Education is important, but why is it important? What does ‘education’ mean to young people?
Since becoming immersed in fighting for universal education provision – giving every child, everywhere, the opportunity to go to school – TTW founder Justin Miles has been fascinated with all aspects of education, one of those being the level of importance that education has in society in different areas of the globe.
Education and access to education is undeniably important, essential for success, but through his work with schools and communities globally Justin became aware that there is an apparent disparity in the perceived value and purpose of education.
If you pose a question about the importance and value of education to an adult or adolescent you are likely to receive a ‘stock answer’ tainted by rotely learned facts or an ‘expected’ answer which conforms to accepted beliefs and theories.
But, when you ask a young child why education is important the answers are likely to be entirely raw, unbiased, untainted my rote repetition and extremely simple.
Partnering Microsoft Education, Justin connects with up to 4,500 children a month through their ‘Skype in the Classroom’ programme which provided him with a perfect and quite unique platform for talking with children around the world in a cross section of countries, communities, cultures and socio-economic backgrounds (which still obviously discounted those populations without access to the required technology) and asking why they thought education is important.
The results were unexpected and quite astonishing.
For a three month period, during his ‘Skype in the Classroom’ visits with schools around the world, Justin dedicated the last section of his sessions to talking about education and asking why those children thought that education was important. The children in the study group were all under eleven years of age.
He asked each class or group to write him an email beginning with the words ‘Education is important because…’. There were no further instructions to the children. Teachers were asked not to direct or guide or otherwise influence the answers in any way or alter the language that the children used, just to record the information and forward it in an email.
Emails started to flood in. Even though many answers were the same, or at least very similar, patterns started to emerge and one pattern that became apparent was that the answers largely fitted in to one of two ‘camps’; those with an internally focussed benefit and those with an externally focussed benefit.
Many children replied with answers which had an internal focus, concentrating on benefits which supported their materialistic aspirations as individuals; ‘to have more money’, ‘to get a fast car’, ‘to buy a big house’, ‘to go on nice holidays’, ‘to but once clothes’ and even ‘to get plastic surgery‘ (absolutely truthful – from a ten year old child!).
Other children replied with answers which had an external focus; ‘so I can look after poor people’, ‘so I can become a doctor and heal the sick’, ‘so I can make my city look pretty’, ‘so I can help animals’, ‘I can make the world better’, ‘so I can make plastic disappear’.
With the exception of the odd exception each class or group fell in to one camp or the other, those with an internal focus on benefit and those with an external focus on benefit and then a further pattern began to reveal itself – location.
Most of the children who demonstrated an internal focus of interest in their answers to ‘Education is important because…’ lived in countries, regions or areas which could be considered as ‘developed’. Most of the children who demonstrated an external focus of interest in their answers to ‘Education is important because…’ lived in areas which could be considered as ‘developing’.
Although the project wasn’t set up to provide any specific measurable data, the results and differences were glaringly obvious which lead Justin, and others involved in the project, to question why children in ‘developed’ areas were more materialistic compared to children in less developed or developing areas who appeared to be more altruistic.
One school in a developing area of Mexico actually made a video of their answers.
‘Fliplearn Kids’ aims to redefine learning experiences for children through creative use of technology platforms and innovative content delivery to promote internalised learning and remove rote memorisation.
When Ella from Fliplearn Kids contacted Justin Miles asking him to take part in their first international day of connectivity using Microsoft Educations ‘Skype in the Classroom’ platform, Justin didn’t hesitate to get on board as a partner.
In Justin’s first engagement with the ‘Fliplearn Kids’ programme he delivered a series of ‘Skype in the Classroom’ (SITC) sessions throughout a school week, engaging with several classes and since then he’s delivered many more sessions with the Nigerian based organisation, speaking with students and educators about a range of subjects.
One of the key elements of the ‘Fliplearn Kids’ model that Justin has an affinity with is that FlipLearn Kids aims to remove, or at least reduce the requirement for ‘rote memorisation’ in education, which aligns with his convictions that the retention of information is no longer as valid in education as it once was. What is important for success is how information is used: how to develop future generations of innovators rather than ‘box ticking robots’.
FlipLearn Kids is an exceptional, groundbreaking and thought-leading programme. To find out more about how FlipLearn Kids is changing the face of education please visit the website here.
Education is, in itself, a defence against radicalisation.
At it’s most elementary level, educating ‘at risk’ populations, the young in particular, affords an immediate and effective intervention against radicalisation, no matter which cause that ‘radicalisation’ happens to represent.
Beyond that elementary level of immediate intervention, education has long-term benefits against radicalisation, not only by dispelling the ‘myths’ and misinformation often communicated by extremists but by providing a tangible and sustainable future for young people.
Introducing or improving education programmes where no system currently exists provides an abundance of benefits, from giving populations the opportunity to remove themselves from poverty by boosting economic growth, to improved health, to improving gender equality, to encouraging tolerances, removing division and fostering peace.
In 2014, TTW founder Justin Miles was fortunate to meet Sakena Yacoobi, a remarkable woman who worked tirelessly and relentlessly, often ignoring her own safety, to change the face education for boys and for girls in Afghanistan.
In this inspiring and moving TED Talk, Dr. Yacoobi tells her enthralling story of how she ‘stopped the Taliban from shutting down her school’ and made education happen.
This summer explorer and adventurer Justin Miles will be kayaking the length of Europe’s second longest river, the Danube.
