The word ‘vaccination’ is derived from ‘vacca’ which is Latin for ‘cow’. In 1796 Edward Jenner, an English doctor in rural Gloucestershire noticed that the ladies in the village who milked the cows developed a pox on their hands – cow pox. Somehow, they never developed the world's deadliest pox, a pox that at that time, killed 500,000 people every year around the globe – smallpox. From this simple observation Jenner, almost single handedly, developed a method of vacca-cinating people against smallpox, which saved millions of lives.
The story of Jenner’s vaccination, so relevant to us today, captures our attention largely because it fits with our traditional ideas of discovery – the lone scientist in the laboratory working into the night, Archimedes shouting ‘Eureka’ whilst sitting in the bath, Galileo whispering ‘and yet it moves…’ as if he alone understood the motion of the planets. But discovery and the growth of human knowledge have never truly been a solitary affair. "No man is an island…’’
The genetic sequence of Covid-19 was published in January 2020 and by April, thousands of scientists in over 80 countries were working on finding a vaccine in giant global teams. Communications between the leading scientists of our time are instant thanks to the Internet: the solitary, white-coated expert is a thing of the past. Discovery is different now.
The World Economic Forum understands this and in their 2020 ‘Future of Jobs Report’ they have reminded us again that ‘working with other people’ remains one of the core skills required for the future careers marketplace, with over 50% of the companies they surveyed stating that this is a skill which is in ‘increased demand’. In schools, we cannot ignore these trends and it is more vital than ever that we give all of our students the opportunity to improve their communication and collaboration skills. From our youngest children to our oldest, the ability to work with others is crucial for their future.
Now more than ever before, when a teacher instructs students to ‘get into groups’ there is a genuine learning purpose involved that goes beyond the immediate academic requirements. Effective collaboration is a skill like all others, one that can improve with practice and for our young people, one that will be absolutely essential to their futures. As we have done in the search for a vaccination to Covid, the problems that humanity faces will be solved, and all of our future discoveries will be gained, in only one way – together.
Head of Secondary