Looking forward: Elements of a science of education

The questions we face as educators today are big; the challenges sometimes daunting. How do we, for instance, ensure that education fulils its democratic mission, through quality teaching, a transformative curriculum and dedicated programs that address inequality? Targeting groups who are disadvantaged and ‘at risk’ is an essential responsibility of educators, not on the basis of moral arguments alone but also because of the economic and social dangers of allowing individuals and groups to be excluded.

See Kalantzis and Cope on Changing Society, New Learning

Figure 10.13: Learning for the future

The issue is not merely one of quantity. It is not simply a matter of providing more education for more people. While many nations persevere with educational structures founded in the 19th century or earlier, the knowledge economy demands different and creative approaches to learning. Schools, at least in their traditional form, may not dominate the educational landscape of the 21st century. Neat segregations of the past may crumble. Givens may give.

Are we educators well enough equipped to answer the questions and address the challenges? Does our discipline provide us with the intellectual wherewithal to face changes of these proportions? Our answer is that it could, but only if we conceive education to be a science as rigorous in its methods and as ambitious in its scope as any other.

Education’s agenda is intellectually expansive and practically ambitious. It is learner transformative (the enablement of productive workers, participating citizens and fulfilled persons). And it is world transformative as we interrogate the human nature of learning and its role in imagining and enacting new ways of being human and living socially: shaping our identities, framing our ways of belonging, using technologies, representing meanings in new ways and through new media, building participatory spaces and collaborating to build and rebuild the world. These are enormous intellectual and practical challenges.

The science of education is a domain of social imagination, experimentation, invention and action. It’s big. It’s ambitious. And it’s determinedly practical.