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  • Writer's pictureKatherine Crisp

How might we rethink education?

This is a long overdue blog exploring some of the chapters in an Ideas Informed Society. I rapidly read the book itself, but have been carrying my notes and the book around for about three months, consistently failing to start writing. But what better time than on a dismal, wet, grey February weekend to think optimistically about the power of ideas!

The book focuses on both why we need an ideas-informed society and whilst showcasing different ways to get there. I won’t dwell on the why, as I’m making an assumption that if you are reading this blog you probably don’t need convincing.

My own chapter expands on my first SI4A blog and focuses on the role that youth led social innovation could play. But my real enjoyment came from reading all of the other chapters, with some resoundingly loud agreements, alongside lots of ideas for things we can put into action in Social Innovation for All’s programmes and work, particularly the Young Green Briton Challenge that we deliver together with our amazing partners Volunteers for Future and the Ministry of Eco Education

Focus on what’s right, not just what’s wrong

Tim Slack and Fiona Thomas discuss the role of appreciative enquiry and the importance of focusing on what’s strong, rather than just what’s wrong. This has already prompted me to think about how to weave this more into our curricula, focusing more on team skills, strengths and positive feedback and also developing a new icebreaker game - Green Changemaker Bingo. 

Be bravely curious

Paul Lindley OBE, founder of Ella’s Kitchen, shares his journey as an entrepreneur and his subsequent work to tackle childhood obesity in London. He reflects on how volatile the world is for young people today and the importance of sowing seeds of hope and belief in a brighter future. He concludes with 4 salient pieces of advice for bringing new ideas to life:

Be bravely curious
Everything is connected
Value lived experience
Ask ‘why not’?

Value creativity and the arts

Judith Mossman, Rafael Klein and John Castling and Jilly Johnston author three chapters looking at the role of the arts - from literature to illustration and sculpture to archaeology. All make complementary and strong cases for reversing the squeeze on the arts in education. The combination of the Government’s focus on the eBacc qualification (which doesn’t require students to take an arts subject to GCSE) and school funding cuts has squeezed creative subjects out of the curriculum. There appears to be little recognition of their role in personal growth, identity, belonging, social cohesion, mental health and, yes, our economy. Recent Government policies1 to boost creative industries recognise their economic contribution to the UK, with a growth rate outstripping the overall economy. However, this ambition appears to ignore the decrease in creative subjects in schools and the longer term impact this will undoubtedly have. Whilst SI4A programmes aren’t specifically arts based we try to incorporate the arts and self expression in different ways, through role play, visual art and digital storytelling.

Cheerscrolling to replace doomscrolling

Lynn Wood and Sabra Brock introduce the IdeasSpies Platform and I love the idea of ‘cheerscrolling’ instead of ‘doomscrolling’. Look after your mental health today by finding and subscribing to platforms that share what is going right in the world, as those stories can be harder to find than the plethora of things that are going wrong! You can start with IdeasSpies, Positive News or by reading Citizens

Foster positive resilience

Belinda Board explores how to use the 7 pillars of positive resilience to ‘bounce forward’ instead of bouncing back. They are:

  1. Purposefulness - dedication towards a goal

  2. Perspective - a courageous outlook that helps us to stay optimistic

  3. Control - managing our emotions, rather than our emotions controlling us

  4. Connectedness - psychological safety through belonging, cohesion and cooperation

  5. Growth - viewing adversity as a challenge and opportunity to learn

  6. Coping - getting the right balance between pressure and performance

  7. Wellbeing - the daily habits and strategies to maintain our physical and mental health

These pillars are particularly helpful in thinking about how we can skill and support our volunteers who need to support young people to build resilience as they put their ideas into action. 

The importance of skills

The final section of the book showcases practical examples of how to empower young people within education. John Baumber highlights the shortcomings in the current English curriculum, which focuses on knowledge acquisition at the expense of skill or competency development. The ‘knowledge’ itself is narrowly prescribed and risks leaving young people without the skills to apply their knowledge and shape their future world. 

“Ensuring our young people are ideas informed is not just about the accumulation of knowledge [...]. It is about creating space for discussion and analysis. It is about building motivation and inculcating curiosity and experimentation.” John Baumber, 2023

Jude Hillary also highlights the importance of focusing on skills in education. She highlights the 4 categories of essential employment skills which are expected to become more important as technology adoption increases:

  1. Analytical / creative skills

  2. Interpersonal skills

  3. Self management skills

  4. Emotional Intelligence skills

We couldn’t agree more and it’s why we are so passionate about working with schools to deliver social innovation programmes. There are many wicked problems today from climate change, to failing education and healthcare systems to county lines and gang violence. Business as usual isn’t working, which is partly due to 14 years of austerity, but just adding more money won’t work. The world has changed and continues to change at pace. We need big, bold ideas - like the NHS, which must have seemed like an impossible pipe dream when it was first discussed. Or the Open University or Fair Trade or Park Run. All of these big ideas needed people to think creatively and differently and ask ‘why not?’

If we focus only on knowledge about what has happened in the past, we will create a generation of young people trying (and failing!) to compete with AI, which, after all, is just an accumulation of everything that has ever happened. There has to be a better way to approach education. So why don’t we give every young person the opportunity to think about what they would like to change in their worlds and why don’t we give them the skills and tools to do something about it?


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