Q&A  | 

Christopher Pommerening on the end of standardised learning

"Students are currently being prepared for a world that no longer exists."

Tags: 'Self-directed learning' 'Standardised learning'

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Christopher Pommerening is the Founder and Chief Empowerment Officer of Learnlife, a global team of more than 100 learning experts and thought leaders which aims to build an open ecosystem for a new lifelong learning paradigm suited to the rapid and evolving changes in our world and societies. Learnlife launched the first Learning Hub in Barcelona and is currently in the process of building a 20.000m2 lighthouse for lifelong learning in Germany. In the next 10 years more than 2000 Learning Hubs will be launched in every country around the world and the organisation expects to reach 100 million learners in the same period of time.

In 1998 Christopher co-founded AutoScout24 Spain, followed by ACTIVE Venture Partners in 2002, one of Europe’s few entrepreneurial-driven VC companies. He has founded 10 companies and organisations and invested in more than 30 start-ups. In 2017, after two years of preparation and research, he started Learnlife, his “once in a lifetime” adventure aiming to change the world's learning landscape.

Could you give us an overview of your work?

I am inviting and connecting people from around the world to collaborate and positively change education worldwide together.

My official title is Learnlife Founder & CEO which stands for Chief Empowerment Officer. In all honesty, I don’t refer to what I do as my work. I like to think of Learnlife as the realisation of my life’s purpose and passions. Especially now that I have three young kids of my own I have an innate interest in the future of learning for the next generation.

What’s Learnlife?

Learnlife is setting a new precedent in learning. We are creating an open ecosystem for a new lifelong learning paradigm to positively change education worldwide. A step beyond traditional education systems, by 2030 we aim to empower 100 million learners, 5 million educators, 100,000 schools and governments of 196 countries through a new learner-centered paradigm that focuses on purpose-inspired and personal learning. More than 130 thought leaders are contributing and co-creating 21 innovative learning elements that will constantly evolve to meet the needs of learners in a rapidly changing world.

The learning elements will be distributed to any learner through a digital open access learning platform and implemented in 2,000 physical Learning Hubs around the world.

Why do we need a new learning paradigm?

Globally, our children are stuck in educational systems that barely differ from those that their parents and even grandparents were part of, despite the world being a vastly different place. 76% of all teenagers have no sense of purpose or clear path towards their future. Learner dissatisfaction is at an all time high and school dropout rates are on the rise. (18% of children in Spain have dropped out before the age of 16 – highest rate in EU).

Standardized education systems are creating the biggest dead-end for our future generations. In 10 years everything that can be standardized will be automated by machines. What will be the purpose for a standardized humanity?

We believe in a world where people thrive as a result of a deep sense of purpose. Aligned to this is the need for a clear personal experience of balance and communal wellness, enhanced by a thoughtful approach to nature and technology.

We believe that lifelong learning should lead to a heightened sense of personal contentment and happiness, especially given the context of a changing world of work and learning.

Learning experiences need to reflect the needs of learners and drive them to self-directed learning. Right now it does not.

How can we expect the next generation to adapt to a rapidly changing world if the very systems in place to help them grow and learn are not able to adapt to and respond to these changes?

Are there similar initiatives around the world?

There are numerous amazing examples of innovative schools and learning centers worldwide. We ourselves have examined 100 inspiring and successful initiatives around the globe. Each of these places has developed their own learning methodology for their learners. At Learnlife we are combining the best elements of all of these new methodologies to create a paradigm that can be used globally. We don’t see ourselves as a competitor, but rather a supporter, aggregator and connector for educators, school leaders, governments and other learning innovators, whereby we cross-pollinate ideas and best practices to continuously learn and grow from each other. If we simply create another alternative, we risk getting lost in a sea of ubiquity. By uniting and working with other schools to help them incorporate the paradigm into their existing learning contexts, we can accelerate the pace of change leadership within partner organisations.

You've said the gap between real life and current educational systems was one of the reasons to start Learnlife. Can you explain a bit more about that?

As I mentioned before, students are currently being prepared for a world that no longer exists and risk entering into a world described as VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) with a set of skills or knowledge that could be rendered obsolete by the time they reach adulthood.

With the advances we are seeing in technology (especially robotics and automation), our children are going to be entering into a very different work environment, with a large percentage — estimated as high as 65% in some studies — of current primary learners starting their careers with jobs that don’t even exist yet. The ability to self-direct learning throughout one’s life is going to be essential in a fast-changing environment that demands adaptability.

We envision that collaborative learning communities will become the real life problem-solving champions in a world where agility, creativity, and innovation will be needed to solve future challenges.

What will the digital society we are heading to require from us as professionals?

More than ever, we are going to have to develop our most human qualities. Creativity, adaptability, original thinking and collaboration are all going to be key concepts in the workplace as well as in learning environments.

We will have to be more human than ever and connected to nature and our planet to live in balance with technological advances.

Is Learnlife's educational system officially recognized?

Learnlife’s new paradigm aims to accelerate existing school systems 30 years into the present time. Learning Hubs are formed around a community of learners, it is not a traditional school, or even a school at all. As such, it sits outside the existing systems that could or would “recognize” it . This is deliberate, as it is our aim to accelerate the development of innovative learning elements as fast and far as possible. The learning hubs are totally focused on developing the capacity of learners in their understanding of core concepts, skills and competencies. We are also developing a lifelong learning portfolio through which learners will be able to track and document their own learning, as well as share this with relevant businesses, universities and corporate institutions should they so wish. We are building a parallel solution towards traditional credentials.

Are we heading towards a society where a personalized curricula enhancing personal skills will be worth more than standard official education?

Yes!

We have the potential to do so using online platforms to assist with more personal learning experiences. Essentially, learners can now drive their own learning and curate their own life paths through personal development and lifelong learning. This is driving individuals forward to gain core concepts and upskill far beyond the years of their formal education. Some education systems are beginning to include the learning of skills into their curricula designs to supplement formal education credential grades, though not enough.

However, Education systems, particularly those driven by centralised governments, have not changed policy to springboard education to align with the digital age we are living in.

They remain focused on disseminating content that was suitable for a factory age learning. Disengagement in learners across the world is largely stemming from the fact that we are ready for a personal learning experience – the youth across cultures and continents are aware of this and also that what they are made to learn in school they can do online, at home or anywhere, anytime.

The current education system is struggling to meet and keep up with the demands and current trends we’re seeing in the world of work. As more of the world’s leading organisations shift their focus to demonstrable evidence of skills gained rather than high schol or university credentials acquired, the need to hold a degree becomes more redundant.

We believe that personal skills learning and competencies are the best way forward because this creates a seamless transition from post-formal education into the “real world of work”.

Is that already so in the tech industry?

The tech industry is already far ahead in this regard. With a strong focus on accountability versus hierarchy, and experience versus credentials in areas such as programming where it is essential to keep up to date with changing trends and system updates, it is already well established that developing one’s own self-learning and ability to upskill are more important that relying on standardised testing and certifications.

 

How important is technology in Learnlife’s learning paradigm?

It is important, a key foundation for the entire system. A new learning paradigm would not and cannot exist without technology. We would still be comfortable using traditional pedagogical methods for learning if we were living in a pre-internet culture.

Tech has impacted on learning, relationships, content, learning/working spaces, creativity and innovation, all of which are at the core of the paradigm.

But even more important in these times is to remember that we are humans and we live on a planet full of nature. The paradigm aims to establish a balanced understanding for 5 dimensions: Intrapersonal, Interpersonal, Planetary, Society and Digital.