NOT TOO long ago, everything we needed to know was taught to us by our families, communities, elders, friends and in school.
Today, with a very changed world, much of that learning is no longer being provided by those groups and what is provided is not geared to dealing with and thriving in our new world.
The recent industrial, technological and information revolutions have left our societies and environment struggling to keep up and deal with the impact they have had on our lives.
The communities and extended families which once contributed to the broader education and socialisation of individuals can no longer be relied on to carry out these functions.
Families are largely nuclear and in many cases both parents are away from their children for the majority of time as they work to support their families and fulfil their own needs.
Communities are fragmented, friends are on Facebook and schools reliant on rote learning are not providing the lessons and critical thinking skills that help equip students to thrive in our modern world. The general education that used to be transmitted by families and communities has fallen away.
However, we can fill this void by transforming our traditional educational system so that in addition to teaching the three Rs, it will provide the skills needed for living a life of quality, balance and sustainability and enable individuals to function in the world as self-sufficient members of society.
For instance, we all need to understand the natural environment, our place in it, our responsibility to it and to keeping it healthy. Learning about this will lead to behaviour that will support an environment that is sustainable and healthy.
Learning about food, nutrition and healthy eating will go a long way to keeping us healthy and happy. Involvement in the arts is a soul soother and contributes to being a well-rounded individual. The fundamentals of managing money should be taught to young people and it does not take much to put them on a path to long-term financial security.
It doesn’t matter where you are on the socioeconomic spectrum, life will continue to bring you problems small and large. Anger management and conflict resolution training would go a long way to dealing with problems in a way that does not lead to more anger and conflict.
We know a lot about our rights. What we are not learning and realising is our responsibilities to each other and to society. Practising civic responsibility and caring for each other is essential to a well cared-for society.
If we all cared for the people in our lives and for each other, no one would be left behind and wanting for the basics of life. Understanding the planetary reality of the family of man and realising that we all have the same needs and rights would point us to a more open way of dealing with each other.
Today, everyone needs to learn to use information technology in a way that enables us to connect to the systems and information that serve us.
Leadership, management and teamwork help us to engage with each other in a harmonious way to accomplish common goals. Dealing with impermanence, death and disasters which are constant in life are important life skills. Being self-sufficient in managing our domestic needs such as cooking and cleaning prepares us for being able to take care of ourselves when we do not have the money or support systems to take care of these needs.
How do we incorporate this learning in our educational system? How can we bring about this transformation? We do not have to reinvent the wheel. The infrastructure is there.
All we need to do is to bring experts in all the above areas into our schools, to teach the various skills so our young people can function in the world as self-sufficient, contributing and flourishing members of society.
The costs incurred will be offset by having healthier, happier citizens whose impact on the society will result in reduced healthcare costs, reduced mental health costs, wealthier people who can take care of themselves and thrive and not be dependent on the State for their income or well-being.
We have everything it takes to do this. Even if it is in small increments, let’s move forward by giving our young people the skills and knowledge needed to navigate this complex world and lead happier and more fulfilled lives.