Initiative

How do we improve access and quality of education for everyone on this planet?

Vaibhav Chhabra & Richa Shrivastava
How do we improve access and quality of education for everyone on this planet?

The world is facing a unique convergence of environmental, economic and social crises and there is an urgency to address this! In 2015, world leaders agreed to 17 goals for a better world by 2030. These goals have the power to end poverty, fight inequality and stop climate change. Guided by the goals, it is now up to all of us, governments, businesses, civil society and the general public to work together to build a better future for everyone. But the traditional education systems were not designed to teach us how to break boundaries and collaborate! While we understand that education alone cannot achieve a more sustainable future; however, learning systems represent the most powerful, systemic and massive lever to transform societies. So, the question still remains: how do we improve access and quality of education for everyone on this planet?

I chanced upon someone talking about the concept of social mobility and how it has progressed over the years. I found it quite fascinating, so let me take you back in time. Back in the agricultural age one’s social mobility depended upon how much hard work and labour could one put into nurturing their farms. If one was lucky enough with the rains, he had enough to manoeuvre his way into having access to opportunities in society. Then came the Industrial Age where social mobility depended upon how one could manage labour and technology. This was the time when the likes of MIT cropped up in the United States. Then came the age of information, the internet and computers. This was the time of managing knowledge. If you knew how to manage and analyse all the information that was thrown at you, well you were high up there on the social hierarchy. And now coming back to the present, we are in the age of innovation and can you guess what drives social mobility? Well, the answer is the creation of new knowledge and ideas!

On the one hand, technology is on the rise and the jobs of the future are changing and on the other hand problems, today are becoming complex and multidimensional to solve. What we really need is different perspectives in the same room to look at these problems from various lenses. So, when I look at our current world holistically, I often think that future generations need to be creative problem solvers and not just engineers, doctors, coders or designers! And that would be truly the manifestation of Quality Education in my opinion.

How do you improve access to quality education? Well, my first answer would be by building capacity for educators who truly understand the Sustainable Development Goals. We need to simulate real-life environments where the future learners can experiment, ideate and find solutions. Yes, some tools to scale can be digital, but building consciousness for society and the planet requires empathy and that is something we can build only when we collaborate with each other. When we talk about India in particular and especially the rural and underprivileged communities, survival is above sustainability. One can also argue that the world today requires Sustainable Development Goals because technology in the first place has destroyed sustainable ecosystems. Technology has always been a double-edged sword and the answer to this question is definitely not straightforward.

The year 2030 is the deadline to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, that is precisely 10 years, 10 months from today. Quality Education cuts across all of the goals, so if we do achieve quality education for all, most of the other goals become simpler to achieve. In this quest to dabble with this complex question, UNESCO New Delhi and Maker’s Asylum have launched a collective conversation called - Futures of Learning through Alternative Spaces. This collective conversation aims to bring together alternative learning spaces and communities that exist in forms of residencies, innovation hubs, art collectives, galleries, incubators and more and essentially talk about the learnings that they provide, especially when it comes to collective intelligence and collaborative approach to problem-solving. The data from these conversations will feed into UNESCO’s global initiative called Futures of Education.

In my opinion, the answer to this complex question lies in a collective conversation which reminds me of what Hellen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

About the authors:

Vaibhav Chhabra is Founder, Maker’s Asylum 
Richa Shrivastava is Managing Partner, Maker’s Asylum

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