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The education system and teachers must quickly adapt to deliver the learning students deserve to thrive in an uncertain future

Nord Anglia Education advisory board Chair Lord David Puttnam says education reform is an “urgent necessity” and educators and school leaders must act as a catalyst for change by empowering and inspiring students by their own example. 

  • Lord Puttnam

Speaking at Nord Anglia Education’s Senior Leadership Team Conference in Switzerland recently, Lord Puttnam said schools have not caught up to changes taking place in the world, which has caused a huge skills gap in the workforce globally. 

“Nobody could have imagined the speed and the depth of the skills gap that would emerge, and how ill-equipped we are on an almost week-to-week basis for the changes that are occurring around us.” 

Students must be equipped to navigate in what he described as an “insecure, tough and scary world” where amazing things are happening. Talking about his experience as a filmmaker, he described how technological advancements not only democratised his profession but reduced the cost of filmmaking equipment to a fraction of what it cost over a decade ago, opening the door to untapped pools of talent globally. He said that education systems were ill-equipped to keep pace with these shifts – both in terms of teaching hard and soft skills (like creativity) which are skills that need to be nurtured.  

“I try and teach that creativity is not a talent; it’s a way of operating, an attitude of mind. People are intuitively and instinctively creative – all you need to do is convince them that they are and get them to think and operate in a way that is creative,” Lord Puttnam said. 

Lord Puttnam said research showed worldwide revenue from jobs in creative industries now account for US$2250 billion, and the number of jobs in creative industries were rising at double the rate of jobs in other sectors. 

One of the biggest waves of change the world is not ready for is artificial intelligence, which will have a radical, “transformative effect” on people’s lives , he said. 

“At the moment we’re not living with intelligent AI, but soon we will be living with the implications of intelligent AI,” he said.  

Quoting a report from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) a few months ago, the study reports that very few countries have begun to address the impact of living in a world of automation, leave alone the impact of automation (or machine learning) in education.  

“What the Economist is saying is we’re not ready for the world that’s in the process of being created; and we won’t be ready until we alter and adjust our education systems,” said Lord Puttnam.  

Puttnam says AI and virtual reality must be an important part of education systems, and this shift will allow schools to make “extraordinary leaps”. To deny or resist these changes taking place would be a “terrible mistake”. 

“The idea that we wouldn’t aggressively and adventurously see how this can be applied to our students (because we can) would be, to me, a terrible mistake.” 

To make our schools truly future fit, Lord Puttnam said those leading schools played an important role, and that NAE was extremely fortunate as a global schools organisation to have a shared education vision it can use to inspire and empower its students.  

“We’re very, very lucky in this group; we have leadership. We have to understand what’s out there and what can be done.” 

“We have an opportunity to get our students to stand up for the values we try to inculcate in them, and turn what at the moment is a sad, depressed and troubled world into something much, much better.”