"If you think of it, children starting school this year will be retiring in 2065. Nobody has a clue, despite all the expertise… what the world will look like in five years’ time. And yet we’re meant to be educating them for it. So the unpredictability, I think, is extraordinary.” 

When you imagine the future of education, what do you predict? How about a ‘Museum of Education’, where exhibits include standardised testing? Or classrooms without walls or age limits, as learning is everywhere and a lifelong journey? How about lessons crowdsourced from around the world, where children get to decide what they learn and who they learn from?

These are just some of the visions of the future of education in 2050 that came out of the first day of the LEGO Foundation and Ashoka’s Re-Imagine Learning Summit, held in London on June 17 to 19, 2016.

Education needs to prepare young people for an increasingly volatile world that is defined by complexity, hyper-connectivity, and rapid technological advancements. The next generation will, more than ever, need to be creative problem solvers. But there are concerns that our current education systems are failing to equip young people with the skills they will need to thrive in the 21st century. This is where the Re-imagine Learning Network comes in.

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For three years, the LEGO Foundation and Ashoka have worked in partnership to create the Re-imagine Learning Network, an international network of social innovators dedicated to improving education through play and re-imaging learning for all.

Creative play is vital for effective and engaging learning, and is an engine for growth and prosperity in the world. It has the potential to find new solutions to some of the most challenging and complex problems in society.

Take Skateistan, for example, that uses skateboarding to engage disadvantaged young people and to build trust and social capital, which acts as a hook for young people to join their creative Back-to-School programmes.

“‘Just playing’ is never taken seriously enough, yet I built a global NGO on it,” said founder and Re-imagine Learning Champion Oliver Percovich at the Summit. “Skateboarding taught me tolerance, persistence and how to be creative – things I never learnt in school. So far, politicians have failed to fix Afghanistan’s problems, but maybe a group of innovative girl skateboarders will.”

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The failure of both communities and education institutions to value play was echoed by all of the Summit attendees, who had travelled from around the world to be there. From Senegal to Colombia to America, there was a shared frustration at the current state of learning ecosystems – ecosystems that do not value soft skills such as creativity and social capabilities, that only focus on measurable outputs and that are averse to risk and innovation.

“How can you measure creativity?” was repeated throughout the day.

The second half of the day explored emergent issues in learning through play, where a series of speakers challenged attendees to really think about what the future holds for education.

Julie Goldin, Executive Vice President and CMO of the LEGO Group, asked the audience to imagine how new technologies and skills such as coding will affect how children play and create in the future. She highlighted how in a virtual world of shares and likes, children are now able to present their creations and engage with others in more ways than ever before, and asked how we can respond to and leverage this.

Valerie Hannon, Co-founder of the Innovation Unit and Director of the Global Education Leaders Partnership, called for a serious debate about the purpose of education and what goals for education should be. “Education should no longer be about getting jobs – it should enable us to create a wisdom-based society, where we are able to thrive and repair our relationship with each other and the planet,” she argued.

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And Paul Lindley, founder and CEO of Ella’s Kitchen, urged for a change in mindset across society and advocated the millennial generation and social entrepreneurs as being key to make the shift. “Politicians think on average two years ahead, and businesses only think to the next quarter. For real change, we need to start thinking long-term, to take risks and to value play and innovation,” he said. “Social entrepreneurs are the spark to ignite businesses and governments – when they see the success of social entrepreneurs like you, they will be willing to make a change.”

A learning ecosystem fit for the 21st century will need to be a global and collaborative one, where communities, young people, social entrepreneurs, businesses and governments work together to ensure that we build resilient and creative societies.

The Summit highlighted the creativity, passion and determination of the social innovators who are championing learning through play and who are fighting for a new learning ecosystem. The Re-imagine Learning network and their learning through play revolution will undoubtedly be key in transforming our education systems.

For a full report on the insights of the Re-imagine Learning Globalizer Ecosystem Day, visit the LEGO Foundation website.

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  • Ashoka and the LEGO Foundation believe in the need to re-imagine learning and in the importance of play as the best way for children to develop critical skills and engage them as creative changemakers.
  • We are selecting and supporting the first global network of social innovators to re-imagine learning for the 21st century. For more information, check out our website, follow us on Twitter with #play2learn and on Facebook. If you or someone you know is re-imagining learning for the 21st century, nominate them here.

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