Testing Time for Education Worldwide

Published on October 17, 2017

Students: How Innovative Ecosystems in Education Impact the Learning Experience

A radical rethinking of learning is required if education systems worldwide are to meet the needs of society and students, Sodexo Quality of Life Conference delegates heard.

“When we were at university, we found much more importance was attached to theory, and very little to practice,” said Sanjit "Bunker" Roy. He warned that emphasizing the intellect at the expense of practical skills produces students too frightened to enter the world of work.

Real-world learning is needed in schools, agreed Esther Wojcicki, an educator with 35 years of experience. Particularly critical of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests, Wojciki argued for project-based and problem-based teaching.

“The things that you remember from school are the things you have done – the things you memorize tend to be almost completely forgotten within three years,” she said. Students should control at least 20% of their learning in the school day, rather than being lectured with the sole aim of passing a test. But nothing will happen until political leaders accepted the system needed to change, she concluded.

Balance Between Research and Teaching

Research is an important function for universities, but it is not always consistent with providing the best teaching for students. Students benefit from a blend of expert lecturers who can impart knowledge, and facilitators who can help students achieve their objectives and learn transferable skills. “We have an expectation of what learning is, and we need to rethink it,” remarked Porai Beaven Gwendere.

Technology is driving improvement in some areas, for example through the design of schools where the function of learning takes center-stage, rather than the architecture itself. “Kids and students are more important,” said Takaharu Tezuka.

Other innovations, including digital roll call, are transforming the experience of students of all ages. Technology makes it easier for students to take more control of their studies, said Gwendere, with online lectures enabling students to study according to their own timetable.

Teaching Methods Must Change

Improving education, however, remains the big challenge. This will require teaching methods and systems to change.

“I would not be here if it were not for my economics teacher,” said Philippine Dolbeau, who at 15 developed a digital roll-call app. Her teacher made a shift in the way she taught, encouraging students to learn about economics by creating their own business start-up in class. “We should encourage teachers to change their methods and empower students to live their dreams,” said Dolbeau.

There is also room for society to change. In India, parents present the biggest problem students face – they deter their children from following their own career paths, said Roy.

Nutrition and health also has an impact on the way you learn and how you do at school. “Students and teachers have to eat well in order to learn and teach well,” said Dolbeau.

Delegates were presented with a challenge by Wojcicki: What can you do to be an envoy for changing the way we think about learning?