Transformative education: Teaching for tomorrow Part 1

If education is the foundation for how our society evolves into the future – then how do we align this important system to our emergent needs?

Leigh Meinert, co-founder and executive director of the innovative education institution, Tsiba in South Africa, reflects here on “What is transformative education?”.  This is one of three guest blogs that explores Tsiba as a model for changing education.   www.tsiba.org.za

What is transformative education? How do we teach, and learn, so that individuals are renewed and inspired and societies, ultimately, are changed?

Firstly, it is important to acknowledge that our “modern “day education system was designed to serve an industrialising society. We needed factory workers and so our schools were essentially designed like sausage machines. In the industrial world you gained a head start in life by knowing a great deal of content knowledge – facts and theories. Indeed, the more knowledge you had the more power you had and you would probably end up being the boss of the factory.  Today all of that knowledge is available online and the challenges that we are facing are more complex. The knowledge that we teach will be obsolete in a few years but our outdated education system still lines people up in rows and tells young people what we think they need to know.

What we need today – more than ever before – are leaders and entrepreneurs. People who are creative and visionary. People who make jobs and don’t just take them. In order to navigate through a rapidly changing world, young people don’t only need facts and theories, what they really need to know is themselves, their values, their passion and their purpose. This is what gives them a head start and transformative helps them to find this.

Secondly, we need to recognise that knowledge about ourselves and what is important to us cannot be found in books or even online. Knowledge about ourselves comes through engagement with the world and reflection upon this. As educators and parents, we cannot give our children these answers. We cannot teach them that which they now most need to know, we can only ask them good questions that promote good thinking.

Today we need to equip young people for a world where there are no longer any easy answers, but as educators we are not comfortable with open ended questions. To teach in this way requires a radical change in our understanding of what it means to be a teacher.

And so, thirdly, transformative education requires teachers to be mentors and coaches. Instead of being the people at the front of the classroom with all the answers we need to sit alongside our students and help them find their own answers.  When we think back on our own formative years, what really engaged us about the teachers and adults who inspired us was not what they taught us but who they were. They made a difference in our lives because they cared about us, because they listened to us and often, because they were leading purposeful lives themselves.

To summarise then, transformative education has three significantly different elements to it:

  • It is education that helps people to find their purpose.
  • It is education that asks more questions and gives fewer answers and,
  • It is education that requires teachers to become mentors and coaches.

In my following blog post, I will provide an example of an undergraduate business school called TSiBA where these elements are applied with transformative effect.

 TSiBA’s CEO and fellow co-founder, Adri Marais, talk at the ‘Transformative Education’ event held at London Business School on 29 October 2013. There is limited availability. For more information and to book your place, please visit http://transformativeeducation.eventbrite.co.uk/

For more information on Business Education at London Business School please visit http://www.london.edu/programmes/executiveeducation.html

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