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Forget Grades! Educate for Human Potential Instead.

Updated: Oct 15, 2019

The human potential to achieve great things, solve wickedly complex problems and seek to make the world a better place is formidable. But it all starts with education. If we get the education right, the rest will fall into place.

Without meaning to generalize, as a millennial (someone born during the 80s and 90s) I can pinpoint tremendous changes in the worldview of my generation compared to previous generations. Like me, many millennials are less interested in owning material things and more interested in experiences and travel. Try motivating a millennial with just money and you'll probably fail. Why? That's because millennials strive for more meaning in their professional lives. They want to work for innovative organizations with a flat hierarchy in which talented people are given the wings to fly. They're also more environmentally aware than any previous generation, seeking to be part of the solution to sustainability and not part of the problem.

"21st century kids are being taught by 20th century adults using 19th century curriculum and techniques on an 18th century calendar." Tom Hierck, Education Consultant and Author

The good news is this seems to be working. More and more young people are waking up to the sustainability challenges we face. The problem is, it may not be working quickly enough. Education needs to evolve to meet the challenges of the future, and the sand timer is rapidly running out. Each of us has talents and skills, and helping children find and identify theirs is vital to education both inside and outside the classroom.

To successfully solve global challenges like climate change and ecological destruction, we'll need to unleash the immense potential of the next generation of young people. We'll need scientists, engineers, technologists and entrepreneurs. We'll need visionaries, creative thinkers, designers and problem solvers. We'll need educators, communicators and policy makers and many others working on these complex "wicked" problems to create a better future. We cannot merely teach children to read, write and count while continually testing them to make sure their grades are improving.

Rather we must re-design our education system by putting children first and nurturing their talents to unleash their in-built potential. We need a system that focuses on project-based learning, innovation and problem solving, designed to support the development of the so-called "soft skills" as well as the traditional competencies that we currently routinely test for. The good part is that this approach develops the "whole child" and encourages children to follow their dreams and explore their talents. But as well as that, it will position children well for an uncertain future characterized by large-scale technological changes and global environmental challenges.

Effectively, we need to educate for human potential to create tomorrow's changemakers with the skills and values to change the world for the better. Change is on the horizon but we'll need to be bolder than ever before in our quest to educate the children of the future and prepare them for what's coming, and time is fast running out.

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