In this essay, ‘Success in the 21st Century: The education of head, heart and hand’, Peter Hyman describes how our one-dimensional education system needs to adapt to the multidimensional world today's children find themselves in.

It is increasingly important for us to examine how education systems around the world are preparing young people for this age of extraordinary new opportunities, an increasing number of perils, a bewildering amount of information and a series of troubling moral dilemmas.

  • Politicians tap into disaffection with globalisation through increasingly extreme ‘post-truth’ politics. The internet is filled with reservoirs of eye-opening information but also with news that could be real or fake.
  • The 100-Year Life, a new study by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott (2016), makes clear that, with people living so much longer, an education weighted to the start of life will not be sufficient: it will need to be topped up at regular intervals, changing the way we see learning.
  • Human ingenuity and destruction screams at us from the media: ‘World’s first baby born with three parents’; ‘Most advanced AI robot admits it wants to destroy humans’; ‘230 million migrants worldwide’; ‘Disasters linked to climate change increase risk of war’.

While there is huge uncertainty about the future, the sorts of skills and attributes that are going to be in ever-greater demand are becoming clearer: communication and interpersonal skills, problem-solving and idea generation, collaboration and networking, analysis and synthesis, creativity and agility – all underpinned by the need for a strong moral compass in situations of greater complexity and ambiguity. It is also clear that a foundation of high levels of literacy and numeracy are essential, and expertise in science, maths, computing and design will be highly prized.

A truly successful approach to education in the 21st century will involve greater flexibility within the UK schools system and a broader curriculum. It must demonstrate a new vision of a 21st century teacher, and start to focus on the growth of the whole child through a much broader curriculum.

This piece will form part of a forthcoming edited collection of essays on the future of education, to be published here by IPPR later this year.

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