Johannesburg – Education is no longer about sitting behind a desk and reading from a book. As the modern world grows exponentially, we find ourselves having to instruct our kids with the future in mind. That is what twenty-first century education is about.
A twenty-first century education might seem a little bit weird. It doesn’t sound needed but Adam Fairall, teacher at Reddam House Atlantic Seaboard, believes it is vital for kids to start getting a twenty-first century education.
“The world is a dynamic place. Problems that are coming up aren’t necessarily being addressed in schools. We are not necessarily equipped to deal with a future that is unpredictable. I see my role as a teacher is to look at how we can equip students to address the twenty first century and address the challenges that come with it.”
It focuses on incorporating technology and normal methods of learning to focus on the “Four C’s” which are Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity. The onus is then on the educator to teach these methods while being innovative and creative. It differs from the mainstream practice of teaching by having the teacher and students sit at one round table to create a co-operative partnership that will be mutually beneficial.
Getting the twenty-first century model to work
To incite that passion in students is crucial for the model to work. Teachers need to find real world examples so that students can look forward to learning something like math, a disliked subject, and help get them to excel in it.
“Grade eight boys, how do you get them excited about math? You can incorporate the financial element and that is quite exciting but if you can say, well if you can solve this mathematical problem it leads to a real-world solution that helps and benefits people in your community, now suddenly the math has more value than just pure math. Now my voice has a value that is impacting, influencing, and changing my environment, my community, other environment, other community and so I feel good about doing math. That’s kind of the idea, to be inspired by the curriculum, be inspired by work and then be able to apply that, inspire others, and encourage others.”
The only way to get some inspiration from teachers is to get teachers who want to teach and are passionate about it, not just people who want a job, said Fairall.
“We need to employ the kind of people and train up the kind of people who are dynamic thinkers. Who is there? Because they are interested and they are passionate and they have a heart for the environment, the environment of teaching, the space of learning, the space of growing.”
Learning as an opportunity
Fairall recognises that he speaks from a place of privilege. It is easier for him to undertake twenty-first century education with the resources that he has at his disposal. However, it is possible for teachers at public schools to do the same and he has noticed a few out there who are.
Fairall is currently on a mission to look at learning as an opportunity to have an impact on the local community. He decided to bring this mission to reality when in 2019 he took his students to a soup kitchen to find out how they could feed the homeless population in Cape Town. They visited a few soup kitchens and interviewed a few people, gathering information on their phones which then allowed them to produce a strategy to feed them.
“We thought of ‘okay how can we feed these people, what can we feed them?’ and so one of the students asked, ‘What if they’re diabetic? You can’t just feed them anything. What if they are gluten intolerant?’ This was another factor that was thrown in and then we looked at the biology curriculum where we talked about vitamins and nutrients. We found a guy who’d produced these sachets that hot water could be poured in, and we thought well this is a good thing to get behind.”
Woolworths supported them in their endeavour and the whole experience not only taught students about math, taking surveys and biology but also instilled in them this experience that they valued for a long time.
“The students are still in our school, a couple of grades ahead and they still come back to me saying, ‘that left such a massive impact on me as a person, on how I view those people’. And when they stop at the robot and there’s a homeless person at the robot now, they don’t just see them as this stranger asking for money, but they see them as a person, they see them as an individual and that’s the most valuable thing.”
Incorporating the model at all schools
A school that has the resources could do things like this, unfortunately, government schools barely have proper facilities so it will be some time before they can incorporate such methods into their teaching methods.
A twenty-first century education is vital for the future. It focuses on computer literacy, information and media literacy and digital literacy as well. All of which are important for the future, as increasingly, things shift to online. We are slowly coming towards the age of automotives. In this age and more so in the future, being computer literate will be a major boost for those who aren’t.
Najma Khota spoke with Adam Fairall from the Reddam House Atlantic Seaboard, listen here: