An education for the 21st Century

IB : An education for the 21st Century by Lister W. Hannah

We realise that we are living in a fast changing, increasingly complex, more interdependent and connected global community. Children entering kindergarten now (2015) will be graduating from high school in 2030 and probably entering the work force in the early to mid 2030s. The daunting challenge schools are facing in meeting parents’ expectations is that schools are having to educate their children for potential jobs that don’t exist now, using technologies that have yet to be created, and solving problems that haven’t been thought about.


The critical question then is how can schools best prepare the young to be lifelong learners for the adult world of the late 2020s and early 2030s?


“The central task of education is to implant a will and facility for learning: it should produce not learned but learning people….In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” (Eric Hoffer)


We believe that young people need to understand and know how to learn to be able to cope with this challenge of a rapidly changing world.


Schools need to engage, enable and empower students to become knowledgeable, independent, open-minded, and confident life-long learners; in short, students need to take ownership of their learning. Their curiosity and cross-cultural understanding of the world they live in and the nature of the change that is happening both in their own countries and globally needs to be cultivated and deeply understood. For this to happen they will need to have developed analytical, critical and creative thinking skills.


But we all know that academic rigour, important as it is, on its own is not enough. Research has shown that EQ, emotional quotient, is a better predictor of a fulfilling life than IQ. Our children also need the social and emotional skills and abilities to develop their capacity to be resilient and deal with the challenges, the stress and the pace of change, especially in the workplace and in their relationships. They need the ability, the empathy, to understand and respect their own and other cultures, and to resolve differences in relationships constructively and peacefully. Above all they need to live with good character, proactively, compassionately, sustainably and with integrity.


The International Baccalaureate (IB) Organisation provides outstanding programmes to meet these challenges. The IB offers the Primary Years Programme (PYP) for 3-11 year olds, the Middle Years Programme (MYP) for 12-16 year olds, the Diploma (DP) and also the Career Programme (CP) for 16-18 year olds. These programmes are recognised world-wide and is highly regarded as a preparation for life in the 21st century. The IB has already educated well over 1 million students in 145 countries since it was founded more than 40 years ago. The IB Diploma has become a preferred university entrance qualification to top universities around the world.


The appeal of the IB programmes lie in their ability to assimilate best practice from national systems, while not being tied to any national political system, in other words being truly international. They have rigour and challenge students academically; they have a breadth in offerings which educates the whole student; and they have an emphasis on attitudes and values which provide for building social and emotional skills and the capacity to live successfully.


Core features of the Programmes are: sustained inquiry into established bodies of knowledge; principled action through learning by doing, experiential education; critical reflection leading to deeper understanding; meaningful assessment, monitoring progress through appropriate feedback to students, and internationally benchmarked. Integral to these features is learning in global contexts and the promotion of cross-cultural awareness and international mindedness.


In sum, IB programmes are student-centred, encourage inquiry, collaboration, research, creativity and an understanding of learning how to learn. Further, they provide an emphasis on inclusiveness in an increasingly multi-cultural national and global society and cultivate the experience of how to be of service to others. This is an education for the 21st Century.


Lister W Hannah




One reply on “An education for the 21st Century”

Congrats , Mr Hanna, this article is a must for parents who need a fine explanation of the IB in a nutshell. Thanks!

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