During the recent Christmas holidays, I re-read an article by Professor Francisco Longo on the impact of globalisation and the digital revolution in schools and universities. For those dedicated to education and the management of its institutions, this article is a brilliant contribution to understanding the challenges we face today. We have a wonderful opportunity to help shape the educational experience of future generations of students.
I hope that education will soon reach everyone in every corner of the planet – regardless of the place or circumstances in which they were born. Technology and communication will be key elements. But the challenge goes further: our schools and universities must develop new models of learning for people facing important tasks.
In his article Professor Longo quotes from Eric Hoffer: ‘In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists’. Higher education in our times must focus on learners, and make learning a tool that transforms them and their world.
Young people today live in a time of vast opportunities and possibilities. Basic knowledge has become open, cheap, and massively accessible from anywhere and at anytime. The democratisation of knowledge is one of the marvels created by technological innovation and global diffusion. But not everything is rosy and such easy accessibility also has drawbacks. It often leads to the fragmentation of knowledge, confused classifications, as well as superficiality in acquisition and management.
Managing the intellectual burden that increasingly rests on people requires a renewed educational effort. We must help people understand and manage a much more complex and dynamic world. To do this, we must offer learners specific capabilities: insight; depth of understanding; analytical rigour; and the ability to move between and relate fields of knowledge. Technology cannot achieve this by itself. But neither can traditional educational methods – which are often too vertical, hierarchical, and focused on the mere transmission of knowledge.
The key to success will be threefold: students who are more independent and responsible for their own learning; teachers able to take a more horizontal and interactive role that is focused on consolidating and testing previously acquired basic knowledge while facilitating its implementation; and educational environments that help and encourage co-creation, teamwork, diversity, problem solving, creativity, and an understanding of complex environments.
At ESADE we are putting students at the centre of our purpose and we are exploring innovative methodologies that we will soon be using daily. Humanistic content will play a central role in the renewal of our programmes. The humanities are not merely the icing on the cake, but basic tools for understanding reality and change. And only if we help our students acquire a real understanding of the world will they become capable of transforming that world.