Challenge Intro: Learning

Education systems fail to deliver on their promise. Having educated citizens is a necessity for any thriving society: education creates human capital needed for social and economic development and for a long time policy-makers saw investment in education as an effective way to reduce inequality. Over the past fifty years education systems in the developed world have grown more inclusive. Almost everybody has now a secondary school degree; 30% of citizens are university educated (OECD); the EU aims for 40% by 2020. Over 80% of European students are enrolled in public institutions.For all their past successes, education systems appear to be shaken to their core and in need of structural solutions:

  • faced with budget cuts, governments reduce public spending on education. This risks making access harder and creating larger inequalities.
  • a higher education diploma doesn’t make one automatically employable, as used to be the case for our parents; this is particularly controversial in countries where the cost of education is high, such as United Kingdom.
  • it is difficult to anticipate the labour market’s future needs and build them into existing curricula. Many observers think there is a necessity of vocational education that fosters practical skills and can smooth transition to employment; they look at Germany as a positive example.
  • traditional teaching and learning formats need to adapt to new ways of processing information; this is especially challenging given the reported lack of qualified teachers, in addition to the teaching profession being less than appealing.

Learning outside the classroom. Many have observed that it is not just formal education, but the skills acquired through lifelong learning that make us knowledgeable citizens, or bring whatever value we expect to get out of learning experiences - personal growth, marketable skills, entrepreneurial thinking, job experience etc. The European Union in particular has been very active in promoting lifelong learning, vocational training, transnational student mobility (with programmes like the popular Erasmus or Youth on the Move). On-the-job learning schemes are also being actively promoted, though unscrupulous employers tend to use interns as low-paid or unpaid labour instead. The European Parliament has tried to ameliorate this problem with a recent resolution .

Innovations in learning. Outside public policy space is emerging a new paradigm of learning models in which content delivery mechanisms are flexible, interactive and cost-effective. With the Internet potentially becoming the great new equalizer, some talk about an Arab Spring of higher education, proposing a disintermediation of learning: replacing universities with cheaper technological tools that enable access to knowledge based on individual needs. Online courses, either free or low-cost, are coupling technological advances with the need to lower the cost of education: see the Khan Academy website hosting 3000 free educational videos or the MITx courses as innovative learning venues. These have grown to be more than experiments: as of November 2011 the Khan Academy had reached 3.5 million unique users per month, with a 300% increase over 2010. Hacker- and Makerspaces, with their ad-hoc, intergenerational, trans-disciplinary approach to learning, are also being proposed as a general model for learning.

What will take the place of tests, exams and marks for these online learning environments, so that students can be certified as having completed a curriculum? This is still a work in progress. Among others, The Mozilla Foundation launched its Open Badges Project as a proposal to systematically certify informal online learning and make it an equivalent to college degrees.

Room for EdgeRyders. We set out to discover what knowledge, skills and values help us make the transition to rewarding adult lives. What learning aspirations and experiences are creating value for young people and should be counted in by policy designers?

Help the Council of Europe and the European Commission think

about the issue in new ways and come up with innovative policies!

Good for you: Reflecting on this can bring to the surface new questions that you need to ask inorder to better connect your learning journey with your personal aspirations in life. For example,knowing that specific work requires specific competencies will push you towards redesigning your learning experience.

Good for everyone: Your contribution can help others improve their transition from education to a rewarding adult life: if they know what skills are needed and valued in the contexts that appeal to them, they will know where to look for and how to grow those skills.

Count me in! How do I participate?

Learning is a BIG topic, we know. So we’ve broken down it down into a number of small

missions (challenges) that you can do on your own, or together with others.

Participating is easy! You just pick a mission and follow the simple instructions on the page:

Mission: Reality check- Which skills do you really need…? learn more!

Mission: Happiness and education- What is the real purpose of education…? learn more!

Mission: First lessons in work- Learning challenges of being new at the job… learn more!

Mission: The classroom on the wire- Test drive online learning!.. learn more!

Our deepest thanks go to Bridget McKenzie, Giacomo Neri, Chris Pinchen and Peter Troxler for helping with the write-up of this campaign! You guys are great team players !!

Want to know more about the game? You can find more information about it here.