According to the United Nations’report World Population Prospects 2022, the global population will exceed 8 billion by 15 November,2022. At the same time, fertility rates are declining in some developed countries and some East Asian countries. As a result of such social change and technological changes like digitalization, lifelong learning has become more needed than ever. Such changes to education require family, society, and school to work closer together and create more synergy. Hence, launching the global dialogue on education is of particular importance at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is still around us.
We liken education to an ecosystem because education is constantly growing, and constitutes a complex and diverse organism. Society is the basis, the foundation, and the soil where education is rooted and nourished. At the same time, education continuously improves the soil and contributes back to society. In the face of shocks such as the global pandemic, wars, and geopolitical conflicts, it has become clear once again that civilization is as fragile as life. When faced with such major challenges, how should education position itself and how can it drive the success of the future?
I think that education should be resilient.
Resilience is originally an ecological concept. It refers to the stability and adaptability of an ecosystem when adapting to external changes; and its ability to retain its basic functions, structures, feedback, and characteristics in the face of stresses and disturbances. Moreover, physical and mental resilience is, in itself, one of the goals of educational development. Facing an increasingly uncertain future, every individual needs such resilience to rejuvenate in adversity, and to regain the power of confidence. Resilience is a key indicator for building sustainable development in education.
I would like to propose the following suggestions on how to build a more resilient educational community.
Firstly, keep open
At the time of the global pandemic, isolation posed a daunting challenge for schools. Many schools are closed or delayed or shifted online. We also saw the education sector show great resilience in responding positively.
This reaffirms the importance of communication and exchange. Education requires face-to-face human interaction and real emotional connections to facilitate the exchange of fresh ideas. Within the education sector, family, school, and society work in tandem and must grow together through communication, discussion, and learning. Today, the scope of human knowledge is so vast and the change is so dramatic that we have the “known unknowns” and have to face the “unknown unknowns”. The only certainty is uncertainty, and the uncertainty is ever-existing. Therefore, in the future of education, we must open up borders, break down self-seclusion and remain open, bringing greater resilience through the development of incremental growth and mobility.
Secondly, respect for diversity
Diversity is the basis of an ecosystem. A forest containing only one species of tree lacks the resilience and robustness to resist disease or recover from a disaster.
Diversity is also the key to future-proofing our education system. An inclusive, dialogical and pluralistic education culture brings more dynamic creativity and out-of-the-box thinking, which in turn inspires fresh perspectives and makes it easier for society to take advantage of creative innovation.
During the first Yidan Education Forum, we discussed liberal education. It is not just about the integration between the sciences and humanities, but it is about a more inclusive learning ecosystem. Diversity is even more crucial, especially in the digital age, where technology may lead to the relentless pursuit of efficiency. Educational institutions should maintain the flow of information and the capacity for reflection, and constantly expand cooperation with multilateral organizations and relevant stakeholders to make our education more sustainable.
Thirdly, develop a global consciousness
The global village or globalization is a major achievement in the development of human civilization. The history of globalization is not long and it faces many obstacles along the way. There may be phases of adjustment in the face of setbacks. We need to face such challenges sincerely and learn from them, so that we can turn them into opportunities to raise the global consciousness of human society as a whole.
Today, as humanity faces common challenges such as climate change, a global perspective is essential. Education, as an important medium for the transmission of human civilization, should take global consciousness as a cornerstone to enhance human well-being. Education should also work to shape values and visions that contribute to world civilization, helping to prepare society to better cope with future impacts and shape a better tomorrow.
Fourthly, develop the resilience of the industry
People are the key to meeting challenges, overcoming difficulties, and seeking development. Building a more resilient education system lies in an industry workforce with leadership and resilience. When the impact of the past is not over and new challenges are on the horizon, education leaders have an unprecedented responsibility to deliver truthful and accurate information in the midst of crisis, while exploring possible futures and working towards the desired ones.
We must have the courage to dialogue, make decisions in an integrated manner, unite our teams, and take practical actions. In addition, we need to remain open to communication and flexible to changes. These are essential qualities of leadership and also build the resilience needed. Education leaders, education practitioners, and education participants are engaged in a cause with faith and mission. When we have a goal in mind and make endless efforts, we can motivate students, parents, communities, and society to work together, just like a heartening torch that gathers and inspires more people to move forward.
To develop resilience and leadership, we must continue to grow and optimize our team in action, by doing what is right and doing what can be done. We must have ambitious goals, and also keep our feet on the ground.
Fifthly, keep a long-term perspective
Education is an investment in the next generation, and its important function is to maintain the transmission and continuation of human civilization. Education requires a strategic long-term perspective over time without being affected by unrelated short-term factors. Major effort should be made to develop a generation that is committed to society and responsible for others. The people we educate currently will have their impact in 2050 or further.
As we move forward in an uncertain world, where we stand is not important, but what direction we are moving is very critical. Educational exploration will have its trials and errors, sometimes going with the wind, sometimes against it, but we must sail, not wander to waive, and not drop anchor to stop.
Education is always serving the future, and the changes on the way forward test the resilience of education and constantly drive the education sector to stay true to its mission. We believe in the power of education, and the education sector should maintain the confidence and courage to act, develop well-rounded individuals, and build a more resilient society with stronger individuals and groups.
As a coastal city cluster, the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area has the natural geographical advantage to connect to the world more closely. It is conducive to enhancing the core competitiveness of education in the Greater Bay Area, by strengthening cross-border and international cooperation in education and leveraging digital transformation.
With hope and action, whether in the Greater Bay Area or elsewhere, we see resilience and recovery in the education system. I have faith that our education system will be more resilient and sustainable in the future, as well as lay a more solid foundation for lifelong growth.