Looking Ahead to 2020

Remember when Facebook bought Whatsapp for US$19 billion? One analyst said, “Facebook bought Whatsapp so Zuckerburg’s company could become relevant once again.” His comment implies Facebook is no longer relevant. Facebook has dominated the social media market for a decade (ten years is a really long time in the world of social media). Given that Whatsapp didn’t even exist four years ago, this acquisition got me thinking about education in the year 2020.

ASB was born in 1981. We are 32 years old. This year we admitted our first second-generation student. The young boy’s father attended ASB over a decade ago. Also, this year ASB hired our first alum. She graduated five years ago. Therefore, in a sense, ASB is coming of age. But, as my 80-year-old father-in-law always reminds me, “Age is relative.” His point is: Time, standing alone (all by itself) means nothing. Time, in order to have meaning, needs context.

2,155 years ago the Han Dynasty opened the Chengdu Shishi High School in China’s Sichuan province. Today, Chendgu Shishi is still a thriving school. It is, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica, “the only school that still exists from before the birth of Jesus Christ.”

Three thousand years before Emperor Wu, of the Han Dynasty, opened the Chendgu school there was a school for boys, in Abydos Egypt. In Abydos, hundreds of boys, every year, aged between four and eleven, were taught to read and write hieroglyphs. Somewhere between 3500 BC and today the Abydos School for Hieroglyphs, became obsolete and vanished.

“A school,” according to Britannica, “is an institution designed for the teaching of students under the direction of teachers.” I deeply disagree with this definition. Here, for starters, and without any commentary, is what I disagree with:

  • The phrase “designed for the teaching,”
  • The absence of the word “learning,”
  • And the phrase “under the direction of.”

In March 2012, Britannica announced that they would no longer print their encyclopedias. Today they are completely online. I wonder what the definition of a “school” will be in their 2020 online version?

Some Educational History:

  • One hundred and fifty years ago, in 1863, Robert College, in Bebek Turkey, became the first “American School” overseas.
  • A hundred years later, in 1968, the International Baccalaureate (the IB) was born.
  • In 1990 there were 20 IB schools and 700 American Schools officially registered in the world.
  • Two years ago, in 2013, there were 3,500 schools offering the IB Diploma.
  • In 2013 the fastest growing ‘geographic’ market for the IB was the United States.

So, where am I going with all of this? I’ve been headed towards an analogy and a question:

Analogy: For a moment…

  • Think of Facebook (an online social networking service) as the American School system overseas (a global educational networking service),
  • Think of Whatsapp (a cross-platform instant messaging service) as the IB program (a cross-platform-meaning it can integrate into most educational systems-instant ‘curriculum and assessment’ service).

Question: What could the next Whatsapp, in global education, look like? What ‘program of instruction’ or ‘curriculum’ will the schools of the 21st century have to ‘acquire’ in order to remain relevant?

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