The following article comes from Headteacher Sue Hannam, who reflects on the recent report ‘Future Education’, issued by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

“According to Darwin’s [On the] Origin of Species, it is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.”

Megginson, ‘Lessons from Europe for American Business’, Southwestern Social Science Quarterly (1963) 44(1): 3-13, at p. 4.

There has been so much talk over the last few years about how our high streets and shopping habits would change and we have seen the current epidemic expedite the progress.  It’s fair to say that similar discussions have been going on regarding the evolution of education and Covid-19 has certainly moved these forward at a pace too.

In January 2020, the World Economic Forum (WEF) issued a report on ‘Future Education’ which could not have been more prescient.  In fact, I had read the report in order to lead discussion at an education conference last February, so it was very much at the forefront of my mind as we found our way educationally through the last twelve months and I remain amazed at its relevance and accuracy.

There have been many reports written about shaping education around the needs of the future, but this one is, in my opinion the best place to start.

In any curriculum design we are guided to ensure that pupils are prepared to become ‘productive contributors to future economies and responsible and active citizens in future societies.  Usefully, achieving this is split into 4 key skill sets:

  1. Global citizenship
  2. Innovation and creativity
  3. Technology
  4. Interpersonal skills

The WEF reports was also keen to make clear the need for agile mechanisms that adapt skills to remain future oriented.

In a recent Global School Alliance Conference, I reflected on the implications of Darwin’s most influential book that became the foundation of evolutionary biology.  Certainly, education globally has gone through a technical revolution in the last 12 months.  Doing things as we have always done them is just no longer an option and that provides us with profound possibilities.

It is my intention to consider each of the WEF key skills and explore how they can benefit our children in a post-Covid educational sphere.  This week I turn my focus to Global Citizenship skills.

Sue Hannam Speaking at a Global School Alliance conference

Covid-19 has shown us that we have both the most and least connected generation of pupils in our schools, ever. Whilst technology provides the links, an over-reliance on it builds barriers of human contact.  There is a paradox here, whereby our pupils are easily able to link and communicate with others across the globe but are not always in the habit of practising one to one personal skills face to face, in the way they may have done in the past.  Part of our role as educators is to ensure the education we provide builds awareness about the wider world, about sustainability and about playing an active role in the global community.

So, how do we go about this in schools? Well, sustainability easily incorporates into science and technology projects.  History allows us to raise our global awareness by exploring events through the perspectives of different people around the world. There is also a huge amount that can be learnt about global citizenship outside the classroom through activities such as volunteering, community service and campaigning.  It is certainly the case that the global climate change protests in 2019 and the BLM protests of 2020 have provided pivotal moments for teaching about the power of civic engagement.

It goes without saying that our virtual classrooms enable us to connect children across the globe and thus learn about world challenges from different angles.  Similarly, emerging technologies around virtual and augmented reality will undoubtedly enable us to transport learners into completely new environments.

As we are only so aware over the last 12 months, schools are guided by government education initiatives and decisions.  We would therefore do well to look to Italy where the Minister for Education has ensured that climate change and sustainability has become part of the national curriculum and indeed to our close neighbours in Wales, whose ‘Curriculum for Wales 2022’ has ‘the development of ethical informed citizens of Wales and the World’ as one of its 4 key areas.

As we look inwardly to deal with the ongoing logistics of the pandemic, we must plan outwardly to design a carefully considered curriculum that equips all of our children for the needs of the future workplace and global community.

Next time: a focus on innovation and creativity skills.


Sue Hannam

Sue graduated from Birmingham University with a BA (Hons) in English Language and Literature, which included a one year Erasmus exchange to Austria. After a brief but successful career as a solicitor, Sue’s passion for English and Drama led her to retrain as a teacher, gaining a PGCE from Birmingham University.  Sue first worked in Cirencester, then moved to a school in Warwickshire, progressing to Assistant Head with responsibility for Post-16 education.  Recruited in 2009 to establish a new Sixth Form at Lichfield Cathedral School, Susan was Deputy Head for 6 years before becoming the Cathedral School’s first Headmistress in 2015.  She regularly appears on television and radio (BBC, ITV and Sky and Channel 5) as an expert commentator for education issues and was the Headmistress in the BBC2 documentary series Back in Time for School which examined the way education has changed and evolved during the last 100 years.

Follow Sue on Twitter – @HannamSE.

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