Welcome to the first of what I hope will be many editions of ‘Insights’.
Our hope is that, on a quarterly basis, we can bring you a small number of informative articles and interviews with world authorities covering areas of education which, at a time of incredibly rapid change, all of us are finding most challenging.
For example, our cover story explores the effect childhood happiness has on the rest of your life, and we look at whether knowledge matters in an age when children have all the information in the world right there in the palm of their hand. While ‘The Fourth Education Revolution’ written for us by Sir Anthony Seldon vividly sets how, as educators, whilst being aware of the dangers, we need to seize Artificial Intelligence’s tremendous potential.
As Chairman of the Nord Anglia Education Advisory Board, I spend a lot of time thinking about the broader purpose of education.
What are our ambitions for the young people at our schools? What does success really look like in 2030, and how can it best be achieved?
Being the custodians of young lives – whether as parents, guardians, or teachers – means having to decide what kind of people we would most like our children to become.
And while we all want students to be happy and fulfilled, we also need to consider the future into which they’re heading.
As I see it, the onus on us is to provide environments in which they can explore future challenges with excitement, rather than fear.
That our planet is approaching a tipping point is no longer in doubt; the issue is whether sufficient bright enthusiastic young minds, working together, will be able to reclaim and restore balance - within their own lifetime.
How can we be sure we’re offering our students the ability to prepare themselves for what might prove an awesome task?
Many of the life skills taught at Nord Anglia – resilience, creativity, critical thought – are crucial steps in the right direction.
But at a more fundamental level, we need to consider how our young people see themselves within society.
Can we help them understand the responsibilities they will inherit as citizens?
Do they realise that the very best of society’s ideals can only be achieved when everyone willingly participates?
Do they recognize the complicated dynamic between being a useful citizen and an informed consumer?
If not, it’s imperative we help explain it to them.
In today’s world, individual achievement often takes precedence over collective engagement.
All too often we’re addressed solely as consumers and can all too easily bequeath that identity as the principal expectation of our children.
With the advent of smart phones and social-media apps, societies everywhere have become ever-more transactional; fulfilment is frequently measured in largely material terms. Information has increasingly become a currency used to buy attention.
Consequently, as consumers, it’s more difficult than ever to trust the objectivity of what we see, hear and read - particularly online.
But in order to find our purpose as citizens, we need to be properly informed.
I’d argue that differentiating between these obligations is poorly understood – something I learned at first hand when I was involved in the creation of the UK’s Communication Act in 2003.
That was when I first argued that the interests of the citizen were going to be increasingly important in the then nascent digital era; and when such interests were found to be in opposition to those of the consumer, the ‘citizen interest’ needed to take clear precedent.
Nowhere is the difference between consumer and citizen more important than in the provision of news and verifiable information; and in a world of generative AI, understanding this hierarchy of roles has surely never been more important.
The good news is that there is a growing movement across the world to reimagine institutions, organizations, cities and communities so that the citizens have more agency over the decisions that most affect their lives.
Recent expressions of collective determination were seen during the global pandemic, when governments, communities and neighbors came together to protect society’s most vulnerable people.
Likewise, families across Europe have opened their homes to war-torn Ukrainians in a remarkable example of a collective will to help.
Nord Anglia’s unique relationship with UNICEF represents a perfect example of the way in which ideals can be matched with practice.
We are rapidly moving to the point at which no student will leave our schools without a clear understanding of their relationship with the wider world, and in particular with those who most need their understanding and support.
As teachers, mentors, parents, and guides, we should take every opportunity to encourage our students to think beyond their immediate ambitions - to see themselves as active participants in their communities - understanding the extraordinary role they’ll be required to play in the creation of a sustainable future for themselves and their entire generation.