By Stephan Turnipseed, President Emeritus and Executive Director Strategic Partnerships, LEGO Education
We’re honored at LEGO® Education to be featured by the United Nations Global Compact and the Global Business Coalition for Education as an example of a business that’s made a smart investment in education. Our work will be featured at the World Economic Forum in Korea in a session titled “Mobilizing Business to Realize the 2030 Education Agenda.” Our story, outlined here, will be shared in full at the forum in the article, “Investing in Education: Lessons from the Business Community.”
Perhaps the most important – and troubling – realization the education community has come to over the past few decades is that many of the ways we’ve traditionally approached teaching have in fact been stifling critical thinking. The high-stakes testing and rote learning that defined previous generations of classroom education have now been outed as inhibitors to creativity rather than enabling new kinds of thinking.
What’s at stake in education today is not just the well-being of our young learners:
- Research in the United States has shown that by 2020, 96% of jobs will require strong critical thinking skills and 70% will require mathematics and computational knowledge – both areas of need that many companies are now scrambling to address more fully.
- A waning interest in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) will have consequences for the future development of society, as these are the skills that will drive both the job market and economic growth worldwide.
- Empowering children with critical thinking and creativity skills will further global literacy and other curricula that can quell poverty issues and socio-economic divides.
- Setting up the world’s children to be agile thinkers will equip them with the understanding and knowledge necessary to face the challenges of a rapidly changing world.
As we’ve come to understand the limitations of top-down learning, we’ve found that learning through play can flip the education issue on its head. Making learning through play a reality for us has been about LEGO Education putting something in the hands of a child that can act as both a toy and an educational tool. The majority of households and classrooms with children worldwide already have LEGO® bricks, so improving the classroom experience has become about using toys in a way that can influence the classroom experience for the better.
Today, it’s understood that hands-on, open-ended learning puts children in a better position to feel motivated about thinking for themselves and developing new ways of approaching problems. Fostering an entrepreneurial spirit and teaching flexibility with experimentation leads to new skill sets that will span any and all jobs, disciplines or ventures a child may encounter down the road.
With an understanding of what today’s classroom needs to offer the young learners inside of it, it’s important to also realize how this can be scaled globally, as we’ll eventually require a universal design for learning to unite us and make learning products usable by and accessible to everyone. The progress that’s been made toward equity and equality in learning has already and will continue to break down the barriers to global literacy, the hard skills necessary to drive STEM fields forward and the critical thinking and creativity mindset that will enrich us globally.
 A.P. Carnevale, N. Smith and J. Strohl. Recovery: Job Growth and Education Requirements through 2020. Washington, DC: Georgetown University, 2013.