We have to rethink what ‘educated’ means in a post-truth world

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EU countries must improve their digital education to close Europe's widening skills gap. [Lucélia Ribeiro/Flickr]

It used to be fairly easy to explain what it means to be educated: it involved schooling, and the more schooling you had, the better educated you became and the more opportunities you had. But things are now more complex, writes Stavros N. Yiannouka.

Stavros N. Yiannouka is the CEO of World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE). 

The biennial World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) in Doha this week brings together more than 2,000 policymakers, educators, entrepreneurs, corporate and government leaders from around the world to discuss their views on education in a “post-truth” world.

The causal link between schooling and education has become increasingly frayed and the discussion has been displaced by the allure of technology as the new driver of change.

The internet is now arguably the single most important repository of knowledge and information ever constructed by man. This places a special editorial responsibility on the custodians of the Internet – organizations such as Google, Facebook, and others – to do more to regulate the quality of knowledge and information that is stored and conveyed.

Imparting knowledge and skills used to be expected from teachers and educators, the “gatekeepers of knowledge”, based more on a methodology than an understanding as to how our brains work.

That is now changing, and we need to harness our newfound understanding of neuroscience, and the possibilities offered by information technology, to learn better and faster.

Through the scientific method, good education elevates fact over opinion. But it also acknowledges that the search for the truth can be never-ending and often involves a contest of competing ideas, a contest that is best resolved through open enquiry and rational discourse.

EU initiatives like the New Skills Agenda suggests European policymakers understand and value the importance of further investment and support to provide teachers from across all sectors of education with a future-focused framework.

The New Skills Agenda and other EU initiatives such as Erasmus Pro also illustrate the economic imperative for education to no longer be confined to set methodologies and distinct phases in our lives, but rather to become a lifelong endeavour as the jobs market becomes less predictable and more fluid.

If we as individuals are to keep pace with the ever-growing accumulation of knowledge that makes and is in turn made possible by advances in technology, we need to engender within ourselves a desire to remain educated in the same way that we want to remain fit and healthy throughout our lives.

This year’s European Commission report on education and training in the EU highlighted a target of 15% adult participation in learning across all Member States, as well as reaching the employment rate of recent graduates of 82%.

Thankfully, European policymakers still seem to rely on an array of researchers, public institutes and other types of evidence-providers in education policy-making, and in building a system that addresses societal needs based on core values, without which we cannot claim to be educated.

We hope the upcoming Youth Strategy will address the need to rethink education for a post-truth world and to support investment in teachers and educators that instil values, inspire and respect the truth.

At WISE we acknowledge that education is a state of mind informed by a set of core values, and we are willing to support and invest in education systems that will tap into individuals’ desires to contribute to a better world and will empower them with the means to achieve it.