Throughout the c.3,000 kilometre journey Justin will be creating content and resources for schools to use and re-use; lesson prompts, ideas, conversation and discussion topics, images, video and written text. He will also be using a plethora of technology platforms to bring the world to life in classrooms, such as carrying a tracker with an online map showing his location, social media interaction, and interaction platforms such as ‘Skype in the Classroom’ from Microsoft (which forms part of their ‘Microsoft Educators Community’)
After his epic journey Justin will be available to speak with schools around the world using some of these same platforms, giving children the opportunity to ask the questions that they want to ask whilst giving teachers the opportunity to use his sessions and experiences as a tool to introduce new subject areas or to consolidate prior learning.
Dependant on conditions, time and other resources, the subject areas that may be explored could be
- Using his own equipment to provide examples, Justin could explore ‘forces and materials’.
- Hydroelectric dams currently placed on the River Danube produce vast amounts of electricity and, as the appetite for sustainable energy increases, so the number of hydroelectric installations along the river will grow. Justin will explore when possible actual production facilities on the Danube capturing content such images, video and written text.
- With ‘sustainability’ high on the agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals, Justin will also explore the sustainability of his own adventure, investigating areas such power provision from solar chargers and heat exchangers, water consumption and ‘carbon footprint’.
- The River Danube is the centre-point of a vast drainage basin covering more than 801 thousand square kilometres and drawing water from 19 countries. As he paddles, Justin will talk about water, where it comes from, the water cycle and pollution.
- Passing through the countries, the river Danube offers a tremendous opportunity to discuss subjects such as geographical borders, cultures and customs, languages, communication, and how the River Danube has played a primary role in the history of the region, from defining countries to creating trade opportunities.
- Food and nutrition play an important role in Justin’s training and for the actual adventure, so Justin will be looking at how he eats, what he eats and how correct nutrition makes to the body function and perform.
Throughout the journey Justin will also be examining and discussing barriers to education, including how education works for waterborne populations, displacement due to flooding and other natural disasters and displacement and disruption due to conflict.
The ‘Doing the Danube’ adventure is more than just another adventure, it’s an opportunity for teachers and pupils to see what they want to see and ask the questions that they want to ask, so if you’re a teacher please use the contact form and tell us what would help you to bring the world to life in your classroom.
To make this project a success, Justin as asking for support through a crowdfunding page and he would really appreciate your support. You can find the page here.
Every month TTW founder Justin Miles directly engages with up to 4,500 children from all around the world using various technology platforms. Towards the end of 2016, through Microsoft’s ‘Skype in the Classoom’ platform Justin connected with Stone Hill Middle School in the US and the class of Dr. Faith Ibarra.
During the session, Justin and the pupils in the class discussed some of the many barriers to education, including the vast distances that some of the children that Justin has met through his adventures have to travel to get to school. Some children have to walk to school covering distances of up to nine or ten miles, or more, each way, every day.
After the session the students in the class were motivated and galvanised in to taking action to help make education happen for children everywhere, so they decided to send some of their teachers over to the UK to take part in the first ever ‘Snowdonia Three Day Challenge’, raising funds to help children to receive an education.
The class then embarked on an innovative programme of activities to not only understand some of the barriers to education, but to raise awareness of the global education crisis in their own communities and to support their teachers with their ‘Snowdonia’ quest!
One of Dr Ibarras pupils, Jennifer Abraham writes
When Dr’ Ibarra introduced us to the idea of taking travelling to the UK to take on the ‘Snowdonia Challenge’ to support education provision I was really excited and nervous about how it would all turn out. Although I knew that I would play a part in helping Dr. Ibarra with the event, I didn’t know that I would develop a passion for the issues surrounding education provision.
When our class took part in a ‘Skype in the Classroom’ session with Mr. Justin Miles (Just) I became interested in the specific conditions and challenges that children go through just to go to school. As I researched more about limited access to education around the world I realized one really important thing; my school-mates and I are the lucky ones. We receive free, quality public education where we can put our energy in to learning and not having to worry about crucial things such as where out next meal will come from or how we are going to get home. However, the thing that struck me the most is that we, the lucky ones, are complaining! We complain about the school food being bad, or that the bus stinks. We wish on every single star in the universe for a ‘snow day’ so that school is cancelled. We do not realize how fortunate we are.
To help my schools to realize how lucky they are to receive the education that we do, I want to help Dr. Ibarra with the Snowdonia 2K17 project.
Jennifer, her classmates, Dr Ibarra and her colleagues have genuinely grasped the knowledge that not every child has the opportunity to go to school and taken ownership of the role that they can play in making universal education possible, now and in the future. This is exactly what the ‘Teach The World’ initiative was designed for; to educate young people and to raise awareness in younger populations that not every child has the opportunity to go to school, to engage them in the problem, and then to motivate and empower them to take steps to make education happen for every child, everywhere. As these young people grow older they will become the business people, the educators and the political leaders who can, and will, turn the dream of universal education provision in to reality.
All of the funds raised by Stone Hill Middle School will be paid directly to UK charity ‘Education For Everyone’ and then distributed to individual education projects around the globe, working with the people on the ground to make every penny go a long way.
For more information on the global education crisis and what is being done to make sure that every child, everywhere has access to quality education please search under ‘Sustainable Development Goal 4’ or ‘SDG4’, one of the seventeen Global Gloals.