What if education was about improving the world?

12-year-old E is passionate about changing the world. While some of her peers struggle to extend their personal interests into deeper or broader explorations for the PYP expedition, E wrestles with how to narrow her focus down.

She cares deeply about everything. Her ‘top 10 list’ includes a range of human rights and environmental issues and she can’t decide which to explore further first. I ask if she’d like to begin by identifying a change she could work on that could make a difference at school, before taking on the world, and she likes the idea.

E quickly sees a way to take this further. She will ask the children of the world (well, those she can get access to!) how they would change their schools and how they would change the world. Analysing the data will answer a range of questions about which she’s wondering and might help her decide on her next move.

Can you spread the word to help her reach a broader audience? Here’s her survey, if you can share it with young people you know. This is E’s investigation, but I’m looking forward to seeing the responses too.


I’m intrigued by an idea in the first paragraph of Marc Prensky’s book:

Our current education is wrong for the future not because we haven’t added enough technology, or because we haven’t added enough so-called 21st century skills, or because we don’t offer it to everyone equally, or even because we haven’t tried hard to incrementally improve it. Our current K– 12 education is wrong for the future because it has— and we have— the wrong ends or goals, in mind. Up until now, education has been about improving individuals. What education should be about in the future is improving the world – and having individuals improve in the process. ~ Education to Better Their World by Marc Prensky.

It seems that while encouraging E in her exploration, I’ll be pursuing my own parallel inquiry…

3 thoughts on “What if education was about improving the world?

  1. I love your posts, but the quote by Marc Persky about focusing on “changing the world” rather than improving the individual seems confusing and counterproductive. If the goal is to facilitate the development of the “whole child”–mental, physical, emotional, social, creative, natural, and spiritual–children would then have the tools and the agency to change the world wherever THEY see the need. A primary goal of changing the world smacks of another top-down program where influential adults decide what needs to be done and then try to “shape” children to carry out those tasks. Isn’t the development of responsible, caring, lifelong learners at the heart of any positive change in the world?


  2. Thank you, Judith. Valid point! I haven’t read the book yet, but I found the idea intriguing, which is why I said I’ll be pursuing my own inquiry. I need to explore the notion further and think about it – and possibly discuss it with E!


    1. It might be interesting to ask E and others who have developed similar passions about changing the world to think about what fed the flames of that passion. Was it something she personally experienced? Was it the fact that, in your program, she has been both empowered and encouraged to pursue those passions? She sounds like a remarkable learner. In visiting learner-centered schools around the U.S., I’ve concluded that, for many of these young people, their belief that they can “change the world” has been supported and facilitated by the trust that has been placed in them as learners–about what they come to realize about their themselves and their own agency when their ideas are respected. That arises, not from some overarching structure or curriculum, but from the fundamental beliefs that the adults hold about children and authentic learning.

      I love the fact that you focus on learning, rather than teaching, in your posts. I wish I were close enough to observe the PYP model in action! Thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

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