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10 Compelling TED Talks About the Future of Education

POSTED 06/26/2013
By Shamima Khan

The current education system, perfect in meeting the needs of the age of industrialization, is now becoming obsolete. In the age of globalization, population increase, resource scarcities, and the abundance of readily available information are raising issues that call for a new way to educate.

Students can no longer be fed information. They need to learn to be leaders equipped with the appetite and the cross-disciplinary skills to solve unknown problems. With rising tuition and student loans, inflation in academic degrees and lingering high unemployment rate, students are increasingly invested in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC).1 Education researchers are foreseeing a major disruption in the education sector.2 Political leaders and education reformists need to find a way for educators to best nurture today’s youth, as they are the solution to tomorrow’s problems. In the following TED talks, speakers share their insight about the future of education.

Students can no longer be fed information. They need to learn to be leaders equipped with the appetite and the cross-disciplinary skills to solve unknown problems.

Where will schools of the future be located?

“In the Cloud,” says Dr. Sugata Mitra. Dr. Mitra discusses the neuroscience behind why system of punishment and examination prevents students from enjoying the process of learning: Through the awakening of his Hole in the Wall experiment, he advocates educators to send children to an intellectual adventure. “The education system is not broken,” he adds, “It is wonderfully constructed. It’s just that we don’t need it anymore.”

Who will the teachers be?

People like Salman Khan. In this talk, the former hedge fund analyst tells us how posting math videos to help his cousin eventually led to the founding of Khan Academy. Through his remarkable videos he has helped millions of students from all different backgrounds learn topics, which they struggled to learn in a traditional school setting. Instead of a one size fits all teaching system, he believes in the “paradigm in which teachers are armed with as much data as possible,” so that “teachers can actually diagnose what’s wrong with the students and can make their interaction as productive as possible.”

Why don’t we get the best out of people?

Creativity expert, Sir Ken Robinson, argues it is because “our mind has been mined the way we strict mine the earth for a particular commodity.” He suggests we should rather “wisely cultivate creativity and acknowledge the various types of intelligence.” Nowadays kids with degrees are often heading home to play their video games, because their degrees are no longer sufficient to meet market demand. To get the best out of people we need to realize the significance of nurturing creativity. He believes we should teach children through aesthetics, not with anesthetics.

Where will the fastest growing young population be and what challenges will they face?

Researcher Charles Leadbeater points out that most of the population growth in the next 50 years will be in inner city slums in developing nation, creating a new educational challenge. He speaks of a boy who found schools boring and got into drug dealing, but was fortunately saved by technology that made learning fun and accessible. The biggest challenge of these places is not to learn the facts but to stay alive. Charles notes, “Radical innovation often comes from where there is huge need,” and he highlights some of the amazing innovations that social entrepreneurship can generate.

What purpose do sites like serve?

Daphne Koller, Coursera founder, tells the audience what happens when college courses are made accessible and customizable. The site provides individuals of all backgrounds not only a world-class university curriculum, but also allows students to collaborate in a variety of ways. In this talk, she shares the techniques that are helping students to learn better and educators to discover the best ways to teach. In her words, sites like Coursera can “establish education as a fundamental human right, where anyone around the world with the ability and the motivation could get the skills that they need to make a better life for themselves, their families and their communities.

What does every child need?

While technology can reduce pressure and stress on teachers, the role of the teacher will still be crucial, because teaching does not merely entail giving a lesson. Rita Pierson, an educator of 40 years explains “Every child deserves a champion — an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.

What does it mean to be a genius?

In this talk, author Elizabeth Gilbert speaks of the sources of creativity and how to create a “psychological construct to protect you from the results of your work.” Society feeds us fear rather than encouragement, especially those in creative fields. Elizabeth advises on how to deal with the fear, and encourages us to keep showing up and doing what we are meant to do.

Why is liberal arts education not what it should have been?

Liz Coleman, president of Bennington College, advocates true inter-disciplinary education to solve our biggest problems. She draws attention to the fact that the “hard choices are not between good and evil but between competing goods,”  She points out that political leaders like “Obama and his team simply cannot do it alone.”

What are the economics of education?

In this talk, Bill Gates, philanthropist and co-founder of Microsoft, discusses the economics of the U.S. education system. State budgets are filled with accounting tricks that hide the true costs of government spending, raise the deficit, and consequently affect the budget for education. However, he believes the problem is solvable because “The U.S. is a great country with lots of people. And its investment in the young is what makes us great.”

What qualities should leaders, especially of the future, possess?

Patrick Awuah, former Microsoft employee and co-founder of Asheshi University in Ghana, shares his journey and talks about how societies can benefit from good leadership. He points out that leadership is not about giving and following orders, but thinking critically and serving humanity. Although he speaks about Africa, his observations go beyond its borders and show the importance of creating leaders for the future. He believes the future “depends on inspired leadership,” and that “every society must be very intentional about how it trains its leaders.

The Future Belongs to Those Who Prepare for It Today

As Sir Ken Robinson pointed out: we would not have known Shakespeare if his school system discouraged his creativity and tried to mold him according to convention. As children we are born with infinite curiosity and the lack fear to use it. The new system should implement this understanding by “letting learning happen instead of making it happen,” as Dr. Sugata Mitra puts it. The system should hone diverse and dynamic intelligence types. In the words of Malcolm X, “The future belongs to those who prepare for it today,” and we need a new method of preparation.

“Everybody is a genius. But, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it’ll spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein
  1. Millennials Believe The Future Of Education Will Be Virtual. Forbes[]
  2. The future of higher education is debatable. Deseret News[]
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