complains about the shortage of employable people and installs more machines.

The new premium is on innovative people who can think and solve problems quickly on the fly spanning a broad range of disciplines, not the problems ceded to be important and essential by the priesthood.

Students uniformly disadvantaged

For me, the time of the sage on the stage regurgitating the same boring stuff they were taught years earlier is over. As is the time of the straitjacket of a national curriculum that sees students uniformly disadvantaged and trained for a world that no longer exists.

So when will things change? Don't hold your breath. The priesthood is a closed shop fighting for survival and a continued propagation of the true way. They won't be easily displaced. But I can see a mechanism at work that might change education from the outside.

The number of independent teachers, schools, colleges and universities that have seen the light is growing, and growing online. Some of the educational materials and opportunities online are quite stunning.

Originality and innovation are in evidence along with a diversity of thought and approach. I hope this new sector will grow rapidly to displace the tired old schooling model we all had to endure.

About

Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.

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