One of the most interesting talking points that came out of the Global Teacher Prize and Global Education and Skills Forum 2017 (GESF) held in Dubai, UAE, last month, was that education – the way we know it and has come to be – is massively broken. Instead of a collective pat on the back for the world’s teachers, school principals, education ministers and everyone else involved, this was a time of reckoning. The overwhelming message is that we need to teach our kids to be more inclusive. Only then will they have even the slightest chance of succeeding in the redefined world we live in and become true global citizens.

Surprisingly, the clarion call came from Andreas Schleicher, director of education and skills at the OECD, who has helped establish some of the very systems he is now dismissing. “We have become very good at ranking human talent, but increasingly worse at developing it. We have become more focused on routine cognitive skills as opposed to fostering complex thinking. We used to learn to work, but now, learning is the work.” As a result of all of this we have ended up squeezing children’s individuality and creativity into standardised boxes.

Changing this requires a systemic transformation, something that is already happening in rural India of all places. The man behind this transformation is yogi, mystic, poet and founder of the Isha Foundation, Sadhguru Jaggi Yasudev. One of the keynote speakers at GESF, he likened the current education system to a mass extruder machine, deeply divisive and focusing almost entirely on economic survivability. “We have destroyed creativity to perpetuate a system that smothers human genius,” said Sadhguru. “This is not progressive. We are teaching our children how to exploit everything and not live in harmony with what we have. We have built these silos of isolation called ‘schools’, designed to keep kids in and everything else outside. It is tragic.”

At Isha’s rural schools, breaking this model begins with more inclusive education. “We believe that wisdom is not single-source, but co-created. So every day is a learning experience, not just for the kids, but the teachers as well,” explained Sadhguru. None of the teachers are “career teachers”, which is vital in imparting real knowledge to children. They are also taken on nature walks and exposed to the wonder of the natural world, connecting them to their environment, their water, their food and their place in it all. “We teach them to care for the world around them – inclusively – instead of exploiting it for personal gain,” added Sadhguru. This message of inclusivity is particularly important in the increasingly polarised world we live in. Do we really need our kids to grow up into Donald Trumps?

“The future is integrated. It is all about synergies,” said Sadhguru. “The age of uniformity, conformity and standardisation is over. In order to prepare ourselves for the future, we need to create new social and cultural capital, and foster new innovative partnerships.” This can only happen if we teach our kids to be inclusive, through an inclusive education system.

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